Many of our clients, after tasting a few wines from the growers and winemakers we visit, are keen to take some of these treasures back home.
We encourage this as you will often not be able to buy the same wines when you return, and certainly not at the same prices. One winemaker was recently telling me that his wines sell for between four and five times more in the USA, so it makes sense to buy at local prices while you are here.
It also rewards the grower for his time and kindness in allowing you to sample his wines.
There is something special about drinking a wine with friends and recalling the wonderful time you had during the trip you made to France last year. And if you can save money at the same time, so much the better!
If you would like to buy wine during your trip, how do you go about it?
The simplest way is to purchase a case or more of six bottles, or even just a bottle or two, while you are at the vineyard. Most winemakers accept credit cards and within a few minutes the wine is being loaded into the back of the tour car. Wines can cost as little as three or four Euros ($ 4 – 5) but be prepared to pay more for special wines or vintages such as those shown in the photograph. You will find that in the Loire, even the best wines are amazingly affordable.
The next task is to get the wine back home and over the years we have discovered a number of solutions.
- Take it back in the suitcase. The cheapest solution involves using your baggage allowance to slip a few bottles in your suitcase. I have seen a case of six bottles go back this way and individual bottles wrapped in clothing to protect them.
- Bring it back in the hold of the plane. USA customs allow you to import 36 bottles without problem and may or may not charge you local taxes on entry. There will, of course, be airline fees to pay and it is worth using bubble-wrap to protect the bottles from damage during the flight.
- Use ShipItHome vineyards. A few vineyards in the Loire use a system whereby they have already exported their wines to a cellar in the USA. This allows you to buy your wine from the vineyard at French prices and have it delivered direct to your home from the stocks stored in the USA. Sadly, at time of writing, only four vineyards in the Loire use this system, but clients have been delighted to take advantage of it. And if you need further supplies later you can just get onto the ShipItHome web site and order more!
- Call in a specialist shipper. During our tour you are free to buy boxes of wine from any or each of the vineyards we visit. We will take it back home and store it in our cellar, taking care of all the paperwork before calling in a specialist shipper. Your bottles will be repacked into special polystyrene boxes to protect them from damage and from temperature and other shocks which can affect the wine. They are then flown to the States and delivered to your door. In a recent example a client bought wine from two vineyards, 72 bottles in all, and the transport cost was just slightly more than the cost of the wine, effectively doubling the French price, but still half the US price. We make a charge for this service, in addition to the transport cost. Depending on the quantities shipped, charges vary from 15 – 30 Euros per bottle – in most cases this is a lot cheaper than buying the same wines in the USA -if they were available.
Individual state laws. Often there will be state, county or city taxes to pay on your wine and charges range from 0% to 6.75%. In addition, a small number of American states will not allow you to import wine: Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi and Utah. Duty is included in the case of US shipments.
With a range of transport option most visitors from the US are now able to take back some of their favourite Loire Valley wines and save money at the same time. It is a real pleasure to pass on this good news to my American clients.