What are the best ways to carry wine on a plane trip? Peter F May considers the options.
With current security restrictions any wine you buy on a trip will need to be packed in your check in luggage. While you can carry on board wines you buy in an airport duty-free shop choices and prices in such shops are notoriously poor and you can have problems if your journey involves connections where you need to change planes.
If you want to carry just one or two bottles then space can usually be found in a case. Wrap in clothing in the centre of the bag and you are almost certain that the wine will survive the trip. Wine bottles are surprisingly robust, but should the thought of leakage bother you then use the WineDiaper which offers additional protection and which will absorb wine from a breakage and prevent damage to the rest of your case. My report on the WineDiaper can be found here.
For more than a couple of bottles you really need to securely package your bottles in a separate container and check them in. There are several custom cases on the market which are based on professional photographic equipment shippers and which have a indestructible plastic outer over foam rubber inserts with bottle shaped cut-outs. These look brilliant but have two drawbacks: they are expensive and they are heavy. Add the weight of a dozen bottles of wine and the chances are that youíll exceed the increasing mean airline allowances and youíll be forced to pay outrageous excess baggage fees.
A better choice is a wine packer commonly used in the wine business. This is a cardboard outer containing an expanded polystyrene block with bottle sized holes. These are very light when empty and give first rate protection against damage and temperature variations. I have used a digital temperature recorder to measure the temperature and humidity inside the container from the time it left my house to its eventual destination after a long haul flight and the resulting graph shows minimal fluctuations of less than one degree.
I have used a twelve bottle container many times for carrying wines between the USA, Europe, South Africa and New Zealand. I obtained that container because someone shipped a case of wine to me using it. But such containers are increasingly available from wineries who they realised people who fly are not buying. These cardboard and polystyrene packers are available in sizes to hold three, six and twelve bottles. Because of their insulating capabilities they are well worth keeping in your car when travelling. Iíve toured vineyards in hot countries confident that wines I buy will be safe left in the car no matter how hot it is.
Travelling in wine country is more enjoyable when you know you can take home the gems you discover.
Disclaimer: While I am a frequent flyer and the above information is based on my personal experiences, I am unable to take responsibility for your travel. You should check regulations with your travel agent or airline.
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Peter F May is the author of Marilyn Merlot and the Naked Grape: Odd Wines from Around the World which features more than 100 wine labels and the stories behind them, and PINOTAGE: Behind the Legends of South Africaís Own Wine which tells the story behind the Pinotage wine and grape.