I remember the first time I heard this term - I wasn't sure if someone had jumped out from behind a barrel and scared the wine, or worse still the wine had been electrocuted. Whatever meaning you choose, one thing is certain: bottle shock is not a term many wines hope to be labeled with.
In the scientific sense; bottle shock is when wine adopts strange, disordered flavours. These disordered flavours can make the wine taste less fruit driven, make the presence of the alcohol or the tannins more noticeable, and cause bottles of wine to taste out of sorts, leaving you unsure of even the grape varietal or style of wine. The good news is that bottle-shock is a temporary condition of wine characterized by muted or disjointed flavours.


It often occurs immediately after bottling or when wines are shaken during travel (example; long sea travel). Though it should be well noted, that typically after several weeks this condition usually disappears.
Consider - at one moment the wine is happy and settled in its stainless steel tank or oak barrel in the winery. Then it comes time to bottling, it suffers a rude shock, wake-up from its restful sleep when it is pumped through pipes at high speed ending up like a little genie inside a bottle. After such a shake-up, the wine needs time to settle, rest and compose itself.
A bottle shocked wine still has all the flavours and varietal characteristics present, but they have been 'jumbled, disordered' by the bottling process, travel and dramatic changes in temperature. As the wine settles over a period of weeks or months, it re-gathers itself and the characters fit back together, like a jigsaw puzzle.

So remember; when opening a just bottled wine that is known for full, rich, intense flavours and it has just arrived by sea, bounced around on the back of a truck, shaken around inside your hot car and then poured into a glass. Don't be surprised if the wine is a little shy at first, feeling a little battered and bruised, disoriented and not quite in the mood to do a song and dance routine that will win it an academy award. Give all wines time to rest.