Traveling with wine & peace of mind: The VinGardeValise

If I’m traveling, I pretty much always find myself traveling with wine and doing what I assume most people did which was to wrap bottles in my dirty laundry on the way back. Beyond a touch insulting to the exterior of the wines, it was potentially perilous as while bottles are strong, if they touch each other, they can easily break. Somehow, whenever opening my suitcase at the end of a trip, nothing ever broke. This exhalation ritual gets old though and you know your days are probably numbered when some security check puts the bottles back in poorly.

There are a number (well, a couple) of luggage solutions that have sprung up recently and the one I’ve been trying out these days is the VinGardeValise. In my mind, it’s truly the first wine luggage product to come along that really meets the needs of transporting wine on all counts.

As you can see in the photo above, it is quite simply a hard shell wine suitcase that fits 12 bottles in the custom foam inserts. The bottles sit snugly as there is another foam piece you snap on top so that nothing touches. I recently took it to Rioja on a press trip where my fellow wine journalists commented, “That’s a big suitcase for two days, for a guy.” Of course upon opening it, they wanted to know where to get one.

That trip was by train and it worked perfectly. Naturally the bigger test is by airplane which was also done with a trip to Georgia at the beginning of the month, thus the curious alphabet on the bottles above. Again, it performed fantastically with everything suspended in place. And as it seems the security at Sabiha Gökçen Airport in Istanbul doesn’t know what the hell wine bottles are, they actually opened it and pulled everything apart seemingly in search of some false bottom or who knows. It was quite clear they pawed through it as the bottles weren’t in the same spot as when I left. But, despite them basically slapping it all back together haphazardly, everything came back just fine although I could sense my wines were perturbed in their fondling.

In other reviews of this suitcase, I’ve read that the straps on the outside weren’t attached in earlier models. They are now and they really add an extra layer of security to the case as you can grab it by them and they help to make sure nothing opens up inadvertently. But the best part of it is the ease in which you can heft around 12 bottles of wine through the airport. This ease was emphasized upon returning to Barcelona and having to sprint, dead tired to the train while towing it. I was very, very thankful to have this case at that moment.

Previously, I’ve written about the Lazenne. This is a decent case and is admittedly a good deal cheaper than the VinGardeValise. The problem with the Lazenne is that it doesn’t feel like a finished product, more like a prototype. The hard styrofoam inserts can be bought cheaply from other sources and put in a normal suitcase. In fact, I did that once with the inserts from the Lazenne as it was just too unwieldy to bring it on a trip to Croatia. That’s the other problem in that it really, really sucks to carry. The handle is too short and you’re just banging it around.

Ultimately, if you want the best way to carry 12 bottles with you, the VinGardeValise is it. Just be advised that fully loaded as it was, it clocked in at 20.5kg and “glorious” airlines like Turkish have their cut-off at 20kg instead of the regular 23kg. Thankfully it slipped through this time but that’s the only downside with the extra padding in that it adds a touch extra weight.

Oh and if looking for a single bottle transport method, as mentioned previously, check out the Wine Cradle.

Many thanks to VinGardeValise for providing this demonstration model.