When I bring a bottle of French wine back for family and friends, their faces light up with excitement and appreciation. It’s a cherished gift for someone special. But all you need is to have one bottle of red wine explode in your suitcase to never want to try to transport wine on a long-haul flight ever again. So how can you bring wine back from France so it arrives in one piece? Is it even legal?
How to bring wine back from France
Every time I visit the USA, I successfully bring several bottles of wine in my checked luggage. When packed correctly, the wine should make it in one piece. Knock on wood, I’ve never had an issue. If it’s a reasonable number of bottles for personal use, you should have no problem bringing some liquid France back with you.
Why would you want to bring back wine? WHY NOT? Seriously though, it makes a nice gift for someone else or treat for yourself, not to mention it’s way cheaper to bring back French wine than to buy it in the USA. I was shocked by wine prices last time I visited the US. France spoils me (both with the selection and price)!
How much wine can you legally bring back in your suitcase?
There’s a lot of confusion about bringing wine back from Europe on a plane, but it’s quite simple. First, federal law says you have to be at least 21 years of age. There’s no limit on the number of bottles of wine you can bring into the US for personal use although anything over the duty-free allowance of one liter (so one bottle) may be subject to a small duty.
In my experience, I’ve declared my wine on the customs form and I’ve never had to pay a duty on it. Customs rarely bothers to collect the fee because it’s under $1/bottle.
Fodor’s explains, “Travelers can’t transport bottles with more than 70 percent alcohol content and can only take five liters of alcohol between 24 and 70 percent.
Fortunately, wine almost always falls below 24 percent alcohol content, meaning there is no limit to the amount of alcohol allowed in checked bags.”
For information on bringing wine into other countries, you can read here.
Forget about shipping wine yourself. It’s illegal to ship wine in the mail unless you have a license to do so. They will turn you away at the French post office if you show up with your carefully packed box of wine to send abroad. Some wineries will offer to ship it for you, but you’ll pay a premium for the service. Keep in mind smaller producers may not even offer direct shipping. If you want to bring a few bottles back for personal use, it’s super easy to pack them in your suitcase.
Remember that liquids over 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) aren’t allowed in your carry-on (unless purchased after security) so you’ll have to check your baggage.
Have you seen the way baggage handlers throw your luggage around? This is why careful packing is important.
Here are my tips on how to bring wine back from France in your suitcase:
1 – No more than 5 bottles in one large suitcase. If you bring any more than this, you risk breakage and/or going over the baggage weight limit. Be sure to weigh your suitcase before you head to the airport or you might be looking at a hefty oversize baggage fee. If you plan on bringing more than 5 bottles back, don’t overpack. There’s no way multiple bottles of wine and a full wardrobe will clear the weight limit.
2 – Wrap bottles well and insulate with clothing. Use a product I mention below to protect the bottle or just use bubble wrap and an extra layer or two of clothing. Cotton t-shirts work well as wraps. Some people pack the bottles in a box after wrapping them. That’s up to you.
3 – Make sure your suitcase is full so everything is packed in tightly with no space. You don’t want the bottles to move around in a half-full suitcase when baggage handlers load it on and off the plane. The key is making sure the bottles cannot move at all.
Some handy products to bring wine back from France:
Depending on the cost of an extra bag or your airline’s baggage allowance, it might make the most sense to get specialized wine luggage. This is especially useful if you make frequent trips and want to transport 12 bottles at a time. Looking for something even fancier? This wine carrier suitcase is easy to maneuver and 100% polycarbonate.
Bubble wrap protectors
If you‘re not much of a DIY bubble-wrapper, grab a bunch of these Wine Skins and just slip your bottle inside for easy, protected transport. To be on the safe side, I’d still wrap the bottle in clothing as well.
Jet Bags are great for transporting not only wine, but other glass containers such as perfume, olive oil and more. They’re reusable, made in the USA, and absorbent, so if something breaks, your clothing stays clean and dry. Another plus? They’re biodegradable.