Tips for Bringing Wine back from Abroad

Since the Department of Homeland Security’s ban on liquids went into effect last September, alcoholics around the world like myself have been trying to figure out how to bring booze back into the country in our checked bags.

Whether you’re bringing back a bottle of wine from the Bordeaux region of France or a bottle of Kahlua from Mexico, alcohol is not only a souvenir from your travels but also a story to share around the dinner/card/pool table.

As you can see, I’ve had mixed luck bringing wine back. I’ve tabulated my results so that you can learn from my mistakes.

  • Packing single wine bottles in plastic bags inside of socks inside of a few shirts in the center of your checked luggage seems to work ok. I successfully did this with two bottles of whiskey from China last year.
  • Earlier this year in Argentina I convinced a wine store clerk to sell me a 1 x 6 wooden case for wine. Wrapping each bottle in a Ziploc bag then a sock, I then nailed the box shut and put it inside of a duffel bag, followed by a pile of dirty clothes. This worked well for the wine. What did not work well was the bottle of shampoo that I also put into the bag. That was obliterated when the box of wine smashed against it during transit. At least the clothes were dirty.
  • Checking a crate of wine by itself almost works. The case above made it all of the way from Paris to Detroit in one piece. When I picked it up to recheck it to Flint I noticed that the structural integrity of the box was starting to ween. But there’s nothing one can do except recheck it, right? By the time the case made it to Flint it was in several pieces and in this plastic crate. The good news is 5/6 bottles made it ok. Hopefully that wine didn’t leak all over the other passengers’ bags.

My advice: if you want to bring more than two bottles of wine back with you, go to a specialty wine store and tell them you’ll be traveling with the the wine. They’ll either package up the wine for you really well or sell you a crate. If you have to package it yourself, use many layers of material and lots of padding — a hard shell with soft padding in and outside is a good start. The crate inside of a padded duffel bag for me worked best, but you might have better luck elsewhere, perhaps with one of these.