The thing about going from amateur wine enthusiasts to professional cider tasters is the inevitable challenge of toting home all of the goodies collected on cider tasting tours, cidery and winery visits. Initially, as casual cider and wine tourists, it was enough to always have packed in our luggage, a few wine sleeves for travel to take home one or two bottles each, but once we started going to cider industry events and traveling specifically to try new ciders and visit cideries, it quickly became clear we needed to up our luggage game.
For a few early cider trips, we borrowed an aging wine suitcase from an alcohol industry rep friend which had made the rounds amongst several wine enthusiasts in our circle, so that bag was well traveled to say the least. It was a soft exterior sleeve with a soft strap (little steering control) and wheels on the bottom that basically encased a sturdy cardboard box with a liner that had 12 bottle slots, but was made of the buy-a-beach-cooler-at-the-gas-station type of styrofoam.
The styrofoam “lid” you would put over the top of the bottles often was crushed into the tops by those loving airport luggage handlers and resulted in what looked like a mini-bean bag explosion inside. Duct tape could only solve so much at that point. We ultimately purchased a replacement styrofoam insert to make up for the damage our trips had incurred on this borrowed luggage, but by then it was clear we needed to invest in our own cider and wine suitcase.
Cider & Wine Luggage Options
Good luggage in the first place is not cheap, and when you upgrade to specialty cases for items like cider and wine, it might feel like an extravagant expenditure. But, when you consider the amount of $$$ you’re sinking into buying wine at a vineyard, or taking that grand cider tour of France, Spain and England, it’s an investment that will pay off in spades. A good quality wine suitcase will last you for many years of traveling.
While you can still find less expensive options, like the aforementioned soft wine suitcases ($99-$130), sturdier cider and wine luggage is going run $250-$500 depending on the size case you are looking for, and how many bottles you’d like it to hold.
Several brands have come out with stylish wine luggage in recent years, with VinGardeValise® Wine Luggage leading the pack for its interior foam insert designs and sleek exterior. It looks like a normal set of luggage any business or leisure traveler would use, so it certainly would blend in on any cider or winery tour vacation. Some models are also marketed to remove the foam inserts so you can split half the luggage for wine and half for your clothing and shoes, if you’re a light packer.
Our Pick: CasePro® 12 Bottle Wine Carrier
After much research and consideration, we ended up going the ‘wine professional’ route and purchasing this CasePro® 12 bottle wine luggage ($350 on Amazon) for cider trips, and fully loaded with 750ml bottles, the case weighs (in just under 70 pounds) between 50-60 pounds. Empty, the 12 bottle case weighs roughly 25 pounds. CasePro also makes a 6 bottle and 8 bottle version, which of course will save on weight for travelers concerned about overweight luggage fees, each of those (should easily clock in under 50 pounds) will clock in under 30 pounds when full of cider and/or wine. However, those smaller versions are not necessarily any less expensive based on our most recent price checks.
For the true cider and wine warriors out there, two more extreme options in the CasePro wine luggage line packs up to twenty bottles or tops out with their 24 bottle wine carriers. Certainly these larger options make sense for industry representatives, especially those traveling by car. Of course, these large wine carriers are significantly more expensive, plus overweight charges would rack up fast when flying. (Note: CasePro inexplicably claims the 24-bottle also weighs 60 pounds when full on its website, so someone’s math is way off.)
Now that our CasePro luggage has been through 6 flights, we wanted to report back our early impressions and traveling with the case for cider trips thus far. The first couple trips with it were smooth sailing, though like buying a new car, those first few scratches sting a little. A couple of surface gouges have appeared but aren’t even close to affecting the integrity of the shell.
* Criticisms: This wouldn’t be much of a review if we didn’t note a few things that we found frustrating. First off, the bottom of each bottle slot is hard plastic. With the amount of foam present around all other sides of the bottle, this feels like the most vulnerable point for each slot. Our case came with 23 neck caps (again, an oversight?) so our simple solution is to place one of the neck caps at the bottom of each slot. Speaking of the neck caps, they initially felt very flimsy. Through our travels I have found that they do a great job of holding bottles in place. Numerous times I have packed cans in the slots, and the extra caps have been a nice insert between cans to help keep the cans from backing against each other…just be prepared for your cans to be covered in little bits of black foam (hopefully that diminishes with time and use).
The biggest downside of this case is the lack of an integrated TSA lock. So that’s left only a few places / options to hang a TSA approved lock where it is less likely to get snagged in transit. On the last trip, TSA inspected the contents of the case, but failed to lock the case back up after. So we’re out a cheap lock and are looking at alternative TSA locks, which may hopefully work to ensure the case gets re-locked should inspection happen in the future. We’ll either try these TSA approved Locking latches or these Forge TSA locks are another option. First, these locks have a visual indicator letting you know immediately if the TSA opened the lock. Second, the TSA cannot remove their key from these locks until it has been re-locked…reducing the likelihood of your lock not being reinstalled.We’ve also lost dangling luggage tags, and are looking into add-on nameplate accessories that can be flush mounted / adhered to the surface.
Unfortunately, during the TSA inspection, they failed to repack the bottle neck caps properly to secure the bottles, and just chucked the foam discs back in the case carelessly. Would you expect any less effort from a TSA agent, though? Still, we feel better about the bottles being slid back into the upright cylinders compared to relying on a TSA agent to thoughtfully pack the bottles back into a suitcase like the VinGardeValise, where the bottles are more exposed.
The most frustrating issue however, was when the agents completely (forcefully) removed the entire foam unit to look under it unnecessarily. We have since hot glued the sleeve unit back down but fully expect it’ll get yanked out again. We are considering adding a laminated insert to request TSA take care with the foam, and repack the caps properly. (Longshot, we know, but worth a try!)
Those minor complaints aside, we’re incredibly pleased with the CasePro Wine Carrier overall. It is generally easy to wheel and steer with the retractable handle, plus loading in and out of cars is pretty simple with three swing down handles around the edges. However, given its sheer size and lack of 4-way spinner wheels, this is not necessarily the most ideal case to lug about train stations and subways, so if taking that dream European cider and wine tour, consider your limitations on space in vehicles, buses and vans your group may be using.
CasePro® 12 Wine Luggage Specs:
- Exterior dimensions: L 25.63″ x W 19.5″ x H 15.63″
- Interior: 23 x 17 x 14
- Weight: 25 lbs (empty) – 70 lbs (full)
- Heavy duty construction, including strong collapsible handle.
- High quality foam inserts; Any bottle shape will fit with the neck caps, including flip-top bottles.
- Interior document and accessory pockets.
- Water and airtight seals.
- Lack of integrated TSA-approved lock; unlike the VinGardeValise® Wine Luggage line.
- Does not have 4 way directional wheels like some wine luggage.
- Larger, bulkier profile than standard travel suitcases.
Traveling with Alcohol in Checked Luggage
Since long gone are the days of carry-on liquids more than 3oz, I have to laugh out loud a little when some of these wine suitcases are marketed as “Carry-On”, clearly that is more of a reference to the overall size of the luggage piece. So needless to say, any amount of alcohol greater than 3.4 ounces must be packed into checked luggage (excluding duty-free purchases of course, but we’ve yet to see any cider on display in any international shop).
FAA and USA / TSA regulations “allow up to five liters of alcohol with alcohol content between 24% and 70% per person as checked luggage if it’s packaged in a sealable bottle or flask”, so generally speaking, pretty much all wines and ciders (including fortified varieties) are below 24% alcohol content and are not subject to hazardous materials regulations. On international flights, you must of course declare your imports for personal consumption when going through customs. Domestically, be aware that some U.S. states have restrictions on alcohol crossing over state lines. Check your local laws and regulations.
As mentioned above, weight of wine luggage when fully packed may result in overweight or additional baggage fees. Frequent flier programs and luggage perks come in handy here, so check with your favorite airline to see what rules may apply. For example, Delta Silver Medallion fliers get one free checked bag up to 70LBS and Gold Medallion fliers get 2 bags up to 70LBS each. On international flights with other carriers, you can often check more than one bag between 50 and 70 pounds, regardless of status.