Shipping Wine Into the US
Wine is a restricted substance. It is only allowed to be consumed by those over the age of 21. For this reason, wine is a HIGHLY regulated product. You can't just toss it into a box and ship it anywhere you wish. Here are some things to keep in mind.
It is illegal for a winery in another part of the world to ship a wine directly to you. Wineries must go through distributors to get a wine into your state. The distributor takes care of all the customs fees, special taxes, and security / control issues. Even if your local wine shop wanted to carry a wine, they wouldn't call up the winery directly and ask them to send over a few cases. Instead, the wine shop calls up their local distributor and asks the distributor to set up an arrangement with the winery. That way the distributor handles the legal fees, the shipping fees, and ensures that the wine gets properly in and out of the state.
If you want to have a non-US winery get bottles to you, the first step is to go to your local wine shop and make the request. They will know the steps to go through from there.
Shipping Your Own Wine Home
Let's say you are traveling somewhere outsisde the US - perhaps Canada - and pick up some lovely ice wines. How do you get those home again?
First, you can NOT ship them to yourself. This would bypass all of the safety checks and taxes that your state wants to collect on them. You can hand carry a limited amount of alcohol with you. For example, if you went into Canada and bought wine, you could bring back in one liter of wine with you as a "free" purchase. If you bring more than that, you have to declare it in customs and pay the taxes on it.
Note that these limits and fees vary from country to country, so it is important to look up and understand them for your specific travel plans.
What is Duty?
Duty is the tax a country charges on items that are brought in and sold to its residents. Duty free in essence means you are buying the item in the country with a guarantee that you will NOT use it in that country. Therefore, duty free shops are usually in airports where people are leaving the country, and the items you buy are "locked up" so that you can't use them until you are out of that country. The benefit is that you are not being charged a "usage fee" that the country normally levies on that product for all of its residents.
Many countries charge VERY high duties (or taxes) on luxury items like perfume and wine. They figure if their residents can afford the luxury items they can also afford to fill the government's coffers with free cash. When you buy a bottle of wine at your home town shop you might be amazed how much of that price is really going directly into the government's pockets. So in any case, when you're traveling internationally, you can find that same bottle of wine "tax free" which means it's much cheaper.
Note that this does NOT bypass the custom limits, though!! You still have to declare these purchases in customs - and if you go over your allowance of what you're allowed to bring into the US, you'll have to pay taxes on the overage. So there's never any real way to escape paying taxes :)
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All content on the WineIntro website is personally written by author and wine enthusiast Lisa Shea. WineIntro explores the delicious variety and beautiful history which makes up our world of wine! Lisa loves supporting local wineries and encouraging people to drink whatever they like. We all have different taste buds, and that makes our world wonderful. Always drink responsibly.