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Aug 3, 2006 02:01 PM

Advice on getting wines back to the States from Europe

When we visit France we usually bring about 18 750ml bottles back in our checked bags. The Customs folks let you bring in $800 worth which is more than I can lift.

Does anyone have a good way to bring back $800 worth of bottles which would be 4 to 5 cases of the wines we like?

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  1. We actually travel out with empty 12-bottle shipping boxes (the kind with the pulp inserts) and huge duffel type bags that they fit into. Usually about 4 of them- the inserts all stacked together & the boxes still flat, so that the whole lot fits into 1 duffel & 2 other duffels fit into the 4th.

    Then be sure to let the airline know that you will have excess heavy baggage on the flight home, so that they can figure their weight allowance.

    1. Anyone know why you can bring $800 worth of wine from Europe, but only one bottle from Mexico?


      4 Replies
      1. re: Phoo D

        There's no federal limit on how much wine or other alcohol a traveler can bring to the U.S. for personal use, though only the first liter is duty-free. Some states have restrictions on how much you can bring into the state without a license.

        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          You are correct. It is a California State rule. Arizona has an even weaselier rule.

          So why is California afraid of Mexican wines? Seems absurd to me. But the workings of democracy (?) are a mystery.


          1. re: Phoo D

            Sigh ... I just can't overcome my baser instincts but ... have you ever TRIED Mexican wine? Why would anyone want to bring even one bottle in the country? From my experience the thing to do is distance yourself from them. I say it is pure snobbery on the part of customs.

            Ok, now that I've had my little rant, I'll try to approach this more intelligently ... I posted a topic about Mexican Wines. I'd be interested to hear what it is you like about Mexican wines that would make you want to bring multiple bottles across the board ... especially into California.


            1. re: Phoo D

              That's not quite correct. Here's the cite:

              If you FLY in from Mexico or arrive by steamship you can bring home to California 5 cases for personal use. But only 1 liter if you drive or walk over the border.

        2. I live in AZ, and just got back from a trip to Europe/France. We had only heard the $800 rule and so the signs limiting us to a liter of alcohol were an unhappy shock when our 13-hour flight finally got in -- we had liqueors and wines from Greece, Croatia, Italy, and France; plus we'd spent our layover at Heathrow getting *loaded* tasting scotch in the duty-free shop, and we had several rare single-malts in our carry-ons. We followed what I'll call the Steingarten Principle, where we declared everything (no choice at that point, we'd filled out the forms on the plane) and played it nonchalant.

          Our forms were examined and we were waved through both checkpoints. I think it was apparent all of our purchases were personal use, not commercial quantities. Anyway, it made me sorry I'd decided against all that foie gras and runny cheese. And always remember, the fastest way to get yourself a trip to the pokey is to act squirrely and wig out in the customs line.

          1. I would look on the internet and make sure you can't get the same wine in the states before you start lugging all that wine.

            1 Reply
            1. re: waitress

              There are 3 reasons we lug wine back to the States when we visit France:
              1. The small wineries don't export to the US. We have found that even some medium size ones have stopped because of increase cost and tougher customs procedures.
              2. The handling of wine through the commercial export process and storage in the US can damage the wine
              3. Price for Cru's is about 40% of what it is in the US. This way we can afford to drink much better wines that remind us of our last trip when we get home.

              Also, thanks to OliveBelle for the suggestion on taking carton to ship home in.

              Blue Ox

            2. As of this morning's news, you would be lucky if they let you check it in luggage. The days of carrying wine in your carry on bag are officially over.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Chicago Wine Geek

                Yes, things have certainly changed - yet again. I used to check two empty styro-shipping cases with straps to SFO, then fill them with wines purchased during our tastings, and check them back to AZ. I stopped doing this after 09/11/01 because of the minor hassles, plus getting the now full cases from the rental car building to SFO.

                Now, it might be even a bigger problem. I wonder about "liquids" purchased in the Duty-Free shops. They are within the Security Zone, but they ARE liquids. I usually pick up a few Ports, that don't make it to the US, normally, and will have to check at LHR in Oct, to see what might have changed. Just think about all those liquids in the Duty-Free stores. What will they do with it, if it cannot be taken on board?

                Interesting times, in which we live,