Bringing Wine Home From Italy

how to travel with wine

Bringing Wine Home From Italy – tips and tricks for your Italy Wine Country travels.

I fondly remember my early Italy wine country travel days. I’d try desperately to under pack so I could load up on vino, always making room for bubble wrap – (bottle) safety first! I’d even toss in an extra bag so it was easier to check more, if necessary (it was always necessary!)

I believe my years of practice help me speak quite expertly to the question of how to travel with winesomething I get asked a lot given my current residence. There are more options than most people realize when it comes to bringing wine home from Italy. Shipping and checking on the plane are both viable options.

That’s the topic of discussion for this post, how to do it both cost effectively and safely. I hope it helps your wine travels! 

Buying Wine in Italy: Should I do it?

One of the questions I always ask Barolo wine tour clients is, “do you plan to buy wine to take home during your time here?” Americans often give the same answer, “Isn’t shipping expensive? We’ll probably buy a few bottles to have with us, but we don’t expect to be bringing wine home from Italy.” At that I provide shipping rates and wine travel product options, “just for reference”. Knowing full well that once they see the bottle prices in Piedmont wine country, they will quickly realize it is lucrative to either ship or carry wine home.

Many of my tips and tricks can be used for Italy wine country travel up and down the boot. Just keep in mind that bottle prices vary by region. We live and do wine tours in Piedmont, where you will find arguably some of the best price for quality in the country…dare I say in the world? (Well, I did.)

To that end, of course there are producers and enotecas here who charge high prices. But, in the land of Barolo and Barbaresco ‘high price’ is subjective. We generally visit producers where Barbaresco averages between 23 to 30€ and Barolos from 28 to 35€. We do have a couple of killer Barolo producers with the rare bottle prices of 21 to 25€ – what what!? Single vineyard Serralunga, anyone?

But, I digress. As I was saying, visitors who had originally thought bringing wine home from Italy would break the bank suddenly find themselves with cases, saying  “Uh oh, we bought a lot, how do we get it home?”

Bringing wine home from italy
The Lazenne Wine Check fits 12 bottles (they also have a 15-bottle version).

Bringing Wine Home From Italy: Checking wine on a plane

Let’s start with rules, regulations, and tariffs for checking wine. The long and the short is: it varies by country. But, it can be done. And, in most cases it is not as cost prohibitive as one might think. Nearly all countries offer some sort of duty-free limit on alcohol. That means you will not pay duties or taxes up to a certain amount. In general, you will pay additional taxes for larger quantities; amounts vary by country. Here is a brief look at different countries, based on the most frequent visitors we see in the area:

Traveling with wine into the United States

In the U.S. the limit is 1 litre / 34 oz. with an unlimited additional quantity possible for personal consumption. The duty for this additional quantity, if charged, is only $1-$2 per bottle. Personally, I’ve never paid extra and I’ve always been honest about having more than the limit. The key is to explain it is for personal consumption.

Traveling with wine into Canada

Canada can get a little tricky because you have to be mindful of your entry point into the country. You see, each province has different rules and regulations with duties and taxes assessed based on where you land — not necessarily your final destination.

Traveling with wine into Australia

Australia has stricter laws and higher duty. You can take up to 2.25 liters of alcohol duty-free. After that you are subject to what is called the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and Wine Equalisation Tax (WET) — equivalent to about 49 percent of the pre-VAT value of the goods.

Traveling with wine between European Union countries

Each person gets a duty-free limit of 90 liters. That’s 120 standard bottles of wine per trip.

Read Taking Wine on a Plane 101 for a  breakdown of rules, regulations, and tariffs into most countries around the world.

Wine travel products:

The Lazenne Wine Cradle: Inflatable, re-usable, water tight wine bottle protector. Holds a standard 750 ml wine bottle and a 1.5 liter magnum.

For Barbaresco and Barolo wine travelers, we have them available for sale for 13€. You can also order online and have them shipped directly to your hotel.

Lazenne Wine Check (12 and 15-bottle sizes): The Wine Check is complete with wheels and a strap to easily transport your 12 or 15 bottles of wine through the airport, by car, and train. For both sizes weight requirements do not exceed standard 23 kg / 50 lb limits – even with heavier sparkling wine. The Wine Check retail price varies by vendor, but generally runs about 97€. You can order it in advance and have it shipped to your lodging. 

Other noteworthy points:  wine bottle weight

  • The carrier itself is soft with a Styrofoam wine packaging box that fits inside. That means if you are only taking wine one way you can fold it up and pack it in your suitcase for the other way. The carrier can take up a good deal of room, so keep that in mind. Once at your destination you need the wine packaging box – purchase as follows:
    • Mailboxes sells standard wine packaging boxes that fit in the Wine Check. They run about 10 euros.
    • Pre-order a box from Lazenne to have shipped to your lodging. Boxes start at 10 euros. Click for product information.
  • Out of the UK low cost carriers like RyanAir generally have a 20 kg / 40 lbs weight limit (instead of the international standard of 23 kg / 50 lbs). The 12-bottle Wine Check with standard bottles comes to about 18 kg / 39 lbs.
  • Styrofoam serves as an insulator so some of Lazenne’s resellers use it during summer wine travel and in cold winter months to keep temperature variances to a minimum. We always keep one in our car during our tours to protect our clients’ wine during a hot tour day.

VinGarde Valise: We also own the VinGarde Valise and it works well for trips where we are traveling with wine both ways.

It is a hard case wine suitcase with packing inserts that can be removed so you can pack as much or as little wine as you want, up to 12 bottles. However, your space flexibility is limited when traveling with the inserts. That means it can be a difficult if you are only traveling with wine one way as you will have to check both ways. You may have to pay for an empty suitcase.

Fully loaded the weight comes in between the 20 kg / 40 lbs and 23 kg / 50 lbs. Available in the U.S. at $269.99 or in the UK at £259.00 (including VAT).

Bringing Wine Home From Italy
The hardcover VinGarde Valise fits 12 bottles.

D-I-Y Wine Travel 

DIY was my favorite means of bringing wine home from Italy before I became aware of all the wine travel products out there. For my first international wine trip to Bordeaux I purchased a roll of bubble wrap at an office supply store and stuck it in my suitcase. That worked well and once I started doing trips to Piedmont wine country I’d add an extra bag. Thanks to my biz travel days I had status that got me two free checked pieces, which comes in handy for checking wine on a plane and bringing wine home from Italy. I would put items like clothes and shoes in the extra bag, then use my suitcase for bubble wrapped wine bottles. It worked great.

Another thing you can do is just pick up a wine shipping container from a local shipper. Mailboxes has a huge network all over Italy. The difficulty of course is that you will have to lug it around on your Italy wine country travels. If you are in a car, that’s no problem. But, if you are traveling by train, it can get difficult. Just something to keep in mind.

Shipping Wine From Italy

Next, let’s talk shipping. As mentioned, Mailboxes has locations all across Italy.

The best approach is to identify a location, confirm shipping into your home country is possible (it can’t be done everywhere), and request price breakdowns. Click for a complete list of Mailboxes locations in Italy.

Many have an email address, so if you plan on shipping wine from Italy reach out in advance. Make sure to get their hours of operation. Many will close at lunch and on the weekends. Don’t leave it to the last minute only to find that it’s closed and doesn’t reopen till you are far away.

Wine Shipping from Alba, Italy

Mailboxes – Alba 

  • Address: Corso Europa, 73, 12051 Alba 
  • Phone: +39 0173 364678
  • Hours:
    • Monday to Friday: Open 9:00 to 13:00 and 14:30 to 19:30 (closed for lunch from 13:00 to 14:30)
    • Saturday, Sunday: Closed.
  • Prices:
    • Shipping wine to the U.S.: 80€ for 6 bottles, 135€ for 12 bottles.
    • Shipping wine to the UK: 50€ for 6 bottles, 60€ for 12 bottles.
    • Shipping wine to Australia: 60€ for 6 bottles, 180€ for 12 bottles; more than 12 bottles cannot be shipped without an importer license.

Shipping Wine From Italy to the U.S.

That’s the scoop on bringing wine home from Italy, with an emphasis on Piedmont wine country given that it is where we live.

If you are headed our way and want a Barbaresco and Barolo wine tour, contact us. We can also organize programs in other parts of Italy, including Tuscany, Umbria, Franciacorta, and more.

If you’ve got ’em, please leave a note with other tips on how to travel with wine!  

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16 Comments

    • There are plenty of countries with more restrictive rules, regulations, and tariffs. I tried to highlight the countries from where we see the most visitors. I believe we have a couple booked from Singapore this summer and I checked into shipping for them. I recall it being very difficult!

      Good reason to stay a bit longer to consume more ?.

      Cin cin!

      • I am heading to Piemonte in mid Oct and expect to ship wine back to Singapore. Did you manage to figure out the complexity? To be honest, I am surprised that it is an issue as I have regularly bought Japanese whisky online and have them to sent to Singapore.

        You typically only have to pay alcohol duty when it arrives and that is relatively straight forward.

        Nonetheless, do the enotecas provide shipping service?

        Although my wife and I typically enjoy wandering around ourselves, I am intrigued by your service as I note the interaction and experience you can provide.

        • Ciao, Gary –

          Thanks for reading! I haven’t looked into shipping to Singapore. There hasn’t been a demand for me thus far. You could contact the shipper I note in the post for details.

          Most enotecas do not ship here at this time. Vinifera in Alba may. It’s worth a check!

          Please send me a tour request through our tour page (upper left) and I can let you know more about our tours and our availability in October. We are pretty booked up already.

          A presto! Val

  • Gosh I’ve had my days of bringing back jam packed suitcases. Miss being able to bring more expensive bottles in my carry-on. I had 10-12 bottles in my suitcase once surrounded my bubble wrap. You would’ve thought I went over there naked but somehow it all worked just heavy ; )

    • Haha – I hear you! We bring back atleast a case when we go to the States now. Well, one suitcase dedicated to wine and other bottles strategically placed in other checked luggage.

      We always return with the same amount, usually more. I had to really hold Evan back on buying on our last US trip because I wanted to bring back wine I’d left with friends when I moved. A tour client had sent is a case, so we had a box full, a wine suitcase full, and some in our regular luggage ?.

      Cin cin!

  • Extra wine suitcases and wine stuck in every corner of your main suitcases, my kind of people!

    Like you, we bring as much as we can fit into our various suitcases, Lazenne, etc…

    • Sempre, Jeff! We always take wine both ways, too. Next time you are come over you should bring wine to trade with producers. They get so excited to try things from other areas. Such a fun experience!

      Ciao ciao! Val

  • Love this post Valerie! We have a wine check we’ve used for years and never had troubles with it until last year when my husband tried to take wine from Italy back to the US on a business trip and his first leg was Air France which had much stricter rules and made him leave the wine at the airport. That was a first! I’m intrigued about the VinGuard Valise. Looks more sturdy & streamlined.

    • Ciao, Heather –

      Oh my goodness – that’s crazy! I’ve never heard of such a thing. Lazenne, who sells The Wine Check here is based in France. The luggage has carefully developed to meet all airline rules and regulations in different parts of the world. What reasoning did Air France give? Was it about weight or duties?

      We do love our VinGaurd Valise as well. We are such wine nerds that we have been known to use both on trips!

      When is your next trip back to Italy? You will have to come to our area for a visit and we can load you up with wine to take back :). Did you ever make it to the Langhe during your time in Milano?

      A presto! Val

  • Ciao Val — Good article, and great to share the wisdom on how to get wine home from Italy.

    I’m a wine importer and I’ve brought back over 100 cases of wine over the years by checking it as luggage. The cheapest and easiest way is to use wine shipper boxes from your friendly nearby MBE, fill it up with your favorite wines, and check it in when you leave. Most major airlines give one or two “bags” checked for free, but travelers need to be careful with their airline selection since many/most economy carriers flying into/out of Italy (like EasyJet, Ryanair) won’t let you check wine (or olive oil). Even Alitalia is flakey. Go figure.

    I wrote a blog post on getting wine home from Italy a few years back, and update it each year. Your readers can check it out for more hints and tricks from a wine importer. My article is specifically for American travelers.

    https://www.dalluva.com/wine-journal/bringing-wine-home-from-italy/

    Happy tasting & travels!
    Ciao
    Michael

    • Ciao, Michael –

      Thanks for reading! Totally agree with you on the cheapest method! Your article is great. Thanks for noting.

      Next time you are in the Langhe, please let me know! Would love to meet up!

      I’m pretty sure I just used a post from you for a trip to Camogli, we did dinner at Ostaia da o Sigù. Does that sound familiar? If so, thank you! It was amazing!

      Will be doing a Camogli post soon and will reference your post!

      A presto!

  • Loved this article. I was in Italy last week desperately researching how to get wine back to the US without playing $180 euro to have mailboxes etc ship it for me.

    We ended up buying a wine shipper styrofoam box at a wine shop for $15 and checked it as baggage. It was too easy and no stress thanks to the info in this article!

    We also bought a case of wine from the wine shop and they shipped our wine for free since our average bottle price was $30. Cheers!

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