Traveling with Wine

Peller Estates Winery Restaurant | Niagara on the Lake

Exploring local wineries on vacation is a favorite past time for many wine drinkers. Its an opportunity to sample and purchase wine that may not otherwise be available to you in your home area.

However, when you’re away from home getting your wine purchases back safely can be problematic.

Shipping wines, for whatever reason, is a very tricky proposition. Wineries can often only sell wine out of state to a very specific group of states as determined by the local laws.

If you can’t ship your wine home you’ll have to take it with you. This presents some challenges depending upon how you’re traveling.

Flying With Wine

In order to fly home with wine you must check it in your luggage. Alcohol, even in containers less than 3oz, cannot be carried on the plane. A checked bag is the only place you can put your wine.

The scary part about putting your wine in your luggage is the possibility of it opening up and ruining all of your clothes. Because wine is bottled between sea level and @10,000′ in most states the gas in the wine bottle is at approximately the same air pressure that was present when it was bottled. There is some compression of gas when the cork is inserted making matters worse.

Most aircraft cruise at about 30,000′ – 40,000′ where the air pressure is much less. This wouldn’t be a problem except that the luggage compartment of an airplane is not pressurized like the cabin is. This reduction in external pressure can cause the cork to pop out and make a mess of your clothes.

TSA has been known to open bottles of wine and re-cork them in for inspection. They’ve also been known to put the wine bottle back in the suitcase without re-wrapping the bottle in your sweatshirt to insulate it from shocks.

Unfortunately, there’s not a lot you can do to prevent this. I personally have have flown with wine in my luggage from Hawaii to Texas without incident. However, its really a role of the dice. I’ve seen other passengers opening up their suitcase to find that their wine did explode and now have a major mess on their hands.

Remember that the wine will be shaken up pretty badly from taking off and landing, not to mention any turbulence. Check your wine out when you land to make sure nothing happened in transit. Once you get home put your wine in storage.

Driving With Wine

A safer alternative to flying with wine is driving with it. At least by driving with it you won’t have to worry about changes in atmospheric pressure on your way home. You’ll also be in control of how its handled and packaged.

The challenge with carrying wine in the car is keeping it cool and not jarring it too badly. If you keep your bottle of wine in full sunlight in your drive across Texas you’ll regret it. Your wine will cook and will not be very enjoyable.

I recommend bringing something to protect the bottle such as a wine carrying case that insulates the wine from the bumps in the road. Also, be sure to keep it out of the trunk and cover it with a jacket so that the sunlight is not directly beating on the bottles.

Another solution would be to bring a small cooler and put some bubble wrap or towels in the bottom of it to soften the bumps. Keep the lid closed and cover the cooler so it doesn’t bake the wine. If you want, you could put some ice packs in the cooler. Be sure to refreeze them at night in your hotel room.

Shipping Wine

Shipping wine is probably the safest bet. Be mindful of the time of year however. I once heard a story where someone ordered wine shipped to their home in Arizona in the dead of summer. The delivery truck rolled into town on a Friday but because they didn’t work weekends the wine sat in the truck in 120 degree heat until it could be delivered on Monday. Needless to say the wine was ruined, corks blown out and all.

Its a little known secret that most wineries can ship wine to most states provided you pay for the wine in the store. You may not be able to purchase additional wine from your home state but because you purchased it in the tasting room you may still be able to have it shipped home. Ask the local wine maker your visiting for details.

Whatever method of transportation you use to move wine remember to keep it cool, shaded, and insulated from bumps in the road and turbulence. When you get home its best if you can let your wine rest for a month or so in a cool dark room to let it gain its composure again.

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