You Can’t Take It With You, or Can You? Wine Check!
If you’re a wine lover traveling in a wine region anywhere in the world, you will undoubtedly want to bring home some treasures you acquired along the way. Like me, you won’t be satisfied with just one or two bottles you can sneak into your luggage. How can you bring home a bunch of wine, say 1-2 cases, without breaking the bank or alienating your traveling companions?
Option 1 – Have the wine shipped
This can be a great option or a nightmare, unfortunately, it’s difficult to predict in advance. I’ve had good luck shipping wine back from Italy via our guides, for around 130 € per 12 bottle case. I’ve also heard recently about some Italian wineries shipping direct from the winery, via a US importing service.
On our most recent trip to France, I was quoted 230 € per case from the Mailboxes Etc. (MBE) in Lyon. Pretty spendy, and according to this post, questionably legal. So if you want to take this route, be careful!
Pro tip: check the hours carefully, as MBE may only have limited Saturday hours (10 am – 12 pm in Lyon) or none at all, and Sunday is out, without question.
Option 2 – Do It Yourself Wine Luggage
Being something of a cheapskate (except wine of course), I have successfully carried wine home as checked luggage. This has worked well in both the US and abroad. After trying a couple different options, I opted for this flight kit bag. No wheels, but it packs flat and I can unzip the expansion in my suitcase to carry the empty bag on the way to our destination. Once there, I find a MBE and purchase a 12 bottle wine shipper. The wine shipper price varies, up to 30 €, but travel outbound is easy.
Option 3 – Wine Luggage: Wine Check
Enter the Wine Check. The Wine Check is a rolling soft luggage bag which perfectly holds a 12 bottle wine shipper. They even have a version which will allow up to 15 bottles or a couple of magnums if that’s your thing. You can order one in the US. If you’re traveling to Europe, definitely order one and have it delivered to your lodging while on your trip. Saves you lots of hassle and Lazenne does all the work for you!
The Wine Check is perfectly sized to hold the wine shipper, and contains reinforced handles, a pull strap and most importantly, wheels.
Pro tip: without the shipper, the Wine Check folds relatively flat and will fit in the zipper expansion of a full size suitcase. I couldn’t quite fit it in the expansion of my rollaboard size bag, but I haven’t given up.
On our most recent trip, I was provided a free Wine Check in return for an honest evaluation. The opinions expressed here are my own, and I think my son will wholeheartedly agree. Thank you Lazenne, for introducing me to this option!
Option 4 – Vingarde Valise
As you might guess, bringing wine home is pretty important to me, and I have done a bit of research on some other options. The Vingarde Valise is a hardsided suitcase specifically engineered to protect a dozen bottles of wine, or combinations of standard bottles, magnums, glasses, etc… The design appears to be bombproof, with only 1 downside in that it will count as a piece of full size luggage each direction you travel. Depending on airline extra bag fees, this can add up! Also, the initial price is significantly higher, although in terms of a piece of luggage, not out of line.
Shootout between DIY and Wine Check
Real life test: Four people, each with a suitcase, plus 1 Wine Check and 1 DIY wine bag. Take the TGV from Lyon to Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG) airport, then shuttle to airport hotel. Next morning, shuttle to CDG. Unannounced surprise at CDG, a security hold on a corridor to the entrance of our terminal. We needed to walk the LONG way around to the next terminal, then come back to our intended terminal. Perhaps this is the reason for the expression on the Son’s face below…
While the DIY bag was functional, it was a royal pain during the longer carries in the TGV station and especially at CDG. While it’s possible to carry, the handles are tight and the box inside rubs annoyingly on your leg, doable but not fun. Both bags contained wine shipper boxes, so the contents were well protected. After schlepping both bags through multiple train stations and airport terminals, we all decided a second Wine Check would be in our future. We’ll gladly pay for the convenience of well placed handles, a pull strap and wheels! (click on any photo below to see full size slide show)
Pro Tips and Considerations
The following tips are offered as part of your successful planning for bringing wine home:
- Check your luggage allowance. Most airlines allow 1 bag to be checked internationally for free. If you have frequent flyer status, you may get an extra bag checked free as well. Watch out for the extra bag fees, usually $100 each way internationally. Even at $100, it may be less expensive than shipping
- Train travel within Europe will work great as long as you can manage all your bags yourself. They don’t allow a lot of time to get on and off the train!
- Discount European airlines such as Ryan Air offer cheap airfares, but watch out for luggage fees!
- Returning to the US, be sure to declare your wine on your customs forms. If asked, always respond that the wine is for personal consumption; 100% truthful for me! You’re allowed to bring in at least a case, and even if they decide to charge duty, it will only be a few dollars.
- Don’t forget to pack a roll of shipping tape!
- Pack smart. I can fit two weeks worth of clothing into a rollaboard size bag, even including a dressy outfit with sportcoat and tie for a nice dinner out. If I keep my packing under control, I can use that free checked bag for my case of wine. I’d practically go naked for a free checked case of wine!
Want to dig a little deeper? There’s an excellent recent article here.
Note: The wine check was provided free to me from Lazenne. Thanks again to the kind folks at Lazenne. All opinions expressed here are my own. P.S.: I’ll be springing for another Wine Check on our next trip!