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Transporting wine and spirits in car for 6 hours

I plan on taking a road trip very soon to a destination that is six hours away from my home. At the very end of my short 4 day weekend vacation, I'll be stopping by a winery and distillery to pick up some wine, gin, and possibly other spirits to take home.

What precautions should I take to protect the integrity of the wines and spirits while in transport? Should I bring a special type of container or box to prevent the wine from being "cooked" in the heat of the sunlight as I'm driving?

BTW, I'll be blasting the air conditioner during the entire drive back down to my home. Is it sufficient to simply keep the liquor under the front seat and out of direct sunlight? I'm assuming that keeping the liquor in the trunk is a no-no.

Thanks in advance for any insight.

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  1. I'm thinking that as long as you don't camp out during stops, you should be okay if you keep it in the car with you in the A/C and out of the sun.

    If you're worried, you could pick up a six-pack of cold sodas and stack them among the bottles - they'll help keep it cold and you'll have sodas!

    1. Just like Sunshine842 said if you park your car, park in the shade. I keep my alcohol in a cooler bag with one hard, plastic frozen ice pack in it. One of the heavy duty ones or two wimpy frozen packs. This way, if you want to stop to eat(of course this is the only reason for road trips)you have no worries!!

      1. Keep the bottles in an insulated box in the air conditioned car. The insulation will greatly slow any possible heat infiltration into the bottles. If you are truly paranoid, throw some ziplocks of ice in with the bottles.

        4 Replies
        1. re: therealdoctorlew

          Plus: once back home, wait a few days before opening any of those bottles.

          1. re: therealdoctorlew

            Can you explain what you mean by an insulated box? So you mean a styrofoam cooler? Thanks!

            1. re: goodeatsgal

              Styrofoam cooler, plastic wheeled cooler with fancy handles, you name it. I got a big styrofoam box my doctor was throwing out after the vaccines were delivered, keep it in my car trunk to bring stuff back from the supermarket. YMMV.

          2. a cooler with ice is a good idea for the wine, for sure.

            1. The spirits can definitely go in the trunk

              1. How in the world does wine and spirits get transported from the source to the wholesaler to the store from which it is purchased? This may be a case of over thinking a non issue.

                26 Replies
                1. re: poser

                  In areas where climate, too hot or too cold, is an issue many importers/distributors have reefers in ships or trucks to deal with this.
                  Many stores or vineyards will not ship in extreme weather or require one day shipping.

                  1. re: poser

                    The wine I buy -- even the $15 bottles -- is shipped from the producer to the retailer at 56 degrees. The store is kept at cellar temperature. I think allowing wine to get overheated IS an issue.

                    1. re: poser

                      In the "Better Late than Never" Department:

                      As someone who imported wines into the US for a living, let me say that wines are imported into the United States in any number of ways . . .

                      From Canada and Mexico, they come across the border in trucks, like everything else that is imported from those two countries. Typically the trucks will be refrigerated.

                      For shipments from the rest of the world, some comes in through air freight, that that's a tiny percentage of the total volume. OVERWHELMINGLY the wines are loaded onto containers (like everything else) and shipped via ocean freight. HOW that freight in shipped may vary with a) the country of origin of the wine; b) the time of year the wine is being shipped; and c) the U.S. destination. Let me explain.

                      >>> From EUROPE to the EAST COAST of the United States:

                      Keep in mind the ship traveling from, say, Marseilles in the Mediterranean or Bordeaux on the Atlantic coast of France, to any port city on the Eastern seaboard does NOT cross the equator. As a result, *some* importers on the East Coast do not use refrigerated containers ("reefers"), but regular "dry boxes" which may (or may not) contain some thermal insulation. Others may use reefers, but won't turn them on, figuring the extra insulation of the refrigerated container is sufficient. This is especially true in the Fall, Winter, and Spring. Most wine shippers *always* request that their container(s) be stored below the waterline. This request is just that, a request, and while it is often honored, it may not be. In the warmest months, these importers will use working reefers. That said, the top-quality small importers will ALWAYS use *working* reefers!

                      >>> From EUROPE to the WEST COAST of the United States:

                      Everything has to cross the Equator. Everything comes over in working reefers.

                      >>> From the SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE to the US:

                      The same. Everything has to cross the Equator. Everything comes over in working reefers.

                      1. re: zin1953

                        >>> From EUROPE to the WEST COAST of the United States:
                        >>> Everything has to cross the Equator.

                        Why? Panama Canal is above the Equator.

                        1. re: olasek

                          Blame the U.S. system of education . . . I misspoke -- I meant to say "tropics," but I just cut-and-pasted from the Southern Hemisphere paragraph (which I actually wrote before, but moved to appear at the end).

                          See? To err is human. To really **** things up, you need a computer!

                          1. re: olasek

                            but not by enough to spare a container of wine from scorching tropical temperatures....

                            our household goods container(with wines imported under a temporary importation license) was actually stored below the waterline.

                            We nervously unpacked the cases, and were delighted to find that even after a couple of days sitting in the Miami heat, the bottles were still cool to the touch.

                            A year on, so far so good....

                            1. re: sunshine842

                              Very lucky! As I said, shippers may request that their container be placed below the waterline, but there are only so many "slots" below the waterline and so many requests . . . but YES, if you're lucky enough to receive that placement . . . .

                          2. re: zin1953

                            So when virtually every bottle of imported wine I buy, regardless of price, has a label that says, "Shipped at 56 degrees," is that to be believed?

                              1. re: CindyJ

                                I believe it depends on the importer.

                                1. re: CindyJ

                                  In 40+ years of being in the trade, I have NEVER seen a label that says, "Shipped at 56 degrees."

                                  Maybe that's the name of the shipping company?

                                  1. re: zin1953

                                    It's Fleet Street Wine Merchants. Here are three random bottles from my wine rack.

                                    The wine was all purchased at Moore Brothers in Wilmington, DE. http://moorebrothers.com/shipped-at-56/

                                    1. re: CindyJ

                                      Having spent an inordinate amount of my career arranging shipping (non-reefer) of stuff around the world, I call bullshit.

                                      NOBODY can control shipping to that degree.

                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                        This much I DO know: When Bele Casel's Prosecco is ready to leave the property of the winegrower, the truck that comes to transport it is a refrigerated truck. I can't speak to anything that happens after that point, but Moore Brothers stakes its reputation on maintaining cellar temps for the entire journey of their wines, from winegrower to retail store. Maybe some importers take their shipping responsibilities more seriously than others.

                                      2. re: CindyJ

                                        Cindy, a quick search of the internet does not reveal any US importer by the name of Fleet Street Wine Merchants -- only a passing mention in a New York Times blog post mentioning that, "Moore Brothers only carries French, Italian and German wines. No New World at all . . . [and] all of Moore Brothers stock comes from two importers, Fleet Street Wine Merchants and Wine Traditions, with whom Moore Brothers has close working relationships."

                                        FWIW, that makes me suspect that Moore Bros. owns Fleet Street, although above-board or surreptitiously I cannot say, but the ONLY retailers I know of who limit their imported wines to a single importer or two are places where the importer owns the retailer or vice-versa.

                                        1. re: zin1953

                                          Zin -- it's possible that at the time that article was written in 2006, Moore Brothers only carried wines from France, Italy and Germany, but a quick glance at their website shows wines from Argentina, as well as California and Oregon, among their current offerings. While I know nothing about the relationship between Moore Bros. and Fleet Street, it's an interesting issue, and I intend to ask about it next time I'm in the store. So what if Moore Bros. DOES own Fleet Street? Is that problematic, and if so, why?

                                          But for me, the lingering question is, why would they make the bold claim, "Shipped at 56°" if it wasn't true? That sounds like a statement that just begs to be challenged.

                                          1. re: CindyJ

                                            Because someone will believe it and buy the wine thinking that it's actually true.

                                            And why do I call bullshit? Because the label says "at 56°" It doesn't say at 55 or 57 -- it says at 56.

                                            There is just no. stinking. way. to keep a 40' reefer at EXACTLY 56 throughout the entire shipping process.

                                            Your home refrigerator (whether it's a Sears & Roebuck or a SubZero commercial model) won't keep exact temperature accuracy for 6 weeks, so there's no way a commercial shipping container can.

                                            I'm not saying that they don't ship their wines in a reefer, or that the wine is damaged, but I'm flat-out not gonna buy that they keep it EXACTLY at temperature with no variation for 4-6 weeks.

                                            1. re: CindyJ

                                              Cindy, nice catch on the timing of the article; I missed that.

                                              Let me switch gears for a quick moment. Kermit Lynch is often considered the "grandfather" of modern, small American wine importers, having started in 1972 at a time when major importers were owned by huge spirits-focused conglomerates. He has long been based in the SF Bay Area, starting in the small town of Albany and then in Berkeley. As an importer, he sells "his" wines across the US to various wholesalers who -- in turn -- sell to retailers and restaurants within their sales territory. In California, however, Kermit obtained the appropriate licenses from the California ABC to be both a California wholesaler AND a retailer.

                                              Normally this is a rather difficult task under California law, but licenses never die, they just get bought-and-sold, and his were old enough that they were exempt from the "vertical integration." His retail store only sells what he imports.

                                              In *that* situation, Kermit does indeed have control of the wine from producer to retail shelf -- the wines are picked up from the producers in France and Italy in temperature-controlled trucks; they are stored in a temperature-controlled consolidation warehouse, and loaded onto *working* temperature-controlled refrigerated containers for shipment across the Atlantic, through the Panama Canal, and into the Port of Oakland; finally the containers are unloaded at Kermit's temperature-controlled warehouse, located less than one mile from his retail store.

                                              When he started this in 1972, this was HIGHLY unusual -- indeed, completely unheard of -- but thanks to Kermit, this practice is now far more common than not . . . at least for wines coming into the West Coast or wines from the Southern Hemisphere.

                                              North Berkeley Imports is another one, also here in Berkeley, CA. Their retail store, North Berkeley Wines, also *only* carried imported wines which they import themselves, *but* they also carry a limited number of California wines. Since all the imports come from North Berkeley, they too can "guarantee" shipping conditions.


                                              I know nothing of Moore Brothers, which in fact, operates three stores in three states: Delaware, New Jersey, and New York. (The legal bureaucratic hoops must be a nightmare!) So anything and everything here is speculation/opinion. Each of the wines you photographed is imported by Petit Pois Corp. T/A (dba) Sussex Wine Merchants, Moorestown, NJ. I would *guess* that Moore Bros. either owns the importer (or owns a piece of it at any rate), or vice-versa (though I doubt it's the importer owning the retailer; after all, there actually is a Greg Moore, and I presume he has a brother). ;^) It looks like they probably own a piece of the town, too!

                                              Now were that the case, I would say that the odds of their using working reefers for all their wines is actually quite good (a la Kermit or North Berkeley, for example). However, that leaves in question just who are "Fleet Street Wine Merchants," which IMHO is a more important question.

                                              Moore Brothers, of course, has a website, but I cannot find a website for Petit Pois Corp., or for Sussex Wine Merchants, which I would think was important if you are importing wines to sell . . . unless all you import is already sold to one retailer and you aren't doing any wholesale distribution whatsoever. And there is no website for Fleet Street Wine Merchants, which I can only presume is yet another dba -- go figure! Why are there the names of three importers when one will suffice?

                                              The label raises more (moore?) questions for me than it answers

                                              1. re: zin1953

                                                I was in Moore Brothers Delaware store the other day and I asked a few questions. First, I was told that Fleet Street is an importer that supplies other customers and has no connection to Moore Brothers except that they do business together. Next, I was told that their practice of shipping wine from producer to store in chilled containers was modeled after the practice established by Kermit Lynch. I was also told that shipping in temperature-controlled containers adds only $2 to the cost of each case, regardless of the cost of the wine. I forgot to ask about the distinctions/connections between Fleet Street, Sussex Wine Merchants and Petit Pois.

                                                1. re: CindyJ

                                                  Cindy, I'm not sure what (or if) you expect me to say. As I said previously, when Kermit started using reefers, it was almost unheard of; today, it's commonplace (but not universal). Calling attention to it is nothing more than a marketing gimmick, in that EVERY small wine importer I know uses *working* reefers.

                                                  I am *hoping* that's the same as your use of the term, "chilled containers," which I've never heard before and makes me somewhat skeptical. "Reefers" are temperature-controlled containers. "Working reefers" mean they are actually turned on! (Some importers will use reefers for their added insulation, but won't pay to have the refrigeration/temperature controls turned on.) That doesn't sound to me like a "chilled container," in that I personally know of importers who have literally chilled a non-insulated container (known as a "dry box") and its contents, and then shipped it using a thermal blanket and/or blocks of styrofoam insulation to attempt to keep the temperature low.

                                                  Neither does this answer any questions regarding the lack of websites. I don't know of a single importer without a presence on the web . . .

                                                  1. re: zin1953

                                                    Zin -- I really didn't have any expectation regarding your reply; I was merely reporting back on the conversation I had with a store employee a few days ago. The term "chilled container" was my description -- not anything I heard during that conversation. I agree with you that the absence of a website for the importer(s) is puzzling. I guess my overriding question is why they'd go out on a limb and print "Shipped at 56 degrees" on every bottle if it weren't absolutely true. It'd sure be helpful if a Moore Brothers owner or employee would set the record straight for us here.

                                                    1. re: CindyJ

                                                      "It slices, dices, and pulverizes!"
                                                      "Enlarge your manhood!"
                                                      "Proven results!"

                                                      Why does anybody print ANYTHING on a label -- because it's a marketing gimmick. People print exaggerations and wonky claims on labels all the time -- there's not ever any guarantee that it's absolutely true. If you believe that labels are truthful, I'd like to talk to you about a few acres of swampland in Florida and a bridge...

                                                      We've already gone over why it's BS -- your discussion with the employee just exposes an employee who's either drunk the Kool-Aid or doesn't know any better.

                                                      1. re: CindyJ

                                                        >>> I guess my overriding question is why they'd go out on a limb and print "Shipped at 56 degrees" on every bottle if it weren't absolutely true. <<<

                                                        Random thoughts:

                                                        a) It is *not* "absolutely true," Cindy. (Please see ¶ d below.) Regardless of whether it is or is not (more or less) true, touting it in that way is a marketing gimmick, pure and simple. Nothing more; nothing less.

                                                        b) As I've stated previously, most every small wine importer uses working reefers. Even most large wine importers do so. It is now Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) in the industry. (It was *not* SOP 30-35 years ago.) The only exceptions I know of are on the East Coast of the US, where *some* importers at ***certain times of the year*** will save the extra expense of using reefers when bringing wines in from Europe¹.

                                                        c) Given the fact that it's SOP, Cindy, ---> you have no reason to believe that the labels are false. <--- Proving it one way or the other, however, would be extremely difficult. You would have to review shipping invoices between the freight forwarder and the importer, and I doubt anyone would show you them voluntarily. Thus, you'd probably have to file a lawsuit and issue a subpoena as part of the Discovery process. That would be not only a pain in the @$$, but also a rather costly endeavor.

                                                        d) Please remember what I said above, that NO temperature control system on a refrigerated cargo container is so sensitive as to never vary from a set number -- in this case, 56°F. It is impossible. Your home refrigerator isn't that sensitive. The temperature within a container will vary +/- 5° or so, depending upon its placement onboard the ship, the time of year, the intensity of the sun (think proximity to the Equator), and so on. Many if not all reefers will have a recording device onboard, and -- trust me -- the temperature is never rock-solid constant. So, from a *technical viewpoint* it is IMPOSSIBLE to factually say it shipped at 56°F. You could say, for example, "Shipped at 55-60°F" but that's hardly as impressive, is it? Better -- and factually more accurate -- to say "Shipped in temperature-controlled containers," but once again, hardly as impressive and more suitable for a back label, rather than printing on the front in red ink!

                                                        e) Don't forget to re-read ¶ a) and the first sentence of ¶ b).


                                                        ¹ Think cold winter months versus hot summer months, and you can figure out why. Even so, most use reefers year-round.

                                                        1. re: zin1953

                                                          Who would name their kid Kermit?

                                                          1. re: cronker

                                                            That's a subject for an entirely different thread . . . ;^)

                                  2. If things you don't necessarily want to chill but just NOT get HOT... any decent "cooler" (insulated box) with NO ice!?!

                                    Last road trip I took was about 350+ miles from NJ to WV in AUGUST. I packed all cold stuff in cooler and dumped ice over top over everything. On arrival, NO significant melt... still had ice on beer the following day with cooler out of sun.

                                    1. Hi italianices -

                                      Fendant, our national wine, is not a big seller in the family.

                                      We travel over the frontiers (FR, DE, AT, IT) on weekends to see the sights, have a meal at a new restaurant with friends, and shopping, which includes wine. Next weekend will be the Alsace.

                                      Over the years we have tried insulating the case carton(s) in the back of our Cayenne, covering it with a blanket, placing the bottles in a plastic cooler, and taking out a few and chilling them in a 12v cooler.

                                      An old horsehair Swiss Armee blanket over an inverted case works the best, with no sun and no heat. We always keep 2 in the back, which double as picnic blankets, keeping warm in the Winter, and emergencies. If we want to chill a bottle of new white to enjoy in a picnic on the way, the old string over the bottle neck in a stream always works.

                                      1. Damissus and I regularly travel from AZ to the midwest and return. Usually during the spring/summer/fall months.

                                        We have a favorite butcher shop in MN where we purchase brats, wieners, summer sausage, etc.

                                        Bought a 12 volt cooler at WalMart a few years ago, and it keeps things cool for the entire four day return trip. EZ to take into the motel room at night and plug into electricity with the converter (included). Works well for us.

                                        An EZ solution, just plug it into your 12 volt outlet in your car. Will keep any wine/spirits cool for an 8 hour trip.

                                        1. We routinely receive wine shipments from excellent wineries in California and Oregon. The shipments always come FedEx next day, are packaged in standard wine cartons with styrofoam inserts, and always arrive just fine. The trucks are not even air conditioned, but the wineries carefully monitor forecasts and during the summer do not ship on days when the temp will be 90+ en route. The standard FedEx trucks are all ventilated, and of course shade the contents from direct sun. Never a problem. If you have your wine properly packed as above, certainly it will be fine within your a/c'd car for 6-8 hours. I suspect that the wineries ship their wines to distributors the same way.

                                          7 Replies
                                          1. re: josephnl

                                            >>> I suspect that the wineries ship their wines to distributors the same way. <<<

                                            You're kidding right?

                                            1. re: zin1953

                                              No, I really don't know, but I would suspect that perhaps aside from special high end bottllings, most wines shipped intrastate are done so by trucks which may or not be climate controlled. From your post zin, I'm guessing that I'm wrong.

                                              1. re: josephnl

                                                "The shipments always come FedEx next day, are packaged in standard wine cartons with styrofoam inserts... I suspect that the wineries ship their wines to distributors the same way."

                                                Sure. And I have a nice case of DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo) for you, joseph, for free.

                                                1. re: josephnl

                                                  Wineries do not control shipments *except* for DTC (direct-to-consumers) -- when they choose FedEx or UPS to make the deliveries -- unless they are shipping direct to retailers/restaurants, and virtually no winery in California does that.

                                                  Small(er) wineries usually store their wines off-site in a co-op warehouse. Larger wineries will store wines in their own warehouse(s). In both situations, they are *generally* (but not always) temperature-controlled. But if a wholesaler -- whether in Los Angeles or in Chicago, Atlanta, Houston, or Boston -- buys wine from a California winery, whether it's a full truckload or, say, two pallets (112 cases), the wine is sold FOB (ex cellars, if you will), meaning the sale is for the goods only. It is the WHOLESALER who is responsible for shipping, not the winery.

                                                  If the wholesaler wants to pay extra for a refrigerated truck to pick up and deliver the wine across the state (or across the country), then you can bet a refrigerated truck will pull into the winery's loading dock and take possession of the wine. OTOH, if the wholesaler doesn't want to pay the extra . . .

                                                  Remember that wholesalers will, in turn, sell to retailers and restaurants. (So even stores like Hi-Time and Wine Exchange buy from wholesalers; that small winery along the Sonoma Coast isn't tossing their wines in the pack of their pick-up truck and heading down Hwy 1.) Some wholesalers have refrigerated/temperature-controlled vans and/or trucks for delivering the wines from their warehouse to the retail store or restaurant. Most do not . . . EVEN IF their warehouse is temperature controlled.

                                                  1. re: zin1953

                                                    Thank you Zin for being polite and educating me (unlike another poster who was just snarky and uninformative). So from what you say, although wineries and wholesalers will, of course, pretty much always store their wines in a temperature-controlled environment, they may or may not transport them in refrigerated vans. So…if this is the case, my reply to the op was indeed pretty much accurate…if he/she transports wine packed in styrofoam/carton in an air conditioned car for 6-8 hours, this is likely just fine.

                                                    1. re: josephnl

                                                      Well, other than you answered the OP nearly one month after the question was first posed . . . ;^)

                                                      1. re: zin1953

                                                        Oh that's nothing, I (and I suspect other CH's) have replied to years old posts! :)

                                            2. Liquor is liquor. It'll be fine. Beer or wine should be kept in a cooler.