Let's get the wine on the road!
You're headed home for the holidays, and you'd like to take along a bottle or two of fine wine. Does this plan make sense? Will your delicate wines survive the trip? Will you run into trouble at the airport?
As a fairly frequent business traveler, I've often packed wine to share with friends in distant cities. For this week's discussion, let's take a quick look at some of the considerations involved.
AIR TRAVEL: I never put wine in checked baggage. The risks of breakage or pilferage are simply too great. A full case will fit in the standard overhead compartment; three or four bottles go in my carry-on bag with room to spare for my shirts and toiletries. If I can't carry it on, I don't take it.
AIRLINE SECURITY: There is no security issue with sealed, labeled wine bottles. The inspectors may ask to hand-inspect your bag to check that the bottles are clearly labeled and unopened. Airline regulations may forbid opening the bottles in flight - they would rather sell you their mini-bottles (and have control over your consumption) - but there's no rule against taking the wine with you.
AUTO AND GROUND TRAVEL: If you're driving on vacation (or taking the train or bus), similar considerations apply: Pack your wine with care. Wrap each bottle separately in paper bags or even towels, and avoid shaking them up any more than necessary during travel.
TRAVEL SHOCK: Fine wines - older reds in particular - may go into a temporary condition in which they don't show their best during the first few days to weeks after shipment. This shouldn't be a serious concern for wines hand-carried with care, but it might make sense to save your oldest and most fragile wines for an occasion when you can enjoy them at home. (Some friends have shipped older wines in advance of their trip, to give the wine time to "rest" at its destination before serving.)
BE PREPARED: You might tuck a corkscrew into your travel kit. It would be a shame to get ready to open that prized bottle with the holiday dinner only to discover that your host doesn't have the tools to pull the cork!
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Clear ruby in color, this delicious red Rhône wine breathes red-fruit and herbal aromas that lead into a full-bodied, juicy fruit flavor with lots of fragrant black-pepper. Although it's not an inexpensive wine, at this price it's well below the median for Chateauneuf and represents good value. It would make a good holiday gift, although note that it should either be drunk up within the next year or so, while it's still fruity and fresh; or cellared for several years until it matures. Assuming it follows the usual aging pattern for Chateauneuf, it will start "closing down" in coming months, after which it should be held until around 2004, when its complex flavors of maturity will start to show. U.S. importer: Vintner Select, Cincinnati. (Dec. 18, 1999)
FOOD MATCH: The "red wine with beef" formula works here: It's excellent with pot roast.
Meanwhile, if you haven't settled on a suitable sparkling wine for the occasion, I've assembled some tasting notes and other resources into a simple, non-commercial New Year's Guide to bubbly.
YOU HAVEN'T YET BOUGHT CHAMPAGNE FOR Y2K?
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Vol. 1, No. 48, Dec. 20, 1999