VinGardeValise Grande 05 Review: A Safe Way to Haul Hooch


I know I’m not the only one who travels with the intent purpose of buying booze in far-off lands. Whether that’s locally produced wine or duty-free hooch, alcoholic treasures that you can’t get at home make for the perfect souvenir from any trip.

The trouble is hauling it all home. Any traveler who’s smuggled in even a single bottle of Havana Club knows how this goes: On the last day of your trip you wrap up your goodies in dirty clothes, tuck the booze into the middle of your overstuffed suitcase, and hope for the best as you watch an airline terminal agent crudely throw your soft-sided suitcase onto the conveyor belt. I’ve never broken a bottle to date, but my nervousness is always enough to drive me to drink.

Good news, boozehounds. A solution is here: The VinGardeValise, a suitcase designed specifically for traveling with wine (or other types of glass-liquid combinations).

The VinGardeValise is a hard-sided “spinner” style suitcase (18 x 13.5 x 27 inches), with four independent wheels and the typical telescoping handle. The producer says the outer shell is made from a “proprietary compound material,” which feels like some type of nylon. Zip it open—splitting it right down the middle—and you’ll find two identical compartments, each covered by its own zippered flap. Beneath each of those flaps are three big bricks of foam, each one featuring two wine-bottle-shaped cutouts. (With six total foam bricks, total capacity is 12 bottles.)

It should be fairly obvious how this works; just wedge a bottle into each holster, zip it all up, and you’re good to go. A few extra nubs of foam in the case give you extra flexibility to more fully pad the sloped shoulders of Burgundy bottles or other odd-shaped decanters. A variety of straps both inside and outside the case let you be absolutely certain that nothing is going to burst open, and a TSA-approved combination lock is also standard if you’re concerned a baggage handler is going to try to nip into your duty-free Blue Nun.

Not into wine, but still want this kind of protection? Seven different foam inserts are offered as add-ons, designed to let you tote beer bottles, wine glasses, or anything else that’s breakable if you pick up the modular DIY insert. These inserts run $40 to $50 each.

Flying High

I’ll start with the good news; the best news, really. The VinGardeValise works like a champ. I sent 10 bottles of wine from Houston’s IAH to SFO via standard checked airline baggage, and the bottles didn’t budge an inch in transit—or by tossing the case around at home in an attempt to jar things loose. Packed with wine, it’s solid. It feels incredibly secure because it clearly is, and I can tell from the (unfortunate) scuff marks on the silver case that no one along the trip handled the case with any sort of care. (Black, blue, and burgundy color options are also available.) Should the case go missing, a HomingPIN tag with a one year subscription adds another level of confidence.

On its feet, the case is incredibly easy to maneuver, with well-tuned wheels and a handle that nearly stretches up to my waist. But the VGV isn’t as easy to deal with off its wheels—not just because of the weight, but because of the way the handles work. Because the case is symmetrical, a single handle on the side and top won’t work: The case splits open down the middle where the handles would normally be. Instead, the case includes two hinged handles on either side of this split, which bend inward and meet in the middle; you grab both when lugging the case around. But the handles don’t fit together perfectly, and they make for a rather bulky, awkward grip. They also tend to get in the way when trying to unzip the case.

Heavy Pour

Speaking of weight, that’s another problematic part of the VinGardeValise Grande 05. The empty case weighs a mere 13.5 pounds. Twelve bottles of wine weighs 40 pounds. Together, that puts you over the 50 pound limit that most airlines place on checked baggage (which is why I shipped only 10 bottles in my test). The VinGardeValise Petite 03, with an eight-bottle capacity, might be a better bet for most travelers, save the most hardened of boozehounds.

The final problem here should be an obvious one: With 12 bottles of wine in the case, there’s no room for your clothes, which would make for a very interesting week abroad but not a terribly practical one. The solution is equally obvious: Remove half the inserts and use half the case for your personal effects, the other half for booze. I was able to comfortably get a week’s worth of clothes into one side of the case, and enterprising types can squeeze a few extra garments in the space between the two sides of the clamshell, too.

On the other hand, that strategy does mean traveling with a larger suitcase than you might otherwise want to tote—and a $330 one, at that. It takes a special, committed kind of drinker to start a trip with a half-empty suitcase, certain that it will ultimately be filled up in time for the return. But hey, I believe in you.

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