Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, but you can call me Vinny. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the fine points of etiquette to the science of winemaking. And don't worry, I'm no wine snob—you can also ask me those "dumb questions" you're too embarrased to ask your wine geek friends! I hope you find my answers educational, empowering and even amusing. And don't forget to check out my most asked questions and my full archives for all my Q&A classics.
Dear Dr. Vinny,
Can I bring wine on a plane?
—Emily, New York
You can, but it’s complicated. The carry-on baggage rules, as you probably know, only permit containers of liquid sized 100ml (3.4 ounces) or smaller in quart-sized, clear plastic, zip-top bags, with only one bag allowed per customer. Even though some wineries actually sell sampler bottles in those tiny sizes, I’m guessing that’s not what you’re hoping to travel with.
Domestically, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) permits alcohol in checked bags, with a few guidelines, which are actually dictated by the alcohol content. Anything over 70 percent alcohol by volume is not allowed; up to 5 liters of spirits that fall in the range of 24 percent to 70 percent are permitted in checked bags, as long as they are in unopened retail packaging. There’s no limit on the volume of alcoholic beverages with less than 24 percent alcohol by volume (most wine and beer) that you can bring.
While those are the official TSA rules, you’ll still want to check with your airline. And don’t forget about luggage-weight restrictions, either: Wine is heavy—most bottles weigh in at 2 to 3 pounds.
If you’re travelling internationally, there are even more considerations. The U.S. Customs and Border Protections limit travelers to just 1 liter of alcohol per person duty-free (there are some exceptions with the U.S. Virgin Islands and other Caribbean countries). If you bring more than that, additional bottles will be subject to duty and federal excise taxes.
While there’s no federal limit on how much wine you may bring into the U.S., customs warns that if you bring a lot—more than a case—you’re likely to raise suspicion that you’re not just a tourist bringing back some souvenirs, but rather a budding importer who’s probably not operating with an importer license, which could get you into some trouble.
I have a few more words of warning. For starters, regardless of the legal drinking in age in your country of origin, you must be 21 years old to bring alcohol into the U.S. Next, state laws vary, and in some cases are more restrictive than federal regulations. If you’re traveling with a large enough amount of alcohol to raise eyebrows, you might want to check with your state’s alcohol beverage control board to make sure you are in compliance. And finally, all these rules also apply to homemade wine as well, which must also be properly packaged and labeled to avoid confiscation.