In the fine wine trade a bottle will be transported between
and stored in many different locations. Its environment will not always be
regulated. 80% of trade on the Liv-ex exchange is for wines from the last ten
vintages; more than half is for wines that are less than five years old. With many not ready for consumption yet, moving the wines around can damage them long before they will even be opened. A
recent debate on eRobertParker.com drew attention to this: Parker himself
believes that 25% of wines have been exposed to potentially damaging
temperatures.  

Scientific
experiments have been carried out to explore the changes in wine when it is
exposed to heat. eProvenance – which uses technology to authenticate the
provenance of fine wine – has done extensive research in this area. They
observed that when wine is stored above 20°C the rate of oxidation is
accelerated and the wine turns brown; levels of ‘free’ sulfur dioxide decline
and ethyl carbonate forms. This can have a huge impact on aroma, colour and
taste.  According to Eric Vogt,
eProvenance’s founder, “12.7% of the wine shipped from France to North America
reaches temperatures above 30°C (86 F). At this temperature it takes less than
24 hours to permanently damage the aroma.”

Both Vogt and Dr Rainer Jung (see our interview from August) advise
keeping a wine below 18°C (65F) to maintain quality. This does not always occur
when a wine is being transported at the back of lorries and through different
countries.  The graph below (taken from
eProvenance’s Original Temperature Research) shows the rate of degradation of
aroma and damage to the wine – as Vogt explains, this is “a gradient function
that moves linearly with time and geometrically with increasing temperature”.
The lines on the graph represent the point where a knowledgeable taster can
notice the difference when compared to an unspoiled bottle from the producer.

EProvenance_temperature_research

Liv-ex’s subsidiary, Vine, is a specialist storage
and transport solution that is trying to combat the storage problems
encountered in the wine trade.  With
temperature controlled chambers and temperature controlled shipments from Bordeaux,
Vine ensures that stock is kept in the correct conditions. The below chart
shows the fluctuation in temperature in August inside the Vine chamber compared
to the fluctuation outside the warehouse. Whereas the temperature outside
greatly varies during a day (up to 11°C), the variation within
the Vine chamber is never more than 2.5°C. 

Vine_temperaturevariation

Moreover, the temperature within the Vine chamber never rises above 16°C, even when temperatures
outside reached 27°C. Keeping
the wine below 18°C is vital in
order to maintain its quality. By running a temperature controlled shipment from Bordeaux, direct to
Vine’s temperature controlled warehouse in Tilbury, the risk along the supply
chain is reduced.  

Vine_maxtemperature

Temperature control for shipping basic perishable goods like milk and
meat is accepted as a necessity and is factored in to the final
price. Perception says that this is not the case for fine wine. The main
problem is that wine will not go physically off as fast as milk or meat would
and it is not as easy to identify unless you pull the cork. Consumers and the
trade have to be aware that unless temperature is regulated, the quality of
wine cannot be guaranteed – and will not be detected until it is too late.   

 

Please note that on Vine's next air freight service to Hong Kong (departing 12th November), there will be a special discount. Ship 1-9 cases for £55 a case, 10-19 cases for £45 a case, or 20+ cases for £35 a case. Contact basile@vineinternational.com to arrange a shipment or for more information.