Shipping wine to American consumers will always be a tough business, particularly when it comes to the 50 different states’ varying regulations on the matter. But at least those rules are written in black and white. Mother Nature plays by an entirely different set of rules, which can turn the business of wine shipping on its head.
Still, we do our best to adapt. When winter temperatures get too cold or summer temperatures get too hot, we and our partners do our best to make sure that any shipment to a Lot18 member is held for a window of friendlier weather. Yet there can and will be the spells that take us and the weatherman by surprise. And there are intangibles, too: Some wines are shipped under regulated temperature, only for the wine to be carted around all day by the delivery service under a scorching Arizona, Florida – or, in the case of last week, New York – sun.
On the bright side, today’s modern winemaking industry does a stellar job of crafting wines that are built to survive extremes. Just think of the fact that, say, a wine from Australia or New Zealand or South Africa or Chile had to sit in a shipping container, on the ocean, under the hot equatorial sun for several days on its journey to America. Usually, containers of wine are not stored on the tops or outsides of the stacks of a container ship to minimize the impact of the sun (or cold) during the journey, and many wineries opt to use refrigerated containers or insulating blankets. So the ocean-freight portion of the trip is relatively safe. Yet damage can occur during this leg of a wine’s journey or, more likely, during an inland or transcontinental truck or rail trip.
It’s the same for domestic wines being trucked east from California. The three-tier system means extraneous trucking trips from winery or port to importer to wholesaler to retailer - and many of these trips are not temperature controlled. A few more hours in a hot UPS or FedEx truck won’t make much of a difference.
Nevertheless, it can. And Lot18 cares, above all else, that your wine arrives to you in pristine condition, whether you intend to open the bottle within two or three hours of arrival at your doorstep or after 20 more years in your cellar. To that end, we’ve taken a few photos of heat-damaged wines (below) so you know what to look for.
If there’s a sticky, gooey, congealed wine leaking from the cork and out the foil, that’s a sure sign. So is a distended cork, as you can see in the photo of the Austrian Riesling. Particularly with reds, you might not notice any overt sign of heat damage – and then pull the cork to find that it’s saturated with sticky, congealed wine. This means that heat was forcing the wine up through the cork – and is also a sign that the wine might be cooked. You should also taste the wine to be sure, but if you notice unpleasant stewed-fruit flavors or sherry-like oxidization, the wine probably is damaged.
Of course, we’d rather your wines arrive at your doorstep in perfect condition.
We already offer cold-truck shipping on many of the wines. And we’re also rolling out a new feature: The option, at checkout, to hold your order until the weather improves. Look for a new checkbox when you confirm any new order, starting today.
The Lot18 member-services team is happy to work with you to ensure that your wines arrive in the right weather – or to assist if they did not. If you use your smartphone or digital camera to snap a picture of the evidence of heat damage to your order and send us the image(s), our member-services team will be able to help arrange an appropriate form of compensation. UPDATE: A photograph is not required to receive assistance. If you believe your bottles are heat damaged, please contact our member-services team at 646.504.5680 or firstname.lastname@example.org (be sure to include as much information as possible, such as what wines you ordered, the order number from your confirmation email, etc.).
Perhaps most importantly, however, your feedback helps us ensure that you and our other 400,000 members receive even better service in the future, no matter what the weather’s like. In the long term, your comments and collaboration with us will ensure that Lot18 provides the best experience on the web for discovering new wines.
That, we think, is pretty hot.