I think the phenomena you are referring to is “bottle shock”. (Not the 2008 movie of the same name which I highly recommend) The theory is that the jostling a wine gets in transit messes with the tannins and phenolics and gives the wine an “off” taste. Not bad, as in corked, just off. Some folks don’t think it’s real, but I generally try to let the wine rest for about a week before I open it, because, why not? If you are worried about sediment, storing the wine upright overnight is probably enough to settle it out.
I’m of the opinion that older wines are certainly prone to travel shock. These wines need as long as you can give them to let everything in the bottle settle. The older they are the more time they need. But when a wine is young and freshly bottled, then there’s probably not going to be much of a difference opening right away or waiting a few days. Maybe an hour after transport might let things settle but after that the young wine is probably all the same.
You could always do an experiment to check this yourself. Take two young cheap wines that have been sitting still for a while. Shake one up vigorously before opening and the other just open without any disturbance. Maybe give an hour after shaking before opening the wines, since that would be more reflective of the reality we are interested in. Then taste the two wines and compare: is there a difference between the two, and which one of any tastes better. You could add in some extra fun by bagging the wines so you don’t know which is which and then deciding which one you prefer before unveiling which was shocked and which not.
Now that I think about it, this sounds like a fun experiment that I will do in the near future.
As for old wines, I know from experience that if they have been shaken up they will not taste right so I don’t really need to do an experiment, I’ll take my anecdotal evidence as enough.
Unless you really want to drink it so quickly, why not wait a week or two until opening one? Unless it’s a lab rat bottle, that is.
I usually wait at least a month, but I’ve got such a ridiculous amount of wine it really isn’t a big deal to wait.
Since someone already brought it up, there can also be what has been referred to in this thread as “bottle shock”, that is, problems when a wine was bottled just prior to being sent to you. The idea that wines might need time to settle into their bottle after being bottled, having nothing to do with traveling in a vehicle or being shaken up.
I’m no expert but I believe that this can be the case under some circumstances. For one, some wines might be bottled a little bit earlier then they should be, simply because of wine seasons, finances, capacity, etc, with the knowledge that in a few months they will have reached an appropriate age and balance. This is certainly possible, in which case you would simply taste a wine that is obviously too young.
Another possibility is that some wines may undergo certain processing just prior to bottling that will disturb the makeup of the wine, such as certain filtration methods. The disturbance from these processes may take a while to resolve and for the wine to return to its normal tasty state. Wines with this problem will probably just not be very tasty, maybe very closed with muted flavors, but that’s a complete guess.
Finally, the process of inserting a cork into a bottle injects oxygen into the wine, so that may play a part in altering a wine right after bottling, which will sort itself with time.
I take no credit for any of these ideas, they all come from Clark smiths postmodern winemaking book. I probably botched some of the details too.
@rjquillin good point. Some wineries may prefer no oxygen in some of their wines. Though some do prefer the oxygen. Probably depends on the intent of the wine. Drink now means no oxygen, age long means oxygen, roughly speaking.