Wine is one of life’s great pleasures. There are a few other articles of food or drink that carefully play upon the body’s many senses. We’re talking about the sense of smell, how it feels in the mouth, all of the notes that mingle together to create the overall taste, and of course the profile of the intoxication that it provides. All of these attributes are colored by the grapes that go into the wine and the environment in which they were grown. For this reason, every different location known for its wines have their own distinct variations on all of the attributes available to a good wine.
So what happens when you find a wine while you’re travelling that you absolutely have to bring home and share with your friends (or even selfishly enjoy by yourself)? First off you need to make sure whatever airport you’re going through will let you take the amount of wine you’re trying to bring home through customs. Most airports set their limits at either 1L or 2L of wine which isn’t much, but should be just enough to make it worthwhile. But what about making sure that wine survives the airport trip home? Luckily for you, we’ve hit the books and figured out just how to make sure your spirit of choice makes it through international flights so you can sip at your leisure back at home.
1. Make Sure You’re Adhering to Customs Guidelines From Departure To Arrival
Google is one of the top resources for this, there’s so many different wine producing countries that it would take up this entire article individually listing the customs requirements for all of them. Having a printed out copy of the rules also helps incase you get an overzealous customs agent that isn’t quite sure of the rules themselves and are trying to part you from your new favorite bottle of wine. Once you’ve managed to get your wine through customs in the country that you’re leaving, you also need to make sure that your home country has the same limits. The limits are either published in bottles or in total liters of drink, so make sure you’re following the rules. The rules typically only cover what can pass through undeclared, but ensure you understand the rules completely. If you’re over your limits and realize too late, it could just be a matter of declaring your wine and explaining the situation. Things that have to be declared aren’t necessarily things you shouldn’t have, they are just things customs & import need to keep track of to ensure you’re bringing them in for personal consumption and not for say, resale or corporate espionage.
Be truthful if you are ever questioned and don’t try to hide information thinking you can sneak by. Most customs officials understand that you’re just bringing it in for your own enjoyment, but nobody appreciates being lied to.
2. Pick The Right Kind Of Luggage For The Job
Your best bet is to put your wine of choice into your checked baggage, also known as the baggage that gets put underneath the plane for the duration of your flight. It’s highly unlikely you’ll be allowed on to the plane with your wine in your carry-on, so picking the right luggage case for the job is the first step in ensuring your wine goes from plane to pour successfully. Remember that baggage handlers at the airport are not known for their gentle touch. A hard-shelled bag is much more apt for absorbing the shock caused by your bag being jostled around during the loading and unloading process. Canvas bags do a poor job at taking impact and all of the kinetic energy will be transferred into the contents of your bag, bad news for your fragile bottle.
3. Make Sure To Pack Smart
Even the smartest choice in checked baggage won’t help you out if you haven’t packed the contents wisely. Each bottle should be individually wrapped in clothing or bubble wrap to help distribute any force away from the bottle itself. Some sommeliers even invest in a specialized wine carrier bag and thanks to the power of the internet, us average wine fanciers have access to them as well. Make sure your bag is packed as tightly as possible so there’s little to no room for your bottle of wine to rattle around. Accomplish this through any means possible, whether it’s stuffing your bag full of newspapers or buying an extra shirt or two. The main goal to give the bottle of wine minimal room to roll around and enough padding around it to absorb any impact.
4. Use Absorbent Padding
Unfortunately, no matter our best efforts, there are times where turbulence or improperly handling will result in your bottle of wine shattering and spilling all over the contents of your luggage. The simplest way to minimize any damage caused by this unfortunate occurrence would be by using absorbent padding around your wine. If you’re travelling with your children, wrapping the bottle in diapers isn’t a horrible idea. There are purpose built containers for travelling with wine that are absorbent in case it breaks, but it is unlikely you’ll have access to them unless you bring them yourself.
5. The Bag-Within-A-Bag Method
Depending on how full your checked baggage already is, consider putting the bottle of wine inside of a secure pouch inside something small like a backpack or carrying case and then put that bag inside the checked baggage. This way, you’ve both secured and protected your wine at the same time. If your luggage is absurdly large this is also another way to satisfy the requirement that the wine not have much room to bounce around in because the smaller bag within your checked baggage will likely be much more secure than a bottle wrapped on its own.
Bringing wine back home from a trip doesn’t have to be a major hassle worthy of stress. Flying is already stressful enough but if you follow all of the above tips you’ll be sure to be enjoying your cabernet sauvignon with friends back home in no time. I wish you the best of luck in your wine adventuring escapades!