How to pack wine bottles for moving

May 28, 2021|

No Merlot left behind. 

That’s likely many people’s rallying cry as they’re packing up their old home and preparing to move to the new. 

But are those wine bottles really worth moving? And if so, how are you supposed to get such perishable items to their destination safely and without turning them into vinegar?  

First, you need to take an honest appraisal of your wine collections. How big is it? Is it just a few bottles stored in a rack above the refrigerator, or does it consist of dozens of bottles that you keep in a specially constructed wine cellar? 

And how expensive are the bottles of wine? Do most have price tags from Trader Joe’s still affixed, or is your wine collection made up of rarer and more expensive vintages? 

Moving wine is not easy, and depending on how you do it, it can be expensive. Like, thousands of dollars expensive. For that reason, wine enthusiasts with relatively modest collections may want to leave their bottles behind or give them away before they move. (You should find no shortage of raised hands clamoring to take a few bottles off you.) 

This hassle-to-reward ratio is really not in your favor if you’re moving long distance. It simply may not be worth it to go through all the trouble. 

If you do insist on moving your bottles or have a valuable collection you’d rather not leave behind, you can consider moving it. 

Obviously, you’ll have a much easier time if you’re moving locally. 

Wine bottles are fragile. And what’s more, it’s not just the glass bottles themselves that are fragile. What’s inside also doesn’t travel well. 

Certain wines — especially older red wines — need to be kept at a consistent temperature, because heat is not vino’s friend. Long-term exposure to temperatures above 80 degrees can cause the cork to push out of the bottle, ruining your wine. What’s more, just a few hours of Arizona-like temperatures can change a wine’s color, lead to a loss of flavor and cause permanent damage.

Most experts say that 55 degrees is the sweet spot for storage, though anything between 45 and 65 degrees will keep the wine from suffering. (White wines are best kept at the same temperature.)

If you’re moving between May and September — what’s known as “peak moving season” — the heat could very well be a problem, depending on where you live. You can’t just throw the wine into a moving truck, because the temperature inside during warm days can get uncomfortable pretty fast. (And that’s assuming your moving company will even transport wine. Many won’t, because it’s breakable, considered hazardous or because some regulations prohibit transporting alcohol across state lines.)

It’s now also difficult to transport your wine via a retail shipper. UPS doesn’t accept it, unless you’re an “approved wine shipper.” Same goes for FedEx. They’ll only take vino from “licensed dealers, licensed distributors, licensed manufacturers or licensed importers.”

That leaves just two options: transport it yourself or hire a specialty company to do it for you. 

The benefits of simply moving the wine yourself are clear — especially if you’re not going far. You can load the bottles into the car and control the temperature and the environment the whole way, keeping the wine safe from whatever cold or heat might be lurking outside. 

If your collection is too big to fit in your Honda, you could opt to pay a specialty company — basically professional movers who only deal with moving wine. There are many out there, for example Domaine or The Wine Mover, and they’ll take care of your bottles and transport them in temperature-controlled trucks. 

Many of these wine moving services will also pack your bottles for you. But if you’d rather handle that yourself, here are some moving tips when it comes to packing wine. 

Choose your container carefully. That box is going to be all that stands between your beloved Pinot Noir and death, so make sure that your wine is packed securely. 

If you still have the wooden crates that some bottles of wine come in, those are a particularly sturdy option. 

You likely won’t have that choice and will have to purchase something on your own. 

One of the safer options in styrofoam divider inserts that tuck into cardboard boxes. You can buy ones like this that hold 12 bottles securely, which is the maximum you’d want to put in a single box. Each bottle weighs around four pounds, and any more weight would run the risk of busting through the bottom of the box or making it impossible for a mere mortal to lift. 

A less secure, but more affordable and environmentally friendly option, is to go all-cardboard. These corrugated moving boxes come with dividers that provide space for up to 12 bottles of red wine or whatever your drink of choice. 

Once you’ve packed your bottles, give the box a gentle shake. If your bottles are clanging together, you may want to wrap bottles with packing paper, thin bubble wrap or some other cushioning to avoid potential breakage. (It should go without saying that you shouldn’t try to move opened bottles, right?)

Then securely seal the top of the box with packing tape, and your booze should be good to go. 

One final option that’s the cheapest of all is to head to your local liquor store and pick up the wine shipping boxes that their stock arrived in. These cell boxes may not be as safe as the styrofoam, but they’re still relatively sturdy boxes and should protect your collection. 

Wine experts recommend storing bottles on their side so that the cork doesn’t dry out. But unless your wine is going to spend weeks in transit, it should be fine to store the bottles upright while in transit. 

One last tip: Be sure that you remember to label your boxes as fragile. You may also want to write on the boxes exactly what’s inside. Labeling can help you keep track of your bottles and see to it that they’re dealt with properly when you arrive at your new home. 

Now comes the unpacking. Open your boxes and inspect the bottles for damage. Put the new wine in its long-term storage place as soon as you’re able. And then you’ll have to resist the temptation to open a bottle to enjoy in your new digs. You may want to wait. 

The wine may be suffering from bottle shock, a condition that occurs in transit. All the shaking from the truck, car or plane stirs up the sediment, affecting the wine’s taste and supposedly making it more bitter. 

Allow the wine to rest for a few days before drinking, especially with older vintages. Then have a toast to a successful move.

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