Getting smashed: flying with wine, revisited

So my trip to Oregon in July was a pinot-drenched journey–literally.

Because I was flying on United, I was a little wary. A previous commenter on this site had noted that the airline had confiscated his wine even though it was in his checked luggage. (Their policy now states that all wine in the hold must be in a Styrofoam shipping container even if it is in luggage.) So I didn’t want to splurge on too many bottles or any at too high a price in case they were taken away.

I put six bottles in a cardboard carrier and put it in my wheelie duffel. When I arrived back at Laguardia, my six pack had turned into a a five pack and my bag smelled like a winery. Fortunately, the pinot washed out without a problem.

I’ve put a lot of wine in my luggage over the years and thus far escaped unscathed. But it can’t hurt to use a little extra padding–or even use that Styrofoam shipper! Click through for a gory picture of my broken bottle–and of a funny celeb I saw making a spontaneous gate announcement in the terminal.

Bringing wine home from your travels
Puzzle of the day: where can you fly with wine in the USA?
Have wine, can travel

Related Posts with Thumbnails

20 Responses to “Getting smashed: flying with wine, revisited”

  1. “But it can’t hurt to use a little extra padding–or even use that Styrofoam shipper!” Amen. You might have packed those bottles a little better, no? Some padding, maybe? You’ve seen how baggage handlers toss things around. You’re lucky only one bottle bit the dust.

    And jeez, does Richard Simmons really travel like that? Is that spandex??

  2. haha yes, Mark, thanks for pointing out my packing lameness. Next time: tshirt wrapped bottles!

    And, yes, Richard Simmons was traveling in spandex! All the better for the TSA to see if he’s packing anything.

  3. Dr. V/others,

    In your experience with transporting wine in luggage, how often do you find that the bottles you’ve brought back are overheated or otherwise spoiled? I just brought some wine home from California and I’m a little worried that some radiating jet engine turned them into Madiera.

  4. Oh dear! The tragedy of the broken pinot 😉
    Fortunately, it was only one bottle and not all 6. I don’t fly as much as I used to, but this is exactly why I save all those bulky shippers of yesteryear. My recent shipments have been greened, so I value those I still have left.

    Eek! Richard, is that really what we want to see at the airport!

  5. I’d be wary of anything packed. You cannot trust TSA to repack even a styrafoam container. Tee Shirts are asking for trouble. Prior to the new rules I always brought back 4-6 bottles from overseas trips, but now I really sweated over a single bottle of wine given to me by Jean Luc Baldes of Clos Triguedina from his private cellar. I was immensely relieved that this time TSA did not go through my luggage for fear of having your result.

  6. I admire the attempt. It’s so difficult to tell what will or won’t be confiscated at the terminal, I can see how the actual packing of the bottles could get overlooked. Maybe you need one of those padded_wine_totes – though I haven’t seen these in 6-packs so maybe the T-shirt packing is best after all.

  7. 3M makes something, I think it is called the “wine sock” or something similar. It pretty much amounts to a bottle shaped piece of bubblewrap which creates a water tight seal around the bottle. It doesn’t always save the wine but it certainly takes the horror away should a bottle break next to your favorite Brioni jacket.

  8. Sean, it’;s called 3M wine skin and is about $4 per “skin”

  9. Sean – yes, Brioni jackets! That’s what I meant instead of Tshirts! 😉

    Actually, that 3M wineskin thing looks great. It’s reusable, compact and, unlike styrofoam shippers, easy to pack out empty. (In an age of luggage surcharges, who wants to pay for an empty bag on the first leg of the trip?) United airlines should update their policy to include this as an option.

    @jbh I’ve never had a problem of bottles becoming cooked (as I did in the car recently). From what I understand, the hold on a passenger jet is kept above freezing at something like 50 degrees. I suppose your bag could be placed near a vent but I don’t think getting wine cooked is a real hazard in checked luggage (unlike breakage). What’s your experience?

  10. There are a few different options to the trusty (or not so trusty) wrap-it-in-a-t-shirt-method. I prefer the Bottlewise wine travel bag. It has two padded pouches with water-tight liners. Hasn’t failed me yet! Website is

    Thanks for the Richard Simmons pic. I needed a good laugh today!

  11. Hahaha. Oh my, well, 5 out of 6 isn’t bad at all. I consider the t-shirt method one of my most trustworthy methods. I’ll usually accompany it with plastic wrap around the bottle before layering the t-shirt around the bottle. Sure, you could pay for a Bottlewise bag, but I say D-I-Y!

  12. My wife and I traveled back from Europe with 21 bottles, all rolled up in t-shirts and jeans. (Didn’t lose any of them.) We told Customs and they didn’t say anything. (Guess they’re only worried about terrorists and don’t want to deal with paperwork?) We checked a regular wooden wine 8 pack box coming back from South Africa – filled it with peanuts – no breakage. Haven’t lost a bottle yet and have probably hauled back hundreds. Oh, and, Dr. Vino, ahem … too bad it wasn’t a rosé that broke? ; )

  13. Tyler – you can actually check one of those styrofoam shipping cases (I’ve done that) – never lost a bottle with one of those neoprene bags and lots of tshirts. Thanks for posting this – some great ideas in the comments (will pass on your cardboard box idea…)

  14. I’ve brought back wine from overseas on numerous occasions and have never had a problem: I ask the wine shop to pack up 6 bottles which I then check in as luggage. I’ve done this on 10 hour flights from Argentina to JFK and have never had a bottle break. I’ve never noticed any signs of the wine cooking—hard to see how given the cool temperatures it is subjected to in the hold. The TSA regulations mean that instead of bringing back a bottle or two as in the past, I tend to bring back sixes now.

  15. I second the Wine Skins — fantastic.

    And I agree that wine should not be cooked in a luggage hold on a plane. Outdoor temperatures can get down to -70 F that high up.

  16. Wineskin! Thanks for the correction. There are lots of good ideas here for DIY solutions.

  17. I found something similar, re-usable bags for transporting wine at They are one size fits all.

  18. […] RSS, daily email, or free monthly updates by email (right sidebar). Thanks for visiting!After two bad wine travel experiences this summer, I finally got it right about ten days ago. Returning by plane […]

  19. May 2010 – New solution to transport your wines: Wine Diaper

  20. I have been scouring the internet for these foam wine boxes as I’ve been asked to bring wine home for Christmas. I finally found these online and picked them up the same day from the warehouse (lucky I live in hk by the supplier). not sure if they ship but worth a shot.,180).jpg


Wine Maps

Recent Comments

Recent Posts

See my op-eds in the NYT
"Drink Outside the Box"
"Red, White, and Green"


Monthly Archives


Blog posts via email



Wine industry jobs


One of the “fresh voices taking wine journalism in new and important directions.” -World of Fine Wine

“His reporting over the past six months has had seismic consequences, which is a hell of an accomplishment for a blog.”

"News of such activities, reported last month on a wine blog called Dr. Vino, have captivated wine enthusiasts and triggered a fierce online debate…" The Wall Street Journal

"...well-written, well-researched, calm and, dare we use the word, sober." -Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher, WSJ

jbf07James Beard Foundation awards

Saveur, best drinks blog, finalist 2012.

Winner, Best Wine Blog

One of the "seven best wine blogs." Food & Wine,

One of the three best wine blogs, Fast Company

See more media...


Wine books on Amazon: