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 wine – something 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: 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.
Please note: The policy for checking wine on a plane in terms of proper packaging type, weight, dimensions etc. may vary by carrier. We recommended contacting individual airlines to ensure you are clear on how you can travel with your checked wine.
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:
- 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 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).
Order bottle protectors, The Wine Check, and / or the VinGarde Valise directly from Lazenne. Click for all products and to order online. Click for all products and to order online.
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 about shipping.
For tour clients, we have started using IWS to ensure that all the paperwork is in place. Though, we still recommend Mailboxes as they do a great job as well. As mentioned, Mailboxes has locations all across Italy, so it can be easy to use them for your shipping needs. But, you can also find IWS in different areas, too.
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 and here for IWS.
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
- Shipping wine to the U.S.: 88€ for 6 bottles, 148€ for 12 bottles.
- Shipping wine to the UK: 51€ for 6 bottles, 68€ for 12 bottles.
- Shipping wine to Australia: 130€ for 6 bottles, 195€ for 12 bottles; more than 12 bottles cannot be shipped without an importer license.
Mailboxes – Alba
- Address: Corso Europa, 73, 12051 Alba
- Phone: +39 0173 364678
- 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.
- Shipping wine to the U.S.: 80€ for 6 bottles, 150€ 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.
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!