You know the scene:

You’re outside at a small table, glass of wine in your hand. It’s a flawless day. From your spot on a gorgeous stone patio, the valley spreads out below you, green and lush with rows and rows of grapes ripening on the vines. A little bit of heaven right there. You bring the glass to your lips, take a sip, and you know it instantly: this is exactly the wine you’ve been looking for. You’ve finally found it. The flavors, the color, the aromas, even the texture – it’s perfect. Now: how do you get it home with you? Is one bottle enough, or are you going to go for a whole case? (I always say: go for the case! Carpe Vinum – Seize the wine!)

What about security, customs, and duty fees?

US Customs allow one liter per person to enter duty free. After that, you may have to pay duty, which is literally pennies on the bottle.


If you are bringing in a reasonable amount for your own consumption and you declare it on your customs entry form, the likelihood is you probably won't even be assessed any additional duty. But, always be forthright and declare it. If the customs agent does decide to waste the time filling out all the paperwork, duty is generally 3% of value and the IRS excise tax is generally between 21-31 cents per 750ML bottle of wine, 75 cents for Champagne.


The customs website says a “usual amount” will be allowed and that customs officials can determine if it appears the wine is for commercial purpose. I have known of people bringing back over a case and not having to pay any duty but it also depends on the customs agent and the mood. So my recommendation – for this, but also for all of life – is: smile a lot. It’ll get you farther than you think.


You may also want to make sure you check with your airline on their regulations regarding wine travel, as some airlines are very strict. Your wine will be assessed at your port of entry, where it will be decided if it is subject to duty and Federal excise taxes.


Pro-Tip: I also highly recommend you familiarize yourself with your own state's regulations. These regulations usually apply to residents of a state, but things always change, so double check the regulations of your port of entry rather than watching your cherished bottles get taken away.

Bypass the immigration line!

You've purchased the correct type of luggage, and you have all your wine bottles safely packed in your suitcase. Now comes the dreaded long immigration and security lines upon re-entry to the United States. 


Ugh. If you hate lines as much as I do, I have awesome news for you! Welcome GLOBAL ENTRY, a US Customs and Border Protection program that allows expedited entry to pre-approved, low risk travelers upon arrival in the United States. It involves three fairly painless steps:


  1. Fill out a fairly lengthy application
  2. Pay $100 and if your application passes the initial phase,
  3. Attend an in-person interview screening at a participating airport. If approved, you are granted a Global Entry ID.

At airports, Global Entry participants proceed to special “Global Entry” kiosk with these benefits:


  • Reduced wait times with self-service kiosks or E-Gates using facial comparison technologies
  • No paperwork to be filled out by passengers upon entry
  • Includes TSA PreCheck®

This is where you need to be truthful about just how much wine you have. Now that makes traveling abroad easy! In addition, people who are approved via the Global Entry program can also participate in TSA Pre-Check which allows you to skip regular TSA security lines at participating airports and go through an expedited line. This means you don’t have to remove shoes, belts, jewelry, open laptops, or do any of the other things that take up time in line. You just breeze on through.


In addition, people who are approved via the Global Entry program can also participate in TSA Pre-Check which allows you to skip regular TSA security lines at participating airports and go through an expedited line. This means you don’t have to remove shoes, belts, jewelry, open laptops, or do any of the other things that take up time in line. You just breeze on through. These two programs make traveling through airports so much easier and are well worth the investment.


Pro Tip: If you have the Amex Platinum, Mercedes-Benz Platinum, or Business Platinum (or Centurion) cards, the $100 fee is refunded to you as a statement credit.