How to bring back wine to the USA when traveling | Catavino
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Jose Pizzaro

How to bring back wine to the USA when traveling

2504118684_8318c28bcc_bYour eventual return home after an awesome Iberian vacation is dawning on you. You went away and experienced different cultures, landscapes, food… Yet in a few days will be catapulted back into the same old reality that was there before you left; back to the routine of work and daily life in general. After all, it’s normal to feel somewhat deflated after a great vacation right? Then you realize that the fun doesn’t have to end! In order to keep at least some aspect of your holiday alive, why not bring a little piece of that culture back home with you in the form of bottles of wine? (Photo Credit: southie3)

As part of the wine business, I’ve never been an advocate of lugging large quantities of wine back home with me after my travels; trucking a heavy and fragile load through the airport is just annoying. On the other hand, I’m not against packing a bottle or two if it’s worth it. The first rule when you succumb to the temptation of bringing back home that delicious nectar you discovered while roaming the tapas bars in Spain is not to carry something that you can easily find back home. Why tote it halfway around the world if they sell that same bottle in your neighborhood liquor store? In today’s day and age, there are plenty of wine apps that can help you find out if that favorite bottle can be bought close to you. Luckily, there are also plenty of undiscovered wineries, wines and varieties that are well worth the haul!

The delicate nature of wine means that you should take special care when packing the bottles on your plane trip, especially when carrying your wine on board is not an option. Airlines regulate travel with alcoholic beverages and will not allow carry-on liquids in containers larger than 100 ml. (3.4 oz.) –which rules out your standard bottle of wine- unless they are bought in duty-free stores beyond security checkpoints and packed in a secure tamper evidence bag (STEB). The products sold in these airport shops are generally well known labels that are available elsewhere. If the main reason to buy wine in Europe is to find varieties and vineyards that do not export, why buy wine in the duty-free shop in the first place?

What many seasoned travelers don’t know is that there are no airline restrictions to the quantity of beverage under 24 percent alcohol (such as wine) one can carry in their checked baggage. As a passenger, you are free to use your entire allotment to transport wine! Always keep in mind that each bottle weighs approximately between 2.5 and 3.5 pounds and you might have to pay extra. First, at the counter -if you exceed the weight limitations- and then at customs; airline checked baggage weight limits and import duty at still apply. In the USA one can bring an unlimited amount for personal use. The duty is 3% for any quantity over 1 l. (34 oz.), which is well worth it if the wine can’t be found in the country.

An affordable and common method to pack a bottle or two is to seal each of them in a plastic bag (breakage is always an option and you don’t want to ruin your garb), wrap them tightly using your clothes as padding and pack them firmly in the center of the suitcase to prevent them from shifting inside. Use a hard suitcase, never a soft canvas bag. Remember that treating your suitcase with care is not a priority for the airport’s luggage handlers, and the bottles will break on impact.

Your souvenir of local flavor is correctly packed and you’re sure you comply with the above regulations; nevertheless, your airport experience may not be stress free yet, especially if you’re traveling through a US Airport. Just remember to declare any quantity above 34 oz. upon arrival. Despite the fact that you’re not dealing with European airport security, it will not be uncommon if the US customs officer waives the duty and welcomes you home with a smile.


John Perry


  • jasonkallsen
  • Cornell Anderson

    I believe you may be incorrect regarding purchases in duty free stores IF coming into the US. My experience, and friends of mine, has been that US carriers will still not allow wine and other spirits (greater than the 3oz) to be carried on board even if in the secured bags used by the stores. Perhaps this has changed recently, but otherwise proceed cautiously and don’t always trust the store clerk who may not understand US regulations and wants to sell you a bottle of wine.