ask dr. vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, or "Vinny" for short. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the technical aspects of winemaking to the fine points of etiquette. I hope you find my answers educational and even amusing. Looking for a particular answer? Check my archive and my FAQs.


Dear Dr. Vinny,

How do you ship souvenir bottles back to the U.S.? I have traveled to Burgundy three times, and usually take a suitcase packed with Styrofoam peanuts and bubble wrap. I have not had any problems at check-in or going through customs. But a relative told me about a nightmare he experienced at the Frankfurt airport, in which they confiscated all of his wine as he tried to check it in through baggage. Do you have any advice?

—Gerry A., Fullerton, Calif.

Dear Gerry,

I know of plenty of people that have traveled with wine and not had any problems, and then I’ve also heard of horror stories where wine was confiscated, damaged, lost or stolen. It sounds like your system of protecting the wine in your suitcase is a good one. There are plenty of products out there these days to protect wine during travel, from affordable bubble-wrap sleeves to rugged suitcases made just for wine. A separate shipping box with Styrofoam inserts has been my method of choice.

I have a couple suggestions to help avoid the horror stories. It appears that if you are flying directly to the United States, as long as you declare the wine on your customs form, it will probably be OK. But if you and the wine in your luggage are going to another country first, it’s harder to predict what will happen. I’ve also heard that some airlines are more wine-friendly than others. So when you’re planning your trip, make certain to do some research, call the airline to understand their policies, and make sure you know about the customs laws for every airport you go through.

—Dr. Vinny


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