Wine Bottle Breakage and the Cure

When you travel with a rare bottle or two of wine, or buy some on a trip to take home, you want to be certain it ends up at its final destination safe and intact. For years, the idea of traveling with alcoholic beverages has been regulated by the airlines to differing situations. While checking in beverage bottles on airlines is allowed, the relatively delicate nature of some wines means that special attention should be taken when traveling with valuable or sensitive bottles on your plane trip.

In the past, many airlines permitted passengers to carry one or two bottles of wine on board a flight with them to guarantee the proper handling of rare bottles. Since the 2001 institution of safety guidelines governing liquids, however, this is no longer feasible. Many liquids in bottles larger than 3.4 oz. cannot be carried through airport security checkpoints and onto the plane, and a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agent may confiscate the item. An exclusion to the carry-on rule is made for wine and other spirits purchased in duty-free vendors beyond security checkpoints.

While drinks with an alcohol content of greater than 70 percent are banned and those with an alcohol content between 24 and 70 percent are limited, there is no TSA-regulated quantity limit on beverages with less than 24 percent alcohol, such as wine. Airline-imposed checked baggage limits still apply, but travelers are free to use the sum of their quota for wine transport.

For passengers seeking to transport only a bottle or two of wine, transporting the bottles in existing luggage often is the safest choice. Packing bottles nicely within clothing helps curtail the vibrations that can negatively affect wine and protects the bottles from improper handling by airport employees. When stuffing bottles in your luggage, it’s most important to keep them from shifting. One of the best practices is to slide a bottle into a sock and then wrap it securely in a shirt or other garment. For extra protection against potential breakage, enclose the wrapped bottle in a water-tight plastic bag before nestling it firmly in the middle of the suitcase.

A number of companies offer special wine bottle bags to facilitate carrying bottles on the plane. These carriers are water-tight, very well-padded, resistant to temperature variation and simple to carry. Although not absolutely necessary, passengers who often find themselves carrying a bottle or two of wine may find that the $20 to $50 wine tote bags are a worthwhile purchase.

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