Transporting Wine 101 | How to Pack Wine Bottles for Moving

Clear wine bottle of rose and dark green wine bottle against blue backgroundClear wine bottle of rose and dark green wine bottle against blue background

Traveling with Wine Bottles: A Journey Worth Taking

There are plenty of exciting things about moving: a new space, opportunities to decorate, and a chance to toast to the next chapter! Enjoy these moments with your favorite wine by ensuring that every bottle survives the journey.

Are you a happy customer traveling with your purchase? A budding sommelier transporting your collection? A small winery relocating your growing inventory? Learn how to pack wine bottles to provide your wine with the best care and conditions!

Packing Wine Bottles to Prevent Breakage


Incorrectly packing wine bottles for moving can lead to some shattering results, in more than one sense. The secret to a glass wine bottle’s longevity is proper padding and durable packaging. Generally, do not pack bottles that you have already opened. They might spill, lose their freshness, or lead to legal consequences.

Packing Wine Bottles in a Box

Boxes are a moving day staple, but there is more than meets the eye when it comes to these containers. When transporting something as breakable as wine bottles, it is best to use sturdy corrugated boxes.

Consulting a guide to corrugated boxes would reveal that these boxes are strong, durable, and biodegradable. One corrugated wall is composed of a crimped layer sandwiched between flat cardboard. Corrugated boxes come in single, double, and triple wall construction. Box strength increases with more walls, hence triple wall boxes are best suited for long term stacking. 

A standard corrugated box does not have internal dividers, allowing for organizational freedom but requiring additional stabilizing materials. To support wine bottles in transport, experts recommend double boxing, using inserts, or padding.

Double Boxing

To double box your wine, keep the individual bottle of wine in its original container. Original packaging is often made of wood, cardboard, or pressboard, and tends to take the shape of a slender shoe box or cylinder. These shapes can make achieving a snug fit more possible.

Inserts

The most common types of wine inserts are made from foam and molded pulp. They are size and volume specific, but tend to have a design that can fit an assortment of bottle types. Variations of wine inserts include: wine shipping kits, wine cell kits, and shipper trays.

Padding

There are several ways to pad your wine bottles. Keep in mind that padding is best used as the second line of defense to stabilize reinforced wine bottles.

  • Loose fill packaging, like packing peanuts or packing chips, provides all-around cushioning to fill your box.
  • Air bubble packaging envelops the wine bottles specifically.
  • Fabric items such as thick sweaters, scarves, blankets, and towels can act as padding, as can dense wads of paper and newspaper. 
Shipping boxes, packing peanuts, and bubble wrapShipping boxes, packing peanuts, and bubble wrap

Wine carrier boxes have specific inserts that divide the box into vertical slots for the bottles. Some bottles fit into these slots more spaciously than others, so additional padding could still be necessary. You may be wondering whether your wine's original cardboard box can protect your bottles from breakage. Use your best judgment: inspect the box for corrugated walls, check for a strong base, and avoid stacking things atop the box.

Packing Wine Bottles in your Suitcase

Similar to boxes, the ideal suitcase for transporting wine should be hard-sided, not soft-sided or a duffel bag. Do not pack multiple bottles directly next to each other; instead, create a barrier with padding. As with boxes, the goal is to minimize movement and pack your wine bottles as tightly as possible.

  1. First, place your wine bottle in a plastic bag and knot or close it tightly to reduce the risk of damage in case a leak occurs.
  2. Second, cushion your bottle with padding in the form of towels, clothing, newspaper, bubble wrap and alike.
  3. Some frequent plane flyers also suggest placing bagged shoes around the wine bottle to act as a shock absorber.

Consider buying special packaging for transporting wine bottles, like an inflatable bag or travel bag made specifically for wine. Using wine travel gear is helpful, but be sure to tightly pack your wine bottles nonetheless.


Tips for Organizing & Labeling Wine Bottles


When transporting wine, don’t just pack safe– pack smart! Consider the following tips:

  • Lay non-sparkling wine horizontally, much like you would store them on a wine rack at home. This maintains the moisture of the wine cork. Turning to a guide to wine corks may help you understand how natural cork behaves.
  • Pack sparkling wine and champagne upright to avoid issues related to carbonation.
  • Keep similiar types of wine bottles near each other to eliminate awkward gaps, leading to better use of space.
  • Mark boxes as “fragile”.
  • Label the boxes to reflect their contents. Mimic the layout of your cellar for easy unpacking. Common methods of wine cellar organization include dividing your wine by:
    • Style (red, white, rosé, dessert, dry, etc.)
    • Price
    • Variety (Riesling, Moscato, etc.)
    • Region
    • Vintage (year)
    • Producer (released collections)
Wine CorksWine Corks

Four Factors to Control When Preserving Wine Quality


Preserving wine quality is a crucial aspect of transporting wine effectively. When kept in improper conditions, wine can oxidize, grow bacteria, change chemical properties, and spoil. Consuming wine that has undergone these changes might lead to food poisoning. Previously opened bottles are more likely to be affected by the environment, so it's best not to include them in your move. 

Temperature IconTemperature Icon

1. Temperature

Wine should generally be stored at a cool 55°F (~13°C), although the 45-65°F (~7-18°C) range is deemed acceptable when consistent. Well-made wines can handle extreme temperatures better. White wines are more sensitive to heat compared to other types of wine.

When packing wine bottles for moving, use polystyrene foam inserts or cooler bags to keep them well-insulated. Wrap pre-chilled bottles of wine in a towel to keep temperature consistent.

In addition to the best practices above, some temperature control solutions are specific to your mode of travel.

On the Road

Keep your wine in the air-conditioned part of your car. Park in shaded areas and bring the wine inside with you if you stop for long intervals. If you use a cooler, fill it with gel or cold packs; regular ice can damage wine labels. 

On the Plane

If you are flying, it is recommended that you pack your wine bottles in your checked luggage as opposed to carry-on. Most commercial flights have pressurized and temperature-controlled cargo holders kept at 50-59 °F (10-15°C).



Humidity IconHumidity Icon

2. Humidity

In a wine cellar, humidity outside of the 50%-80% range can lead to cellar mold and ruined labels. These risks are relatively low during short-term transportation. Air conditioning is a sufficient way to control humidity unless you're in extreme climates for a long time.

Lower humidity can dry out the cork, causing the wine to oxidize. As mentioned before, pack your wine bottles sideways to keep the cork moist and prevent it from drying out.


Vibrations IconVibrations Icon

3. Vibrations

Scientists theorize that vibrations can disrupt the chemical properties of wine, affecting its taste and aroma. This primarily applies to long-term storage in places with consistent vibrations, like those of a train or washer/dryer unit. To prevent wine from losing flavor during travel, wait a few days before opening transported bottles. This allows the wine to recover.


Sunlight IconSunlight Icon

4. Sunlight

Sunlight also affects the chemical balance of wine, changing its taste. If your wine bottle is made of colored glass, it has more UV protection than a clear bottle because it filters more light. However, it is still best to keep your wine bottles away from sunlight.



Transporting wine over long distances is more involved than driving it home from the grocery store. Common challenges include preventing breakage and preserving wine quality, but there are also layers of regulations to adhere to. When considering what ordinances might be an obstacle, start with the following questions:

  • Where am I moving? Am I leaving the state or driving through states with strict policies for transporting alcohol? Am I leaving the country? What is the legal drinking age of the place I am moving to?
  • What is my mode of transportation? Am I driving a car? Flying? Renting a truck? Traveling by train?
  • How am I transporting my wine? Do I want to ship it ahead of time? Am I bringing it with me in the car? Will I include it in my luggage?
Wine Bottle ShapesWine Bottle Shapes

Open Containers

Depending on the state in which you reside, transporting an open alcohol container may be illegal. An “open” bottle can refer to bottles with a broken seal, re-corked wine bottles, and bottles sealed with a wine preserver. Disregarding these laws can lead to drunk driving charges and other costly consequences.

Regardless of what you learn here today, there are state and case-specific rules that require your attention. Our overview can help you discover these issues, but we recommend that you do your own research prior to starting your move.

Motorized Vehicles

In the United States, federal law gives states the authority to regulate alcohol. Some states have restrictions on the amount of alcohol that individuals can carry for personal use. These restrictions prevent people from carrying large quantities of alcohol or using it for business purposes. If you are a small business, obtaining permits can make transporting large amounts of wine easier.

States can enforce limits on transportation of alcohol across state lines, charging an excise tax and upholding quantity maximums. This means that if state police or highway patrol were to pull you over, legal action could ensue. Even if federal laws allow alcohol consumption, certain counties are “dry” and don’t allow alcohol transport at all. 

Planes

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) forbids transporting beverages containing more than 70% alcohol. Alcoholic beverages with 24%-70% ABV are allowed but limited to 5 liters (1.3 gallons) per passenger. Beverages containing 24% or less alcohol by volume are not limited in amount, so most wines can be transported without fear of a limit.

Depending on where you are flying to, airlines may require you to pay the associated duties and taxes. The legal drinking age must also be observed. All alcohol must be in its unopened retail packaging. 

Trains & Boats

Long distance trains, rapid transit systems, boats, cruises, & alike will specify their own rules for alcohol limits. Cross country trains and international boats also require awareness of regional laws.


Mailing Wine through a Shipping Company


Mailing wine in the United States is not accessible to the average citizen. Small business owners can get licenses from  shipping service websites or use business-focused shipping companies like DHL Express. To bypass shipping wine yourself, contact your desired winery and order your next wine shipment to your new destination. In the United States, popular carriers include USPS, UPS, and FedEx.

UPS LogoUPS Logo
USPS LogoUSPS Logo
Fedex LogoFedex Logo

Shipping wine through UPS is a contractual service only. One must be licensed for wine shipment and enter a contract with UPS. UPS allows you to schedule a free consultation if you are interested in becoming an approved wine shipper. 

USPS prohibits sending alcoholic beverages.

Fedex allows businesses with alcohol licenses to ship in select states and countries. These businesses have to enroll in the FedEx alcohol shipping program. Consult the steps provided by FedEx to become an authorized alcohol shipper with FedEx.

UPS LogoUPS Logo

Shipping wine through UPS is a contractual service only. One must be licensed for wine shipment and enter a contract with UPS. UPS allows you to schedule a free consultation if you are interested in becoming an approved wine shipper. 

USPS LogoUSPS Logo

USPS prohibits sending alcoholic beverages.

FedEx LogoFedEx Logo

Fedex allows businesses with alcohol licenses to ship in select states and countries. These businesses have to enroll in the FedEx alcohol shipping program. Consult the steps provided by FedEx to become an authorized alcohol shipper with FedEx.


Moving Internationally with a Wine Collection


Wine retailers can transport their wine collection internationally. They must have the right licenses, follow carrier rules, and obey the regulations of the destination country. As mentioned previously, these range from taxes to quantity limitations to complete alcohol bans.

Unfortunately, the average citizen would find it difficult to ship internationally, whether via air or water cargo. The majority of commercial carriers only have shipping procedures in place for wine businesses. It may be best to hire a private wine relocation company with international services.


Hiring Professional Movers for your Wine Collection


When hiring movers for your wine collection, there are generally two options: regular moving companies or wine transportation experts. Both standard and professional moving companies tend to offer the purchase of insurance coverage.

Standard Moving Companies

Standard moving companies typically allow wine transport as long as the laws pertaining to motorized vehicles are obeyed. However, keep in mind that most moving trucks are not climate controlled in the cargo area. 

You may be packing wine alongside furniture and other boxes. Label the boxes carefully and arrange them thoughtfully to avoid accidents.

Professional Wine Relocation Services

Professional wine relocation services are qualified to transport wine. These carriers keep wine at the ideal temperature throughout the entire journey and use proper equipment at every step. Some services can even track your inventory, supply boxes, pack your collection for you, and offer long distance trucking across the United States.

Packing Boxes and WinePacking Boxes and Wine

Nothing to Wine About

Now that you know about the many facets of transporting wine, you are well equipped to begin your move! 

Pursue the fascinating world of winemaking! Browse wine making kits, wine equipment, corks, and bottles galore! If you can’t find what you’re looking for, our product sourcing team can help. Just give us a call at 630.629.6600 or email us at sales@thecarycompany.com!

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