Have Wine, Will Travel

Traveling with wine may seem odd, but having a treasured wine to share with fellow travelers is a wonderful luxury. (Especially when vacation accommodations don’t include a hotel.) There are risks to transporting wine of course—breakage, corkage, misplacement—but with these tips the practice of B-ing YOB will soon become a habit.

Industry Standard
For short trips not involving air travel, I prefer to use an industry wine tote. These secure, cushy portables are made of neoprene or similar materials and are easy to find through companies like Wine Enthusiast. (There’s even a leather version that is—dare I say it?—stylish.) I have not had great luck with wheeled bags, however. For one thing, I find them less flexible for packing in a car when space is tight. Wine totes are designed to insulate and protect from four to six bottles. They have handles and are more flexible than taking wines in a case. There are also individual sleeves to protect a single bottle when packing inside luggage.

Wine in the Sky
When the liquids ban put a cork in the practice of storing wine in overhead bins, wine travelers had to devise new plans. Many have turned to the solution wine stores and clubs rely on: Wine shipping boxes. The easiest way to obtain these and have them packed right is to visit a wine store that has an Internet presence. (If the shop sells on-line, they ship wine.) These boxes are not cheap, but if you are a good customer the retailer should be willing to sell you a couple and even demonstrate the best way to secure the package. These boxes can be checked like a piece of luggage at the airport.

Mail, Man
I’m aware that to some people the idea of lugging a case of wine through an airport is unthinkable. For the (probably very smart) people in this category, I have another suggestion: Ship it. It’s a lot easier than toting it along, though it does require planning. When I’m using this method, I turn again to the pros at my local wine shop. I buy a few bottles there, then add a few special selections of my own and have them sent to a contact at my destination. I always make sure the person I’m shipping to understands how to take care of the wine. When such an individual isn’t available, I’ll ship to another wine store for a slight storage premium.

On the Move
The final wine transport contingency is the most expansive: Moving an entire wine collection. There are several companies that specialize in moving wine, some even offer storage options and temporary cellars. Insuring any valuable bottles is also worth the legwork. A check from the insurance company won’t cover the heartbreak of watching a 1986 Château Haut-Brion sink into the asphalt driveway, but at least some of the cost will be recouped.