For wine lovers who love to travel, bottles of wine can serve as the perfect holiday souvenir or gift. There are plenty of reasons to want to bring back wine from your vacation in wine producing countries such as France, Italy, Spain or Portugal back home to the US. Savvy oenophiles know that taking wine on the airplane is a safe and convenient way to do so. Travelers however, need to be aware that there are some rules and regulations that need to be respected. Follow these handy tips and you’ll be enjoying your holiday wine bottles with friends at home in no time.
The rules of the game
The only way to transport wine is in your checked baggage. Don’t make the mistake of placing your wine in your carry-on as they will not make it through security. Liquid containers larger than 3.4 ounces are not allowed. Checking your wine bottles however is completely acceptable. The only restriction here relates to alcohol content. Travelers can’t transport bottles with more than 70 percent alcohol content and can only take five liters of alcohol between 24 and 70 percent. Fortunately, wine almost always falls below 24 percent alcohol content, meaning there is no limit to the amount of wine allowed in checked bags. When entering the United States, although the alcohol duty-free limit for wine is 1 liter per person, duties for additional quantities are negligible ($0.35-$2 per bottle) to the point that travelers almost never get charged. Declare your wine at customs and quickly be on your way.
Watch your weight
Standard airline baggage weight limits apply – typically 50 lbs per bag for economy, and 70 lbs for business and first class flyers. A typical wine bottle usually weighs from 1.2 kg to 1.7 kg. You can purchase additional baggage allowance online with your airline or at the airport. It pays to do some research as some airlines allow a second piece of luggage to be checked for free on international flights, which means more room for wine!
Protect your bottles
Your luggage gets handled by various people, travelling through airports, conveyor belts, and often on multiple planes, and so the possibility exists of those expensive bottles breaking and destroying your luggage contents. If wrapping your bottles in clothes feels too risky, there are a number of products that will put your mind at ease, from protection sleeves for individual bottles, to polystyrene boxes for up to 12 bottles. Wine lovers wanting to transport larger number of bottles will want to invest in the Wine Check airplane wine carrier. The easy-to-transport case, which features wheels and a handy strap, can carry 12 or 15 bottles of wine in its Styrofoam and padded container. With the bottles included, the case still meets the checked-bag weight limit of 50 lbs. In Europe, all the abovementioned products are available from Lazenne, which specializes in wine travel products, and can ship them to your hotel. It pays to plan ahead as it can be surprisingly difficult to find these types of accessories at European wineries and wine stores, which may leave you scrambling to find alternatives.
Favorite wine regions in France
As an expat living in France this has its perks, one of them being having the ability to explore this great wine producing country. Below are a few wineries and wine experiences that were a highlight for me in my travels across the various French wine regions:
Domaine Armelle et Bernard Rion, Burgundy
This small winery was founded in 1896 by grandfather Pierre and defines the spirit of family-run as is still so typical of this renowned region. If you visit, you will likely meet the passionate Armelle, Bernard and their daughter Alice Rion, and share a great moment around their passions for great Burgundy wines and Burgundy truffles.
Pavillon des Vins Skalli, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
Experience a fun and entertaining guided tour which will take you through the history of the village, the soils, the varietals, the vineyard work and the winemaking itself. There is a unique atmosphere in this century-old winery emanating long-standing tradition. Under the shade of graceful trees, you can taste a selection of wines by the glass at the wine bar, as well as taste Provencal specialties such as terrines, eggplant caviar, tapenade and anchovies.
Chateau Gaudrelle, Loire Valley
Chateau Gaudrelle is another small family-run winery founded by the grandfather of the current owner in 1931. Alexandre Monmousseau creates quality still and sparkling white wines that are very representative of the Vouvray region where the winery is located. When visiting you will likely be toured around by M. Monmousseu himself who will show you around his cellars and finish off with a wine tasting.
Chateau Gruaud-Larose, Bordeaux
Located in the heart of Bordeaux, the Saint-Julien appellation precisely, it’s hard to miss Gruaud Larose when driving through this region with the modern steel building looming above the landscape. You can go up to take in the stunning views of Saint-Julien from the newly built tower. Visiting the cellars and the vintage bottle collection it holds is definitely a highlight, as is sampling the Chateau’s wines in its modern tasting room.
Le Tasting Room, Loire Valley
Spend a day with Cathy and Nigel at their beautiful home. Built between the 16th century and 1869 it’s a typical winemaker’s home built from the local limestone and partially underground. You will sample a thorough representation of Loire Valley wines and have delicious French home cooked meal in the house’s cellar.
Many of France’s wine regions can be visited as part of a day trip from Paris. Spend a day or a few in a particular wine region with Jean-Bernard Pétin who comes from a winemaking family and lives and breathes wine.