Mexico is a destination where our family goes to unwind. Over the years (16 to be exact), we have traveled to the Four Seasons Punta Mita Residence Club. It all started at a time when I was on the corporate side and needed to take travel insurance on every vacation because I was almost certain of a work interruption. Over time, that situation has improved (and the WiFi in Punta Mita is conducive to working if you need to). We always have taken wine to Mexico.
But how do you bring wine to Mexico and how many bottles can you bring is a question I get often. I’ve become a pro at navigating how many bottles to bring, how to safely ship them and how to navigate customs successfully. Here are a few tips for packing, shipping, and transporting wine to Mexico if you want to go beyond the margaritas or tropical offerings (which are delightful in their own right).
What can I bring?
In the United States, there are limits of alcohol that can be checked with baggage duty free (you can always bring more but are restricted with taxes and the duty for your items). For Mexico’s customs, the current limits for adults aged 18+ are three liters of liquor or beer and six liters of wine for every 30 days. Lots of info from AICM here.
How do they check?
To pass customs in Mexico, you press a button which will show a green or red light to indicate a random search. If you get a red light, your baggage will be checked, so you usually want to be transparent. And remember you must be over 18.
Do I just put in my luggage, or do I need a special shipper?
You can wrap it in your luggage in shipping materials or roll it up in your clothes. However, there is always a risk of the bottles breaking and it is hard to wrap a full allocation of wine in most suitcases – at least the amount of bottles we bring. We also re-used shipper boxes in the past. I’ve learned over the years to use my VinGarde Valise, a 12-bottle hard sided suitcase that secures your bottles and is so easy to roll through the airport. It’s not cheap, but in the years of doing this, I’ve only broken one bottle and that was user error in how I packed it.
Can I consolidate my wine if I’m going with a group of people?
I wouldn’t recommend it. We did that for one girl’s trip and one of our crew was escorted to the back and asked questions for an hour.
Do I need to take wine to Mexico?
Wine has been made in this regional for hundreds of years and the quality of Mexico wines from the Valle de Guadalupe/Baja California, Mexico, which is located less than two hours away from San Diego is good.
In 1683, the first grapes were planted in Baja California, now the country’s predominant wine region. Missionary Junípero Serra, called the “father of California wine,” brought the first vines to San Diego from Baja California in 1769.
The red wines produced here include Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Zinfandel, Nebbiolo, Syrah, Tempranillo, Malbec, Carignan, and Grenache. A few years ago I was led through a rainy day tasting with Armando who led me through some great wines. I’m dying to research the region further.
However, sometimes you just crave a French rosé, a bottle of champagne or a certain style white. That’s when your own stash makes a difference. Navigating the rules is important to make sure your wines get there safely, are within the guidelines and you have confidence in navigating the system.