Safely Moving Your Wine Collection

Jon Fesmire |

Collecting, and enjoying, a variety of wines can be a fulfilling hobby. This is especially true if you live in a wine region, like the Napa Valley in California, where you can tour wineries and buy bottles directly from each vineyard. Like any hobby, it’s important to take care of your collection. Wine requires certain environmental variables to maintain its quality.

You can’t ignore those needs just because you’re transporting your collection. Maybe you have a big enough collection to require a specialized wine storage unit, or maybe you’re moving to a new home and want to make sure your wine maintains its quality during the trip. We’ll cover both possibilities.

Decide Which Wine Stays at Home

If you’re moving your collection into storage, first look over your bottles and decide if there are any you want close at hand. Wine is heavy, so why transport what you don’t need to?

Packing Your Bottles

Get some good wine shipping boxes for storage. We recommend purchasing new ones rather than asking liquor stores for their old boxes. Stores tend to cut open the boxes they receive with box cutters to save time, and it’s important to get boxes you can seal. Some come with styrofoam insulation. Get those if you can, as they’ll help keep your bottles cool.

If you’re traveling a long distance, consider using a large cooler or two instead. You’ll also want some no-sweat ice packs. These are gel-filled and won’t smear the labels. Put these packs between bottles, and pack the bottles on their side so you’ll keep the corks moist and avoid oxidizing the wine.

If the bottles fit snugly in the styrofoam-padded boxes, great! If not, you risk them breaking during transport. We recommend rolling each bottle in a few layers of packing paper before putting them in the boxes or the cooler. In a cooler, also fill in empty space with additional packing paper.

You’ll want to secure the top and bottom of your cardboard boxes well, with strong packing tape. That way, no bottle can slip out and break when you carry the boxes. Broken wine bottles are a nightmare to clean up, not to mention a waste of good wine.

Transporting Your Wine

Wine is best stored in a narrow temperature range, from 55 to 65 degrees.

So, don’t transport any open bottles, and that means bottles you’ve opened and re-corked, too. That’s illegal, unless you keep them in your trunk, and it’s a good idea to avoid transporting them in the trunk of your car. Even on mildly warm days, the temperature in the trunk can get too high.

Transport your wine, whether in boxes or coolers, in the cab of your car, and make sure they’re secure. Keep on the AC if the day is warm, and keep the boxes shaded.

If you’re just going across town to a storage unit, it’s easy enough to put a sheet or two over the boxes to keep direct sunlight off them. However, if you’re traveling for a few days, you’ll need to be more careful. When you stop to eat, do your best to also park in a shady spot. When you stay at a friend’s house or a hotel room for the night, we recommend bringing the boxes in with you. You might even open one bottle to share with your friends at dinner. Just remember to re-tape that box up after.

Give Your Wine a Rest

Once you have your wine in storage, or at your new home, give it a rest. Actually, if you haven’t transported it far, it will probably be fine right away, but after a journey of a day or more, the wine will be shaken.

That’s not a joke. Bottle shock, the phenomenon whereby wine tastes off after getting shaken in transit, may sound like a myth, but it’s real. Two weeks or so in the cool environment of a wine storage unit, wine closet, or wine cellar, will restore the flavor profile.

Climate Control Isn’t Enough

This is just a reminder, tangentially related to the topic of wine transportation. While climate control works great for storing most of your possessions and keeping them in good shape, it’s not enough for wine storage, which has stricter temperature requirements. So, if you do decide to put your wine collection in storage, make sure to look specifically for facilities with wine storage units.

These steps will help you keep your move your wine where you need it so you can enjoy it for years to come. Bottoms up!