How to Pack That Amazing Wine in Your Luggage

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It used to be, whenever I wanted to bring home a precious few bottles of wine or spirits from abroad, my options would be:

  1. Stuff each bottle into a pair of socks, wrap in multiple plastic bags, and them roll them up in my clothes, or
  2. Pay a hefty several-hundred-dollar customs fee to get those treasured bottles back home.

Actually, I never paid the customs fees to have wine shipped directly from the winemaker since it was typically over $200 and I prided myself on being an expert alcohol smuggler. I once managed to bring seven bottles of vodka back from Moscow (including a spicy Ukrainian chili pepper vodka), in my checked baggage without spilling one drop. Sure, each bottle was individually tucked into an overstretched sock and my luggage subsequently required a “Heavy, Bend Your Knees” tag, but not one drop!

 

Liquid souvenirs from my travels include five bottles of various reds from Moravia in southern Czech Republic, six bottles of Shiraz from Melbourne and eight bottles of Burgundy from France, each rolled into clothes balls in my checked bag. Every time I sent up a small prayer to Bacchus that nothing broke, leaked or spilled all over my wardrobe.

 

But now, my fellow wine travelers, we can toast a new traveling companion, one that safely totes 12 bottles of wine home from anywhere. I had the good fortune to try the Wine Check out in Piedmont, which was ideal because it’s the kind of region that overflows with excellent small production wines you can’t buy outside of Italy.

Wine Check Bag Piemonte Italy

The interior is a molded styrofoam casing which kept all of the bottles 100% secure throughout the long flight and journey through baggage handling.

The case itself can either be collapsed and stowed in your luggage until you get to wine country, or you can check the lightweight carrier, complete with the cardboard box and Styrofoam-molded casing inside, ready to be filled. It’s super lightweight when empty, and it has handles and wheels so it’s very easy to transport.

In town: Even in historical towns like Neive, the wheels run smoothly over the cobblestones and the long removable handle makes it easy to pull behind you. The zipper pouch on top is a great place to store your receipts in case anyone at customs asks (which they probably won’t).

Juliana Dever - Wine Traveler

See? I can easily pull my case of wine over cobblestones, to wine shops, or directly next to me at family gatherings. What? Everyone’s got their own form of security blanket.

 

In the airport: The long strap clips off and easily fits in the pouch, so there are no loose parts to get caught up in baggage handler machines. I bought the small, TSA approved locks, which fit the two zippers together and easily secured my purchases. Even though the bottles are super snug inside the molded packing material, I requested the “fragile” and “this side up” stickers for the sides. The entire suitcase, when filled with 12 full wine bottles weighs in at 42 pounds, so there were no excess baggage fees.

 

Juliana Dever with Wine Check Bag - Piemonte Italy

Handles on the sides, along with the clip-on longer strap for trailing it behind, reminding you that your wine is always close by.

In customs: Here’s where I thought I might hit a snag. Before, I may or may not have said that I had “nothing to declare” when it came to all of the alcohol I was bringing back. And according to the regulations it isn’t really a problem, it’s just an extra charge and more time spent in an airport. But this time I had an entire square case on wheels filled with nothing but a dozen bottles of wine, so I felt honesty was a good route. For the first time ever, I checked the “yes” box on the declaration form and hoped for the shortest possible exchange with customs agents.

 

Juliana Dever goat on Instagram

I mean, customs agents don’t have time to check your Instagram feed, right?

I’m always guilty when I walk through this line. Usually it’s due to me bending the truth about my proximity to farm animals. If any customs agents follow me on Instagram they will KNOW I am lying about not being near goats.

 

The agent eyes my form with the declaration box checked yes.

“What are you declaring?”

“I have twelve bottles of wine in this black bag.”

He looks at me for a moment, then back at the form.

“Go on.”

“Go on where?”

“You’re good, just go on.”

 

 

And that was the entirety of the exchange. It seems that most of the time the forty cents per bottle on the six bottles over my allotment is not worth the $2.40 of effort it will take to collect it. And because wine is under the 24% alcohol, it is discretionary as to whether it gets collected at all. Even if it is, it beats the $200+ and who knows how many weeks in customs that it might otherwise take.

 

Wine check Bag

My new favorite piece of luggage to unpack. Rolled it right up to the wine fridge in the kitchen.

At home: Easy to wheel right into my kitchen to unload. It was like opening a treasure chest. Granted, I packed said treasure chest, but still… Each glorious bottle of my twelve handpicked Nebbiolos from Piedmont was in perfect condition, and it couldn’t have been easier to bring back.

 

Are you a wine traveler? You can get information on buying your own Wine Check bag here.

 

This post was written in exchange for me trying out the Wine Check bag, but all opinions are my own. And because I was able to bring back 12 entire bottles of wine instead of cramming six into my regular luggage, my opinion is quite favorable. All photos of me taken by Robert Alexander of Travel Langhe Tours.

 

 

From which countries have you brought back wine or spirits? How did you pack it?

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Wine Travel | How to Pack Wine for Travel | How to Pack Wine in checked baggage

Read More About Wine Travel

First, let’s get it straight. It’s spelled BOTH ways. Piedmont is how most English speakers say it; Piemonte is how the Italians pronounce it. And me. I like to say Piemonte! with an upward lilt (and an exclamation point) at the end because it makes me feel authentic and perhaps like I might live there one day....

Moravia, in the Czech Republic, is a fascinating wine region. Behind the Iron Curtain until the Velvet Revolution of 1989, winemakers did not have the freedom to indulge in creating a style, but rather most were forced to grow grapes for...

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About the Author

Hi. I’m Juliana Dever and according to science I have some sort of "exploration" gene. Embracing this compulsion, I spend a lot of time hurtling around the planet in metal tubes experiencing other cultures and writing humorous essays about it. Enjoy.

11 Comments

  1. Krista / September 9, 2015 at 6:56 am /Reply

    Hmmmmmm…. I may have to invest in one of these! I’ve usually used Wine Diapers, as they seal and have an absorbent padding in case of breakage, but always still wrap them in clothes… and even then a few bottles puts my suitcase near the weight limit. Thanks for the post!

    • Juliana Dever / September 9, 2015 at 10:27 am /Reply

      I found it to be super handy for wine transport, especially for international places that I know I won’t get back to anytime soon. Normally I can only pack maybe three or four bottles in one checked bag, so I felt almost giddy when I realized I could pick out TWELVE wines!

  2. Robert / September 9, 2015 at 7:09 am /Reply

    I brought back several bottles of slivovitz (plum brandy) and hruskovica (pear brandy) from Slovakia, and when we connected through Switzerland, I also picked up some absinthe from the duty-free store. Bottles from Slovakia were packed in t-shirt/sweater balls, and stowed in the luggage.

    When we went through customs in the US, and they asked if we had anything to declare, I told the agent that I’d bought some liquor and chocolates in Switzerland. He said; “That’s fine, as long as you didn’t bring back any absinthe. That’s illegal to bring into the US.” I assured him that of course I hadn’t bought anything like that. The duty-free bag was on the counter between us, but he never even glanced inside. I’m still not sure if he was just busting my chops.

    • Juliana Dever / September 9, 2015 at 10:37 am /Reply

      Ha! It was technically illegal until 2007 when there was a change in understanding about the amounts of a certain ingredient. Was it before or after 2007? Either way, yeah, he coulda been busting your chops. I don’t think they could even sell it you via duty free if you couldn’t bring it into the US since they have to look at your boarding pass before the transaction is complete. I’m sure you thought about that interaction all the way home, and then some. And you’ll never know…

  3. Elsa McFarlane / September 9, 2015 at 12:27 pm /Reply

    I have used many of the same methods you mention to to bring home wine from holiday in the past. That looks like a wonderful bag but unfortunately the luggage allowances in Europe are not as generous as those to the USA. I would have to leave my clothes behind! It would still prove to be pretty expensive to carry a lot of wine home to the UK. Unless you know of any clever ways round this.

    • Juliana Dever / September 9, 2015 at 6:37 pm /Reply

      I suppose it depends on a couple of things.
      1) If you are wishing to have more than a bottle or two of some fantastic wine you’ve purchased. Since this bag is for 12 bottles, you’ve got to fall in love with a dozen wines (or spirits) you definitely CANNOT get back home.
      2) How much does it cost to ship it from the winery or store? For those of you in the EU, it still might be pretty reasonable and less than the customs prices we Americans have to pay.

      I checked out EasyJet’s baggage restrictions as an example, and the bag still makes it under the weight and size restrictions, so you would only be looking at the extra baggage charge between £12-£22 if you book ahead. So it all comes down to what the least expensive option for you.

  4. Paul Budny / October 9, 2015 at 2:52 am /Reply

    Glad the Wine Check work out so well for you Julia! It’s been selling extremely well on Lazenn (http://lazenne.com) in Europe. Just like yourself, we have many wine loving travellers who come over to France, Italy, Spain, Portugal and other wine regions and need a safe, convenient, and economical way to take wine home. In my mind this is the best way to do it. I hope you can help your readers know that we have a network of over 100 resellers selling the Wine Check throughout Europe, and we also deliver to hotels across the continent. We wish all happy wine travels!

  5. Carolyne / October 20, 2015 at 10:00 am /Reply

    Wow, I wish I could do that in Canada. Maybe it had changeg, but, I know we only can bring home only 1 or 2 bottle for a total of 1.5L. I mean, you are in France or Spain, and you can’t bring home more than 2 bottles !!!! But the bag would be really useful to me for trip in Ontario or BC. Good wines there.

  6. Marissa / August 3, 2016 at 4:22 pm /Reply

    I love this!!

    Was it easy to find the box inserts at Enotecas in Italy? We are going to Piedmont, but it will be the last leg of our travel so I would prefer to take the bag without the box and inserts… What’s your thoughts on it?

    • Juliana Dever / August 3, 2016 at 7:16 pm /Reply

      Hmmmm…I can’t say for sure about the inserts, but I hear you on wanting to minimize the time with the extra suitcase. I know the wine shop in Neive pictured in my post has boxes, but I can’t remember if they are all the correct size with the type of styrofoam inserts that keep the bottles safe in flight.

      I would tweet @Lazenne_ and ask them. I believe they even sell the wine check bag in Piedmont, but I could be wrong. Also try contacting Robert of Travel Langhe wine tours (http://www.travellanghe.com), he may have an answer for you about that. Let me know what you find out. Cheers!

  7. Katie / May 22, 2017 at 9:27 am /Reply

    My mom needs this! I’ve only ever brought back from Korea, but they’re smart people and they sell plastic bottles in a variety of sizes – the soju and bokbunja (a sweet blackberry wine) were relatively easy to stow. Honestly, the hangover experience was way worse that the packing 😀

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