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How to get wine home with the new airline regulations

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My husband and I will be making our annual pilgrammage to Napa for the crush and a harvest party at Niebaum-Coppola next month. Typically, we also visit a couple of other wineries, buy a few bottles, and carry them home on the plane. However, now that the new airline regulations have taken effect and no liquids are allowed in the carry-on, we are lost. Any ideas on getting wine home? Of great importance is that we live in one of those ridiculous states that doesn't yet allow for direct shipment from the wineries themselves.

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  1. Can you have the winery pack you a case that you can check on? I forget whether that's officially allowed, but it's what we did when we received a case of Kermit Lynch finds as a wedding gift.

    You probably already know this, but when we were in Napa recently, each winery seemed to have its own practices for dealing with your situation. Some seem to have "ways around" no-ship states, so maybe you could call and ask before you go? Before NY got rid of the regulations, we also considered shipping wine to family in nearby states without regulations.

    1. This is what i did about 3 yrs ago, not wanting to schlep my bottles on the plane and i still had over aweek of visiting the area, i picked up some fine bottles of hard to find vintages at the wineries and then went to a well regarded wine store that had other offerings and i implored them to just stick my 5 bottles in with their 7 bottles to round out my case and fwd theentire package to me ...they were quite accomodating and everyone benefitted

      1. There are couple of independent places in the valley that will pack and ship wine for you. Many of the wineries will be happy to ship you your wine IF it's legal to ship to your state.

        Finally, there is a stainless steel shipper that one can buy from wine accessary shops that will hold I believe 6 bottles. It can be checked just like your other luggage.

        5 Replies
        1. re: rtmonty

          I've never seen these before. Do you know of any websites that offer them? I like the idea of a sturdy, reusable case!

          1. re: rtmonty

            As a word of warning, try to find a shipping place that you can trust, not just one that wants your business. I shipped a couple of cases from Cartons and Crates in Napa on August 12th. One of the cases never made it, and the shipping company (UPS) has acknowledged that they lost the case. I had insured it, but everytime I call Cartons & Crates to see how the processing of my claim is going, the woman I speak to tells me that they are understaffed and she has a lot to do, but she will let me know when she takes care of it. So, all I am saying is that there is a chance something can go wrong, make sure you pick a shipper that will work to take care of making you whole if it does.

            1. re: The_Bayou

              Buffalo Shipping in Napa is reliable and expedient. I ship 5 or six cases every year when in Napa though Buffalo and have never had a problem. The are always $10 -$20 per case cheaper than the winery shipping charges.

            2. Terrorists suck! Not being able to carry on fine bottles of wine or even a bottle of water is quite frustrating.

              Has anyone ever had a bottle break due to rough handling by the baggage handlers? Just curious.

              You may want to stuff some cloths or other padding in the empty spaces of the wine case/box, to dampen vibrations during transit.

              9 Replies
              1. re: Hapa Dude

                If the wine is packed in an approved shipper there's very little chance of it breaking. That would be a box with styrofoam to hold the bottles. In the wine business they are simply called "shippers" and are widely available. However, one warning, some airlines may want to charge you for another piece of luggage. I would let the winery do the ship if possible especially with all the bs that happens at airports today.

                And yes, terrorists do SUCK!!!!

                1. re: rtmonty

                  I brought over several cases from France and while none of them broke, I did find a few that had corks that almost popped - I'm told it was due to extreme heat\cold circumstances from cargo bay to tarmac. So, I would suppose, as long as you don't go anywhere terriably hot, you should be okay.

                  1. re: schoenick

                    If I may ask, how did you get several cases of wine back from France? I'm hoping to go to the Paris Wine Fair (or are non-winemakers not allowed there? Pah.) next year and would love to bring back some good bottles, but I thought that you were not allowed more than 2 bottles per person back to the states. Am I wrong? Is there a way around that law?

                    1. re: Ali

                      You are allowed one liter per person duty free. You can bring back more, but will likely have to pay a duty on all the other bottles. If you bring back case, you get one bottle duty free, and will have to pay a duty on the other 11. I think the duty is 3 percent of the value of the wine.

                      1. re: BrianD

                        According to TheMan in the customs post, wine is actually duty free, you can bring as much as you want.

                        1. re: JoLi

                          That's not true in the USA. With certain restrictions, one liter is allowed duty-free. For returning US citizens, "... if your exemption is $800 and you bring back three liters of wine and nothing else, two of those liters will be dutiable."


                          I've often been let through without paying duty because the officials don't want to spend 20 minutes filling out paperwork for a few dollars duty.

                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                            Likewise. We've brought in a case from both France and Argentina on our return into the US and neither time did the customs agents have use fill out any paperwork or pay any tax.

                      2. re: Ali

                        I lived there and had it shipped with my other household goods. My friends though make an annual visit to the Champagne region and have the vintner ship it to them directly. I'm not sure of the regulations about how many bottles you can bring in but that is tax free. After a certain amount, you have to pay tax. You'd have to pay tax anyways if you bought in the US so why not get some wine you really like and have a story to tell about. Also, my latest travels introduced me to a suitcase that allows you to pack up to 12 bottles in checked luggage. I saw these at the airport in Cin and believe it or not, Salt Lake City.... I'm sure you could also find online as well.

                  2. re: Hapa Dude

                    When just a wee lad returning from the far east I carefully wrapped 5 bottles of liquid refreshment with cloths and clothing in a footlocker. On arrival in FL it was distinguished by its a distinctive aroma even before opening and that was due to only one bottle having broken so whether the wine/beverage and or the clothing is valuable, think about it carefullly and maybe go with a commercial shipper.

                  3. i've never had a bottle break. when we checked our KL case (in a "shipper" - thanks for the new word!), it was all good. i can't remember whether they charged extra. but it's probably worth it (not much more than regular shipping costs).

                    back in the day, we used to just pack bottles in our suitcases wrapped in sweatshirts, and we never had a problem. but that was when we were just bringing back indestructable bottles that we bought on special at safeway (to help defray the high costs of manhattan living/drinking!).

                    1. Here's an article in USA Today on how wineries are responding to this.
                      And, it specifically talks about what Coppola is doing. You should have no problem getting assistance with this.

                      1. Sorry for the late reply - but we had no problem checking a case of wine (left over from vacation) a week ago that was packed in styrafoam and a box - arrived w/ no damage.

                        1. You could just pack them & mail the box to yourself back home - go to Staples or Mailboxes, etc. to ship it or something like that.....they don't ask too many questions about what's in it. That was what was suggested to me when I was in Napa recently.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: kparke30

                            Not true. We left a case a year ago at a San Ramon Office Deport. DHL opened the box, inspected it and refused to ship it. Office depot was not an approved wine shipping point. I have gotten away with it in the past, but be careful. My wine was in San Ramon CA & I was in Virginia. My eldest son took the wine to a Kinkos, claimed it to be extra virgin olive oil and it did arrive in Virgina. DHL is not a good way out of CA.

                          2. I've never had a problem with wraping my clothing items around each bottle and snuggling them into my checked suitcase.

                            1. For a few buck you can by a styrofoam shipper that will hold a case of wine. You seal it up and check it with your luggage. We've done in scores of times and NEVER lost a single bottle. UPS and Fed Ex will no longer accept shipments of wine from private parties. It's illegal to mail it to youself.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: Bob Foster

                                Sounds like this is my best option. The question remains - where do you find these nifty styrofoam shippers? I don't recall seeing them at the wineries.

                                1. re: HMK

                                  From what I've read, a number of the wineries in Napa are giving shippers away so folks will purchase wine to take home. They can also be purchased at most wine and liquer stores and our local Mail Boxes, Etc also has them.

                              2. during crush, the weather won't be as much of a problem, but my main concern with checking wine/shipping it via normal handling is that there is absolutely no temperature control. if i'm spending that much money on hard to find stuff, i'd be hard pressed to trust it to a hot luggage hold. once fall comes, though, shouldn't be as much of a problem.

                                1. Timely post. We are headed to Willamette in October. Anybody know where I can purchase a styrofoam shipper up there? Do most of them accomodate oversize burgundy bottles, or will I need to purchase a specific type?

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Scottydog

                                    Just got back from Willamette with a mixed case; shipped it as an extra piece of luggage. Did curbside check-in for a $2 per bag fee and wasn't given any hassle on the extra. We had one winery offer to give us a shipping box the next day if we bought at least a few bottles of their product, but due to time constraints ended up getting one at the local packaging store. In the Willamette, on the north side of Newburgh, there's face-to-face shopping plazas on 99W; the Safeway side has a generic packaging store and the other side, with a Fred Meyer, has a UPS store. The box my husband bought had cardboard, not styrofoam, inserts to brace the bottles, but they arrived home fine. That said, we saw one carton -- perhaps less expertly packed -- that looked to have been opened by the TSA and was also leaking when it rolled off the belt. Thank god it wasn't ours!!! No idea what he paid for the box, but it wasn't too expensive. Wineries advised against ground shipping because it's still pretty warm out; airmail charges sounded fairly prohibitive. Good luck!

                                  2. I just returned from Europe with several bottles. The local UPS had the styrofoam shippers available which we picked up and then checked with no problem. The airports also had stands where you could have your luggage wrapped in clear saran wrap which I also did as an extra precaution. Had no problem getting things home in perfect condition. I was told that many vineyards and cellar doors are keeping the shippers in hand to facilatate travelers.

                                    1. I always did carry on with wine because the cargo hold is so icey cold - should I not worry about these few hours of hard refridgeration?

                                      1. We have a suitcase with a handle and rollers that is specifically designed to carry wine; ours carries 12 bottles. In the past, we've carried brought this on the plane as carry-on luggage, putting it above our seats. Going to Italy next month, so this time we're going to check it as baggage. You can get these suitcases for about $79 (I think; I get mine wholesale because I manage a wine shop.) through International Wine Accessories. It's a good investment, though, if you do this somewhat often as you don't have to pay for shipping, which can get pricey, even prohibitive if you're talking about international shipping prices.

                                        1. Sorry I didn't see this post earlier...

                                          Buffalo Shipping
                                          2471 Solano Ave
                                          Napa, CA 94558
                                          (707) 226-7942

                                          They have a very interesting license that allows them to ship to all 50 states. Essentially you, the purchaser, are shipping to yourself. If you plan your wine-country trip with this place as your last stop, you can ship all your wine back to yourself with no problem. I have used them on a number of occasions with great success.

                                          1. Just got back from Boston a week and a half ago. Had 2 bottles in my luggage in styro and checked a 6-btl styro container. No problems whatsoever.

                                            1. find a roll suitcase that is made for a case of wine. I borrowed one, checked it and even had a single bottle in my real suitcase. Everything made it home safe across the US..
                                              look on the wine websites for wine luggage.

                                              also, I just saw a 6 bottle carry on bag - the name brand is Wine Enthusiasts, it has dividers in it too, you might be able to check that bag too.

                                              Don't forget the fragile stickers from the airline counter and your name!!!!

                                              1. I think the checkable luggage for wine being referred to is the Wine Safe from Impact Case & Container. That is what I have been using since last xmass. I have a 6-bottle hard shell case which rolls on wheels and was just small enough for carry-on back in the day . .. There is also a 12-bottle Wine Safe which is bulkier but less $$ per bottle. Either email the company direct or google "travel luggage for wine" and find the best price. Also, pay attention when ordering because most sellers need several weeks to get it to you. This is because they do not stock them and they must call the manafacturer (ICC) and have it built.

                                                The styrofoam wine shippers work OK, can usually be picked up for free or for a few dollars, and are disposable aka landfill.
                                                The only issue I have with the styrofoam shippers is that they are designed like bike helmets; they are only designed to take one good hit. If it gets banged hard in the same spot more than once, you will have a problem. The boxes need to be taped up really well but the baggage inspectors will need to open it up and take a look, and thereby weakening your box's defenses.

                                                1. Weakening them? hardly. They TSAs normally tapes the heck out of the boxes when they retape them. I've taken wine in styro and in 30 years never lost a sinngle bottle. No need to spend $$ on the wine safes.

                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: Bob Foster

                                                    The TSA doesn't want any trouble with claims against them etc. But they do open you box/luggage, inspect the contents, and seal it back up. They only started doing this since 9/11. Who packs your bags better, you the traveler or the TSAs? and styrofoam boxes have not been available for the last 30 years. I have worked in a wine storage facility where I transported, inspected, and received wine shipments and I have seen my fair share of damaged wine. I have used these styrofoam shippers many many times and unfortunately haven't had Bob's perfect 30 year record. I have always been in the fortunate position to have these styrofoam shippers readily available so it has always been easy to replace them. My original point was that they don't take the same hit twice (yes, like a bike helmet); and you need to retire the box after it gets damage to the styrofoam.
                                                    Anyway, in the last year (since last xmass) that I got my specialty wine case, I don't sweat when I check my wine and I don't have to bother myself with replacing it between trips. The peace of mind I get from my wine luggage is worth every penny.
                                                    It's true that the wine safe has a significant cost and that the styrofoam shippers are only a few dollars if nothing at all( except landfill), but I don't care. I'm still thanking the person who gave it to me; it was by far the best gift I've been given in a long time. I hate it when someone gives me some expensive crappy bottle of something I can't appreciate; I want to choose the wine that I drink. Now a wine accessory like the wine safe, a decanter, or some new stems is what I really appreciate.
                                                    But I digress.
                                                    Anyway, if your wine is damaged while in a styrofoam shipper you must file a claim and make the case that your contents were packed safely and correctly; and sometimes they compensate. I have yet to have a problem with my aluminum carrier but if and when I do, I look forward to hearing the argument that it's not their fault for damage.
                                                    To each his own.

                                                    1. re: padulojoe


                                                      I found your case for just under 300 dollars. It looks great. I also found another case for around 90 dollars w/out wheels. Do you think that the cases are the same...that the only difference is the wheels??? If so, do you think the wheels are worth the 210 dollar difference. We will probably only use ours once a year on the plane. We will probably use it frequently in the car. Do you think it is worth the price difference. OR...do you think the inside is different and that the more expensive one protects the wine better?? If the inside is different...I would say it is worth the price difference. Mainly, I just want the wine protected the most it can be with the checked luggage. Thanks...

                                                      1. re: melaniefl

                                                        You needn't spend that much money on the case...the ones we just took to Italy retail for around $79-99, at either Wine Things Unlimited or Wine Enthusiast. Their were four of us on the trip and we each had one case. Altogether, we brought back four cases of wine with absolutely no incident on Alitalia. Going through customs, you are supposed to pay duty on bottles over a very small amount per person, but if the total value is under a certain amount, customs rarely bothers to charge you. This last time the fee for my husband's and my two cases would have amounted to $4; the customs agent said it would cost them more than that $4 to collect and process the fee, so he didn't bother. That has happened to us more than once returning from Europe with wine. I don't think I've ever paid more than a couple bucks at customs. FYI, we neither taped nor had fragile stickers on our cases.

                                                  2. We got a used styrofoam shipper from our go-to wine store for free and have twiced used it to check on flights from Seattle to NYC. Another wine shop in Seattle had them for sale for about $10 and I think they are pretty widely available.

                                                    The styrofoam is made specifically to hold bottles and the weight of a case is under the 50 lb weight limit for a piece of checked luggage. We added "HEAVY" and "FRAGILE" to the box and everything was fine. Plus, there was no extra cost to us since it was a considered a piece of luggage. Our local wine shop told us that people use them repeatedly until the styrofoam starts breaking down. We're going to use it to ship from Paris to NYC in a few weeks.

                                                    1. Oh, and the wine cases we have definitely have wheels; those cases get pretty heavy to lug around, considering you have other luggage.

                                                      1. Drink it!

                                                        I thought the US Sup. Ct. last year said that states could no longer bar out of state wine shipments IF they allowed IN-STATE wine deliveries? At least that was how I understood the decision.



                                                        1. I don't think they are the same case.
                                                          Check out Impact Case and Container (ICC) or www.portlandwinegear.com. $90 must be for something else.
                                                          The Wine Safe is made in the USA by ICC in Idaho. They are well known for making high end gun cases that you can drive over with trucks and throw them out of buildings. They look really cool and protect the contents far better than anything else. The 6-bottle is somewhere around $300 and the 12-bottle is around $400. I don't know why you would want it without wheels; they make it so much easier.

                                                          1. http://www.iwawine.com/orstore/ShowIt...

                                                            This is the one I was looking at for 90 dollars. Has anyone used or seen this one???

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: melaniefl

                                                              That doesn't look like it's sufficiently padded to protect the bottles in checked baggage.

                                                            2. Be careful to contact your carrier before showing up to the airport with a case (or more) of wine. We went on a recent trip to Willamette Valley. The agents (Southwest) in San Diego told us that they wouldn't accept wine under any circumstance. While in Oregon, we phoned the airline and gave us a different story. The first agent told us that we needed a hard case carrier. Her supervisor said that a styrofoam container would be OK, but that the styrofoam needed to wrapped in a certain thickness of plastic, the cardboard needed to be of a certain grade, and you needed packing tape to enclose it. We decided to not take a chance and ship the wine. Jason at Chehalem kindly agreed to ship some of our wine purchase at other wineries. We also used the Mail Room in Newberg. The point is to get a firm policy from your airline before showing up for your return trip.

                                                              1. Researching this, with the new regulations, if you want something permanent and checkable you need an FAA-approved "travel wine safe." They run around $300 for six bottles, $400 for 12:


                                                                The Wine Enthusiast model looks better to me as it has wheels and retractable handle.

                                                                2 Replies
                                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                  The Portland Wine Gear model and the Wine Enthusiast Model are the exact same models. The only difference seems to be that the Portland Wine Gear site also offers a powdercoated version. I guess the other difference is the price and delivery time. Portland Wine Gear is selling the 12-bottle for $385 and ships within two business days. The Wine Enthusiast charges $400 for the 12-bottle and it says something about shipping in three weeks; this indicates that they don't stock the item and that they have the manafacturer ship it out after they make it.

                                                                  1. re: padulojoe

                                                                    Ah, right you are. Wine Enthusiast just has a better picture.

                                                                2. Before you spend that much money, please check out IWAwine.com; their 12-bottle trolley costs $99.95...that's the one we used coming home from Italy in October. It worked just fine.

                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                  1. re: Shooley

                                                                    That's not designed to protect the wine in checked luggage. If you checked that with 12 bottles and none broke, you were remarkably lucky.


                                                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                      Perhaps, but there were four of us on the trip and we each had one 12-bottle case; we experienced no problems with the four cases of wine we carted home. And that's on Alitalia, reportedly one of the least customer-friendly airlines.

                                                                      1. re: Shooley

                                                                        I think you lucked out using the padded $99 container from IWA.
                                                                        Often times, luggage is poorly packed and no problems occur; but having no damage does not mean you did something right.
                                                                        Every time you put wine into an inferior container or cushion it into your suitcase, you are taking a risk.
                                                                        It's only a matter of time before you get some broken bottles.
                                                                        When you eventually do get damaged luggage (broken bottles) the airlines will inspect your claim and most likely respond that the luggage was not packed adequately.
                                                                        Even if they did honor your damage claim, you still would have lost your bottle(s).

                                                                  2. You can check it at your own risk. I knwo a few people aho have done that, but I know I wouldn't feel comfortable letting the airlines thow any wine around, like they do bags.

                                                                    My boyfriend and I were just there in June and I also live in one of those ridiculous states that doesn't yet allow for direct shipment from the wineries themselves. We went to Stagecoach shipping and shipped from there. It wasn't too expensive (about $60 for a case). Information is below.
                                                                    3379 Solano Avenue
                                                                    Napa, CA 94559
                                                                    (Vallerga's - Redwood Plaza)
                                                                    707.257.1891 (Fax)
                                                                    877.232.5054 (Toll Free)