Opening a bottle of fine wine or spirits sourced on holiday evokes memories of your travels that can transcend enjoyment of the wine itself.
As such, I scarcely return home from overseas travel without a few bottles of some unique and special drops.
Most often that's Pinot Noir – I've recently brought back some fine examples from Martinborough, in New Zealand's north island, and the Willamette Valley in Oregon, USA – although on a recent trip to New York I couldn't resist a bottle of the exceptional Willett Family Estate Straight Rye Whiskey from Kentucky.
The challenge, then, is bringing this precious cargo home.
I learnt very early that a bottle stashed in a suitcase will not always withstand the rigours of baggage handling, and a red wine breakage has deep ramifications for your luggage and personal effects.
These days I always travel with a few special carrier bags to ensure the wines' safe passage home to Australia.
These are essentially tough plastic pockets lined with protective matrial that can be sealed once the bottle is inserted.
I've never experienced a breakage when travelling with wine this way. But in the unlikely event one was to occur, the seal should ensure that the liquid stays within the pocket, avoiding spoilage of the contents of your suitcase.
Two such products worth looking at are the WineSkin (from www.wineskin.com.au) and the Wine Travel Bag (www.winetravelbag.com).
At around $5 each, the bubble-wrapped WineSkin has a dual-strip sealing system which the creators boast to be leak-proof.
However, the adhesive seal makes each WineSkin a single-use solution. It's possible to re-use them but you do so at your own risk (and that of the clothes packed in you luggage). WineSkin has released a re-usable version at around $8 each, although it's currently not available in Australia.
By comparison, the imaginatively-named Wine Travel Bag ($19.95 for two) has zip lock seals so they can be used again and again.
If you want something even more robust and sophisticated that will really show how serious you are about wine, consider investing in a VinGardValise suitcase (www.flywithwine.com). It comes in either Petite ($US249) or Grande ($US299) versions, accommodating up to eight or 12 bottles respectively.
The foam cavities are designed to hold 750ml bottles of any shape.
Mix and match inserts allow the traveller to customise the case so that it can accommodate, for example, six bottles of wine together with clothes and other items.
You even have the option of a special insert to carry two wine glasses should you decide to lighten the load during your trip.
Be mindful that while a VinGardValise can carry at least eight bottles, Australian Customs allows only the equivalent of three bottles (2.25 litres) to be brought into the country duty free.
Take heed of this limit, as it can certainly be enforced – although my experience indicates a fair bit of leeway where wine is concerned.
That's on two provisos; that the wine is not worth an inordinate sum of money, and that you do the right thing and declare it. Limits are much more strictly enforced with higher-strength spirits.