A COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE TO TRAVELING WITH WINE
For wine lovers, few travel experiences are more magical or memorable than a vineyard visit. Bringing a few bottles back home to recreate the experience is easier than many travelers realize. Here’s what to know.
Know Your limits
Per TSA regulations, you can pack wine in your carry-on (just don’t try to drink it in flight, that’s not allowed). The wine or alcohol in question needs to be restricted to 3.4-ounce, or 100-milliliter, bottles, and all bottles must fit in a quart-size clear resealable bag. Take note, the alcohol percentage must be 70 percent or lower. (Average wines, from light pinot grigios to bold malbecs, range between 11 and 15 percent alcohol, while fortified wines such as Madeira and port typically hover around 20 percent.) Standard bottles, which hold 750 milliliters, have to go in checked luggage.
Accept the Duty
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection rules that one liter of alcohol per person can be brought into the United States duty-free. (A liter bottle serves about two glasses more wine than the 750-milliliter standard, and this slightly larger format is slowly becoming more popular in Europe.) For travelers bringing more than one liter per person, those additional quantities are subject to duty and federal excise taxes, assessed and collected during the customs process at port of entry.
BYOP (Bring Your Own Packing Materials)
To minimize the chance of arriving at home with a broken wine bottle, choose a hard-side suitcase from the likes of Away or Tumi for checked luggage. Many travelers protect bottles by wrapping them in articles of clothing, but the smartest option is to bring resealable padded sleeves such as bubble-wrap-lined WineSkins. These inexpensive bags provide cushioning and safeguard your suitcase’s contents against rogue liquid.
Consider Direct Shipping
If there’s a good chance you’ll buy several bottles on your next trip, contact the wineries ahead of time and inquire about direct shipping options. If a winery doesn’t ship, ask your hotel’s concierge team for help; they’ll likely be well-versed in shipping options and may pack and mail the bottles for you, or help find a reputable third-party service. (In addition to shipping costs, import duties might apply.) For ardent wine lovers, this route typically causes the least stress. Free from concern about getting the bottles home in one piece, your only conundrum will be which one to open when you get back.