As I write this column I have just returned home from a long, relaxed stay in Spain with my family. (Many columns to come about my adventures and discoveries in the Iberian peninsula). As I made my way through the numerous airports I realized my wine travel tips might be immediately relevant to those of you with suitcases already packed and travel confirmed.
For those of us who travel frequently it’s common to keep a wine opener in our bags. I always keep one in my briefcase, because on one trip years ago the only help the front desk of my hotel could offer was a metal fork. (Oddly enough, with patience and precision, I actually got the fork to work.)
When traveling by plane, make sure you pack the opener in your checked luggage. A wine opener is only handy to have until it is confiscated during the security screening. It happened to me this trip and I must say it was painful to watch as one of my favorite openers was haphazardly tossed into the box of the abyss.
Because we can now carry only very small amounts of liquids on the plane, bringing back bottles of wine poses special challenges. In the past, those few sacred bottles were easily packed in carry-on bags where they wouldn’t be crushed, jostled or otherwise in danger of breaking. Now you need more planning in order to arrive home with your purchase. You can try the old (and risky) strategy of wrapping the bottle in a thick sock, packing it in the center of your suitcase wrapped with clothes and hoping it doesn’t break or leak by the time you reach your final destination. But there’s a better way. There are many options for protecting your bottles in checked luggage. Several of my favorites are the Vinni-Bag (vinnibag.com), Winehug (winehug.com) and Wine Skin (wineskin.net). These products basically create a sturdy air cushion around the bottles. The drawback is they are bulky and take up precious space in a suitcase. The worst part of my trip was the realization that mine were still sitting on my desk at home.
As I was collecting my baggage in customs I noticed that someone else had a red bag with a large logo depicting a wine bottle with wings. After some research I discovered it’s called The Wine Check, and it is what I think could be a smart option for getting our precious cargo safely home. It looks like a square rolling suitcase but is specially designed to hold one case (12 bottles) of wine while staying under the 50-pound limit most airlines allow. I watched the durability test video on the website and was impressed with the results.
If your travel involves wine and an airplane, I hope my own wine travel blunders help you to avoid the same mistakes.