August marks the start of the harvest season in most Northern Hemisphere wine regions, which means wine lovers around the globe are gearing up for a visit to their favorite wine country—or an adventure to a new region that haven’t explored it yet this fall.
As a Californian and avid explorer of wine regions everywhere, I have come to enjoy the unique blend of leisure and adventure that comes with wine tourism. Sprawling vineyards accompanied by cozy tasting rooms and farmhouses create an atmosphere that invites you to slow down and soak it all in. Meanwhile, tasting locally produced wines and learning about the local geography and culture motivates you to explore as much as you can during your trip.
The wine country is not only a place to enjoy wine and unforgettable food, but also for hiking, cycling and wandering through the picturesque vineyards. As a visitor, there are a few essentials you should bring with you to ensure you’re able to get the most out of your visit while you’re there and safely bring a few souvenir bottles home to share with friends. Keep scrolling for the five must-haves anyone traveling to wine country should absolutely bring.
Monkkino Wine Bottle Travel Protective Bag
Growing up in California and coming from a family of wine drinkers, I often find myself packing a bottle or two to take with me after a visit home. It’s rarely enough to fill an entire case of wine, so I usually leave it at home and just pack the bottles directly into my checked bag.
In the dark days before I discovered these inflatable wine bags, I was just wrapping bottles in sweaters and praying to Bacchus that my clothes wouldn’t be covered in wine stains and broken glass when I got home.
Now, I just throw a couple of inflatable wine bags in my suitcase before I leave and stuff the bottles in them for the return trip. It costs less than $10 for a set of eight bags and the hand pump to inflate them. Each bag is the perfect size to accommodate a bottle of wine, although they are slightly tapered to accommodate slightly wider sparkling wine bottles.
Once inside, the puff top folds down to seal the bottle in a shock-resistant cushioned case. You can then put them in your checked baggage and pack them as usual. I’ve also found them to be useful for other valuables you might want to pack (like glassware).
While a full travel wine case offers more protection and is best if you know you’ll be taking six or more bottles with you, these affordable bags are great for smaller loads or to squeeze in a bottle or two extra in your luggage if you’ve filled your case, but continue to discover new “must-have” wines on your tasting tour.
To buy: amazon.com, $9 for set of 8
VinGardeValise travel wine case
This reinforced shell case is filled with high density foam inserts with space for up to 12 bottles. There are also additional inserts that you can swap out to pack wine glasses, spirits, beer or magnum bottles of wine.
Most importantly, the case is designed to be light enough that even if you fully load it with 12 bottles, the entire case will weigh less than 50 pounds. So no need to worry about overweight bag fees! Of course, this is based on standard bottle weights of 3.2 pounds, so if you’re packing magnums or other non-standard bottles, you may want to check the weight before heading to the airport.
As impeccably designed as this travel wine box is, it definitely has a price tag to match. So if you don’t think you need the 12-bottle capacity, you might want to opt for a smaller, more affordable case like this six-bottle bag that’s only $28 on Amazon. It’s not bulky or durable enough to check in on its own, but it’s small enough to fit in your checked bag and provides enough cushioning that your bottles should make it home safely.
To buy: amazon.com, $369
IPOW Wing Caps
As someone who has had a handful of corks confiscated by the TSA over the years, I finally got serious and researched the rules for flying with corks. It turns out that only some corks are prohibited. They just happened to be the cheapest ones I kept buying to replace the confiscated ones: the multi-purpose folding screwdrivers that often come with a little blade that flips out of the handle so you can cut the foil on a wine bottle. This blade is one you can’t bring on a plane.
However, even when traveling with a TSA-compliant corkscrew, I’ve still had the occasional grumpy agent confiscate it anyway, so I recommend leaving your high-end electric corkscrews at home and getting a cheap corkscrew (but no blade) especially for traveling.
My go-to is a winged corkscrew like this IPOW wine opener because it’s easy to use, doesn’t take up too much space in your bag, and is still affordable so your trip won’t be ruined if it’s confiscated or lost . while out on a wine tasting tour.
To buy: amazon.com, $12 (originally $15)
OXO Steel Expandable Wine Stopper
No trip to wine country is complete without an impromptu picnic where you crack open some of the bottles you’ve picked up so far. While you can generally squeeze the cork back into a bottle if you don’t finish it, it won’t create an effective seal.
Silicone holders like these OXO Steel Expandable Wine Clamps not only maintain carbonation and freshness, they also prevent leaks. Once inserted, the silicone expands into the walls of the bottle to create such a precise fit that you can keep the bottle lying flat without leaking. I’ve been on a few bike tours through wine country and can say that transporting open bottles in a bike basket over dirt roads without leak-proof caps is not recommended.
To buy: amazon.com, $12 per set of two
Simple and modern wine bottle set
While wine corks are useful for reds (or when you’re close to the fridge), if you’re getting a wine that needs to be chilled, you’ll need an insulated bottle that can keep it cold while you are. out exploring. For that, I love this set of simple modern bottles and glasses. The double-walled, vacuum-insulated bottle is just the right size to fit an entire 750 milliliter bottle of wine, and the matching cups are also insulated, so your wine will be kept chilled in the bottle and after you pour it. The tables also come with spill-resistant lids, so you can take a boozy hike through the grape-covered hills without leaving a trail of spilled wine behind.
To buy: amazon.com, $45
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