Updated: Jan 18
Raise your hand if you've visited a winery without buying the wine because you didn't know how to get it home safely. Keep your hand raised if you've been sacrificing your wine to the shock and elements of air travel wrapped up only in your dirty underpants and tshirts. Guess what? You're not alone, and there IS a solution built just for you.
I've been to the world renowned regions in France, Italy and Spain, driven in an Audi top-down through the German Weinstrasse, visited the vineyards of Chile and Uruguay, and even sought out the strangest of wine locales in Morocco, Mexico and Quebec. But with all this wine travel I've never really been able to bring home the wine, making me one of those guilty tasters who says at the tasting table "that was great, thanks!" walking out empty handed.
Flying with wine has always been simply too tough and not worth the hassle or the luggage space. I'm over here throwing away underpants and wearing all my heavy clothes just to make a little space for some aioli in my carry on bag - fat chance if I had space to bring a bottle or two of vino home.
Back in the yesteryear when checked bags were free, I'd wrap bottles in my laundry and hope they made it through the multiple legs back to home base. I eventually graduated to the bubble wrap style wine sleeves, and have even grown accustomed to buying wine at the duty free shops in the airports, but all of these were classless and backwards ways of flying with wine once I learned about the future of flying with wine - wine suitcases.
Like Wayne Campbell with his guitar, I have spent years coveting the VinGardeValise® product line by FlyWithWine. I think I first recognized these beauties from online advertising, then saw one in the flesh at Domaine Serene in Oregon. Good lawd she was pretty. On the outside, sleek - hardshelled - simple. But on the inside, I knew she held such great joys. Carefully carved foam housings for my 750mL bottles, a compartment for clothes and belongings, and even some nifty security features? My palms are sweating just typing about it. She's a beaut Clark, she's a beaut. She eluded me for some time after that. Then, one outlet pounding Christmas shopping day I saw her again. There she was at William Sonoma - in maroon - on sale! She called to me - the blessed angels were singing, "buy me! buy me!"
When I got the email from FlyWithWine, the brand whose winged suitcase logo lifted me off the ground in glee, I knew my dark times of questionable wine transit were over. The 12 Bottle Grande VinGardeValise® suitcase was about to me mine.
Wine Suitcases aren't Just for the Wine Industry
Who might want this bag?
Casual or professional wine drinkers interested in enotourism
Beer or liquor enthusiasts - just buy the proper inserts to fit your bottles, each bag can be customized! Pack beer, whiskey, gin, whatever you fancy with the proper inserts. It's not just a suitcase for wine! They fit bottle combos from 2-12 and accommodate multiple bottle shapes!
Anyone who travels - just take the inserts out and it's a regular ole' suitcase with some pretty fab features.
The "Grande V.5 12 Bottle VinGardeValise®", holding a five star rating on the FlyWithWine website, is built for the road. "V5", the latest model, must obviously mean it is turbo charged, jet black, and comes with spinners. This girl is slick.
Dimensions: 18” x 13.5” x 27” (checked bag size)
Weight: 14 lbs. unpacked, 50lbs fully packed with 12 bottles of wine, perfectly meeting the 50lb luggage limit on most airlines.
Need security? This has a TSA compliant lock.
360 wheels. Sweet, it does have spinners.
Six removable inserts and three foam pads
Oh, and did I mention it has a 10 year warranty?
Unboxing - First Impressions
Let's look at her insides: Plenty of zipper storage in the interior panels, she also has a foam pad that goes in between both halves of the suitcase. Each respective half has two straps holding down another protective foam pad before you get to the interior foam inserts - six per side. Shipped quickly and packaged proudly, this bag was a joy to unbox.
The best feature, however is the spinner wheels, which glide like they're on ice. I've never had a bag with smoother maneuverability! When I removed all the foam inserts I was really taken aback by the amount of luggage space. Sans wine, this bag has some serious storage capacity.
Little touches like the rubber pads for propping on the floor made the bag even more functional. As for security, I set the TSA lock quickly with their instructions and tested some bottles for fit and ease of use. Everything, despite some various shaped bottles, fit very snugly and took a little bit of effort to really wedge in there. This is a good sign that my wine won't be going anywhere during flight.
Living in Spain part time (with the majority in Florida), I am grateful to have more than 5 notable wine regions within my reach including Cariñena, Calatayud, Navarra, Campo de Borja and Somantano. Eager to put this new VinGardeValise® wine suitcase to the test, I couldn't think of a more perfect wine destination to stretch my new gal's legs than in my backyard.
As I packed for my trip, I agonized over how many bottles I'd want to bring home from Spain. Truly, this is the only downfall of this bag - determining in advance if you want to check an empty suitcase (full of only wine inserts) OR if you want to bring inserts for six bottles, and leave the other side empty for filling with standard luggage needs. For my test, I chose six inserts in one half and luggage in the other half. I couldn't have been happier.
For our spin around some vineyards we selected to visit Dominio de Longaz in Cariñena.
A private 2 hour tour and tasting for myself and my husband, Fernando at Dominio de Longaz welcomed us graciously to tour the estate. Being a cold and wet December day we got to test the VinGardeValise® wine suitcase in the rain and out in the rocky clay soil that feeds their vines.
Comprised of Garnacha, Tempranillo, Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet, Longaz was once a producer for the well known bubbly brand Freixenet, but has since turned to strictly producing reds for distribution. After a tour of their entire facility including the production rooms, barrel room, event spaces and vineyard, we were able to taste three of the wines with Fernando and discuss the future of Dominio de Longaz. We were especially keen on hearing more about their summer dinners in the vineyard. Could it get any dreamier?
Flying With Wine - The Customs Situation
Coming home, I had to consider and research in advance - how much wine can I carry in my checked bag? Here's the breakdown:
Wine has no limits
Liquor is restricted to 5 liters per passenger if they range in 24-70% alcohol
Anything less than 24% alcohol has no limits
Anything over 70% is a no go, sorry.
So long as your wine is for personal use, there is no federal limit coming into the United States on what you can bring.
Some suggestions were found that you may need to declare your wine at customs or even pay a tax. Play it by ear and follow directions from the customs agents.
A few scuffs and normal wear and tear to the exterior were minor battle scars, and all the wine handled well getting home. There were no broken bottles, no explosions of vino tinto anywhere, and no issues at customs. In fact, the only question I had to dodge was "did you bring anything home to declare?" With a simple "nope", my six bottles of wine and I flew off into the sunset together (literally!) to our final destination after connecting in Atlanta.
Her first expedition was a good one and I'm so excited to continue using my new VinGardeValise wine suitcase on every adventure back to Spain and beyond.
Not sure you want to go for a full 12-bottle case? Here's some other great options from the FlyWithWine folks:
Wine Suitcases in two additional sizes:
And so much more!