How to travel with wine in your checked luggage

By James Atkinson, December 23 2018

Opening a bottle of fine wine or spirits sourced on holiday evokes memories of your travels that can transcend enjoyment of the wine itself.

As such, I scarcely return home from overseas travel without a few bottles of some unique and special drops.

Most often that's Pinot Noir – I've recently brought back some fine examples from Martinborough, in New Zealand's north island, and the Willamette Valley in Oregon, USA – although on a recent trip to New York I couldn't resist a bottle of the exceptional Willett Family Estate Straight Rye Whiskey from Kentucky.

The challenge, then, is bringing this precious cargo home.

I learnt very early that a bottle stashed in a suitcase will not always withstand the rigours of baggage handling, and a red wine breakage has deep ramifications for your luggage and personal effects.

These days I always travel with a few special carrier bags to ensure the wines' safe passage home to Australia.

These are essentially tough plastic pockets lined with protective matrial that can be sealed once the bottle is inserted.

I've never experienced a breakage when travelling with wine this way. But in the unlikely event one was to occur, the seal should ensure that the liquid stays within the pocket, avoiding spoilage of the contents of your suitcase.

Two such products worth looking at are the WineSkin (from www.wineskin.com.au) and the Wine Travel Bag (www.winetravelbag.com).

At around $5 each, the bubble-wrapped WineSkin has a dual-strip sealing system which the creators boast to be leak-proof.

However, the adhesive seal makes each WineSkin a single-use solution. It's possible to re-use them but you do so at your own risk (and that of the clothes packed in you luggage). WineSkin has released a re-usable version at around $8 each, although it's currently not available in Australia.

By comparison, the imaginatively-named Wine Travel Bag ($19.95 for two) has zip lock seals so they can be used again and again.

If you want something even more robust and sophisticated that will really show how serious you are about wine, consider investing in a VinGardValise suitcase (www.flywithwine.com). It comes in either Petite ($US249) or Grande ($US299) versions, accommodating up to eight or 12 bottles respectively.

The foam cavities are designed to hold 750ml bottles of any shape.

Mix and match inserts allow the traveller to customise the case so that it can accommodate, for example, six bottles of wine together with clothes and other items.

You even have the option of a special insert to carry two wine glasses should you decide to lighten the load during your trip.

Be mindful that while a VinGardValise can carry at least eight bottles, Australian Customs allows only the equivalent of three bottles (2.25 litres) to be brought into the country duty free.

Take heed of this limit, as it can certainly be enforced – although my experience indicates a fair bit of leeway where wine is concerned.

That's on two provisos; that the wine is not worth an inordinate sum of money, and that you do the right thing and declare it. Limits are much more strictly enforced with higher-strength spirits.

James Atkinson

James is a journalist whose career took a turn for the better when he began specialising in what he enjoys most: Travel, food and drink. Whether at home in Sydney or on the road, he's especially diligent at roadtesting bars and restaurants and hunting down some special bottles to bring home.

Geoffair

Geoffair

04 May 2018

Total posts 45

Good prices for good quality luggage and you don't have to use them for wine when you just travel to cities!

peteshep

peteshep

15 Feb 2013

Total posts 138

I go over the duty free limit virtually every trip and only once had to pay duty - on that occasion I had the equivalent of 9 bottles, they “charged” me for 6, but wrote on the form “6x $10 per bottle = $30”. Maths must not be a pre-requisite to work in customs.

Most of the time if it’s only 1 bottle they don’t worry, and then when it’s more they try to give a lecture on duty free and say don’t go over - to which I reply “it’s perfectly legal for me to go over provided I declare it which I have done, and I’m well aware of the costs as these are wines I can’t easily buy in Australia”. That usually shuts them up and I move on.

Traveller14

Traveller14

17 Sep 2015

Total posts 391

Part of the reason may be with the increase in tourism to Australia, Border Force staff are overwhelmed so their focus is more on detecting illegal contraband, or goods like some meats and seafood that are not allowed into Oz.

Stephen D

Stephen D

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

12 Nov 2017

Total posts 15

I normally use an Australian Post bottle mailer; around $5. This works fine.

Traveller14

Traveller14

17 Sep 2015

Total posts 391

Yes, my solution to. Just buy one at any reasonably sized Australia Post shop. They withstand multiple users and don't weigh a lot.

Mark R

Mark R

08 Jul 2016

Total posts 3

I travel overseas all the time and have done for years. I wrap my clean or dirty laundry around each bottle, make sure they can’t move around the suitcase and use a hard shell. Never had one break....

Notso Swift

Notso Swift

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

06 Oct 2016

Total posts 109

Exactly what I do

Hard case and don't let the glass hit other glass

tonyw

tonyw

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

18 Jul 2015

Total posts 20

I tend to drink it! LOL

rabbieb

rabbieb

31 Dec 2017

Total posts 2

Packed my Felton Road bottles in their WineSkins inside my ski case with its tough PU shell and between stainless/titanal/ carbon skis. Indestructible you would think. Only one survived NZ baggage handling.

surfersimon

surfersimon

11 Oct 2017

Total posts 4

I have used the "single use" Wine Skin purchased from an ABC store in Hawaii for about ten trips back and forwards between here and Honolulu as I take back Australian wines to a friend...never had a problem as I wrap them in a strong plastic bag and in the centre of the bag...either a hard shell or a soft duffel.

RickBlain

RickBlain

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Jul 2014

Total posts 14

I bought myself Transbottle which allows me to (legally) take 3 bottles of wine in my suitcase each month when I go to Tokyo. These case is almost indestructble, VERY lightweight, shatter proof although I place each bottle in plastic bags just in case. I have done this for a few years and had zero problems. Best few euros I have spent. It takes up some space but for peace of mind nothing beats it. https://boutique-transbottle.com/en/packs-transbottle/6698-transbottle-3.html

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