We have all done it... on holiday, after a lazy day spent soaking up the sun or eagerly exploring the sites, gathered with friends as the sun goes down, admiring the most spectacular view, or snuggled up to a loved one in a cosy hideaway, the perfect secret discovery, sharing a bottle of local wine, perfectly matched to the local cuisine. Such wonderful happy times.
Why is it then, that back at home, returning to the daily grind of normal life, many of us yearn to recreate moments like this, which just end in disappointment?
Of course, much of this anti-climax is because our memories are apt to play tricks on us, recalling the “good bits”, while conveniently forgetting the insects, the sun burn, the accommodation that did not quite live up to expectations, and the rancid wine.
Wherever I travel I always bring back a momento or two; usually something food related, plus a cook book and, of course, a bottle or two of the local tipple. Provided I temper my enthusiasm, an expandable suitcase is usually sufficient to accommodate my purchases. When it comes to carrying home wine, opinion remains divided. While wines drunk in situ do seem to taste different, there is no evidence to support allowing a wine to “recover” after travel.
When it comes to splurging out on quality red wine though, which may have been bottled unfiltered, or where there is sediment present, allowing it to settle for a few days is preferable; much like we need time to settle back into our usual routine after being in holiday mode.
In addition to the time the wine has spent in transit, consideration needs to be given to any exposure to heat, while your luggage sits on the tarmac in sweltering temperatures.
In general, for anything other than a souvenir bottle of plonk, you are better off purchasing it from a reputable distributor.
When visiting small independent wine makers, I often buy a few bottles to take home, if for no other reason than that I know it is something not readily available elsewhere.
If buying wine outside Europe, then there are likely to be restrictions on what you can do; for example, in the US you must use an approved shipping service.
Sadly, as I have learned to my cost, due to the onerous travel restrictions, it is now not possible to carry wine in your hand luggage when travelling by air. It must be transported in your checked-in luggage. Judicious packing, with bottles wrapped individually in bubble wrap and using my clothes as padding, I manage to get away without too many breakages, despite baggage handlers’ efforts to destroy my luggage.
I have also fallen foul of vineyards offering to pack wine in the usual cardboard boxes; even when packed tightly with dividers between bottles, it is unwise to put this in the hold.
If transporting wine is likely to be a regular occurrence, it is worth remembering that while many established vineyards will have international wine shipping services in place, it can be prohibitively expensive, so it is worth considering some of the other options available. All of these are available on Amazon.
•Wine Skins, which have a vinyl exterior and a bubble-wrap interior, are simple to use and are leak-resistant too, costing around £5 and up.
•“Built” wine tote bags are good for just one or two bottles, giving good protection, and with a handy carrying handle too. Various versions are available in the region of £10
•WineHug inflatable wine sleeves, which are re-usable, are worth investing in and provide good protection. They come in various sizes and cost £12, plus shipping.
•Lazenne wine travel bags are lightweight with a heavy-duty polystyrene insert which can hold up to 12 bottles of wine and can be had for £125.
•VinGardeValise is the high-end option, perfect for those who take their wine seriously and really want to push the boat out. This specialist suitcase, with six removable inserts, takes up to 12 bottles and is specifically designed for packing wine bottles (or other liquids such as olive oil or spirits) for air travel. Although expensive, at a whopping £263 for a new one, this is now at the top of my wish list.
One thing to bear in mind is the hold luggage weight restriction of 23kg. A bottle of bubbly weighs in at around 1.5kg, so a dozen of these, packed in a custom-made holder, will just about keep you within the limit.
While we remain in Europe, the personal duty-free allowance is 90 litres (60 for sparkling wine), which should be sufficient for most of us!