Why temperature and humidity matter when moving wine

From the winery to the consumer, bottles of wines being transported are at risk from a range of outside influences. Most shipping or freight forwarding companies do not offer a solely dedicated service for wine, exposing the bottles to dirt and/or cross-contamination from previously shipped commodities (for example scrap metal, paper and plastic and chemical products). But more importantly, humidity, temperature fluctuations or extreme constant temperatures during transit can damage the content of these bottles, along with packaging and labelling, affecting the commercial value of the products.

If you are wondering how extreme the temperatures need to be to damage wine, there is not one simple answer, it is variable; it depends on the wine style, the ABV (Alcohol By Volume) but also the amount of free sulphites.


One thing is sure, heat exposure can result in accelerated development (premature ageing), loss of free sulphur dioxide, it can also change wine colour and cause an increase in browning. Cold temperatures can have equally damaging consequences: appearance of sediments in whites & reds caused by the precipitation of phenolic material or precipitation of tartrate crystals. It may also impact the sensory character of wine as well, with a loss of acidity, freshness and zestiness.

The fact is that the average consumer is then potentially unable to recognise such differences, and is likely to label a given brand as “bad wine”, never to be purchased again.

As with humidity, the risks also include the bottle itself and the packaging. Temperature fluctuation, constant extremes (heat or freezing) can result in significant volume expansion of the wine which affects the structural integrity of the closure and glass resulting in breakage or leakage.

As a consequence, a lot of wines are damaged before they even reach destination. This can easily be avoided by anticipating the risks and ensuring proper protection in the containers during transport and storage.

Indeed if you know your shipping route, risk management tools exist enabling you to evaluate the average temperature and humidity levels along the route and determine how many days sensitive cargo will be subject to extreme temperatures.

JF Hillebrand, premium partner of Vinexpo, teamed up with Campden BRI, the leading privately-owned UK research laboratory to the food and beverage industry, to map out the potential sensory and chemical reactions for beer, wine, spirits, cider, sake and cream liqueurs. With a shipment’s origin, destination, shipping dates, product type it can provide a client with a custom transport risk assessment and determine the stages where risks are highest.

It leaves then it up to the customer to choose the appropriate equipment. If reefer containers are the ideal solution, the availability of 20’ is limited and can be expensive. Insulated solutions in a dry container such as VinLiner (JF Hillebrand’s protective solution) are an excellent compromise. They stabilise temperatures, minimizing the risks of thermal shocks, temperature level, humidity and odour within the container. This solution exists for 20’, 40’ and High Cube containers.