There are a lot of upsides to travelling. For wine lovers, one of the biggest is the chance to visit new vineyards and sample fine wines, and maybe even bring a bottle or six home with you.
Opening a bottle of fine wine or spirits sourced on holiday evokes memories of your travels that can sometimes transcend enjoyment of the wine itself.
We’ve been known to pick up a bottle of Argentinian Malbec or French Côtes du Rhone on trips, and, after many trials and errors, have since learned the best ways to pack wine in your suitcase.
The number one lesson? Don’t try to carry it on the plane with you.
Frequent flyers will describe this as simply stating the obvious, but it’s easy for novice travellers to overlook this and end up leaving the airport security team with a lovely bottle of Chateau Lafite to enjoy.
Once you've decided to transport wine in your suitcase, there are two things to consider: how to protect the bottle from rough handling, and how to contain the wine in case there is an unfortunate break (there’s nothing worse than red wine going all through your bag).
Rather than unleashing your creativity with plastic bags and duct tape, there are off-the-shelf options that allow you to safely transport wine in a suitcase with added peace of mind.
Buy a sealable or reusable wine travel bag
Three of the best-value offerings are WineSkin, Bottelo and a Wine Travel Bag.
WineSkin is a bottle-shaped bag with a bubble-wrapped interior that seals tight to catch any drops. The original version is single-use, so not the most environmentally friendly option, but a newer model is made from stronger vinyl and comes with a velcro strip.
Simply pop in a standard 750ml bottle of wine, seal it up, and then layer it inside clothes in your bag for extra padding. The single-use WineSkin is around USD $6 for a pack of two, while the reusable one is about USD $7 each.
Bottelo is more like a diver’s wet bag. Created by the same team behind WineSkin, it features a thick, vinyl outer layer with a bubble-wrap interior and sturdy triple fold and snap-close system.
The Wine Travel Bag, on the other hand, is reusable from the outset. It doesn’t have bubble wrap inside, but there is an absorbent layer that will soak up any unfortunate spills that may occur.
A basic three-pack of the Wine Travel Bag starts at around $29.95.
Invest in a special wine suitcase
If you’re serious about your wine and really want that added protection, you could invest in a ‘VinGardeValise’ Fly With Wine suitcase that comes in five, eight or 12 bottle variations.
The VinGardeValise features a hard-shell exterior with flexible, removable inserts that allow you to customise the interior of the bag to suit your needs. It also has a sturdy handle and wheels to make transport a breeze.
You even have the option of a special insert to carry two wine glasses should you decide to lighten the load during your trip. It doesn’t come cheap, with the smallest option starting from US$279, although you can still use it even when you’re not travelling with wine.
Wrap your wine bottle in clothing
If you don't have a WineSkin or the like handy, your best bet is to first seal the bottle in plastic (a couple of plastic bags and some duct tape does the job) and then wrap it in soft material.
Next, line the base of the bag with some thicker clothes to create a good layer of protection, place your precious cargo in the centre, and then layer your clothes on top and either side to stop the bottle rolling around inside the suitcase.
After that, all you can do is say a little prayer to the travel gods for a safe, spill-free journey.