Introducing The Wine Check, a padded suitcase shell you can fill with a standard wine shipper box and check for safe transport to your home destination. The idea and concept is novel, but the delivery is a bit problematic.
Wine Check does not have a solid suitcase handle or frame built in like other rolling luggage. Instead, it has a strap that can be adjusted in length. The thinking behind this is to make the Wine Check more flexible/collapsible. It’s advertised as a bag you can fold up and store away in your suitcase before you fill it. The reality is that The Wine Check is monstrous and cannot be easily folded. Putting it in a large suitcase would most definitely take up a huge chunk of the available space, if not all of it. In our case, we folded it up as best we could and tied the strap around it to treat it like a medium sized carry-on duffle. Both carrying it separately as well as packing it away are less than ideal, and clunky at best.
Once full, The Wine Check can be pulled behind you using the adjustable/detachable strap. This can be simple if you are moving very slowly, but as you speed up, the bag tends to either lean and fall to one side or stand straight up forcing you to drag the bag. It’s a precise balancing act. This is yet another reason having a solid rolling bag handle would be incredibly convenient. Not only would it alleviate the balancing act, but the frame would also steady and support the bag cargo, treating it more like a hand cart/dolly.
The bag is a brilliant eye-popping red, which makes it easy to pick out of a line up or baggage carousel. There is also a giant image on the front that says “The Wine Check” complete with a winged wine bottle logo. In a branding sense this is great, but for a traveler bringing home expensive cargo, it also paints a revealing target on your luggage. Be prepared to invest in a TSA friendly bag lock if you want to use it.
The Wine Check can be purchased with or without the removable wine shipper box. The idea is that you bring it with you completely empty and bring it home full of wine in a wine shipper box. The suitcase is a universal padded shell that will accept all types of boxes. Again this is novel in concept, but in execution, this can be problematic. If you do choose to stow the bag away or bring it as a carry on before you fill it, you’ll have to hunt down a shipper box. Internationally this can be a quite a feat. Our destination was Paris, a city renowned for wine and wine shops. That being said, none of the large, small, or medium sized wine shops carried 12-bottle shippers. The closest we came was a chain store, Nicolas, which carried both 3- and 6-bottle shippers. These were not adequately padded and ran €15-35 a piece and only then after the purchase of wine from their store. Parisian post offices carry the shipper boxes, but they are prepped for shipping with postage partly worked in. They were also expensive at €25-45 a piece. We ended up wasting time searching for the boxes only to be met with substandard results. My advice, bring your own shipper box, at least then you’ll know you have that part taken care of.
Our primary cargo was German beer in 16oz bottles. We found a basic box that fit all the bottles and we individually wrapped them in bubble-wrap as well as foam. This box was taped closed and then we added extra padding between The Wine Check bag and the box for extra protection. The Wine Check has built-in padded walls, but the padding is only so thick so it becomes necessary to fill up any empty space with clothes, foam, or any other soft material you can find.
I could easily recommend The Wine Check for someone using it for short domestic trips. The wine shipper boxes are hard to find in certain situations, but I could see it being somewhat easier if you were, say, taking a trip to Napa vs. taking a trip to Europe. For international trips and any trip where you know you’ll be en route or walking for extended periods of time, I would advise against this wine bag. It would make more sense to buy hard a pelican case or other shaped-foam case built specifically for checking bottles. I’m still searching for the perfect alcohol suitcase that’ll get all of my international beers home in one piece. As soon as I find something, I’ll let you know.