Thinking of shipping wine bottles? Don’t think too fast! Wine is one of those items that can be tricky to send out, and there’s actually a lot you need to know before you ship.
This article has been updated thanks to valuable information from Wine Business Expert, Deborah M Gray, who has written award-winning books about importing and exporting wine across the world.
It is good to know about the legal regulations, especially if you’re a professional who needs to send wine to customers across state lines. The only way you can discover the best way to ship wine for your company is by knowing all the right details.
In order to import wine samples you must have a COLA (Certificate of Label Approval). This label requires several pieces of information including country of origin, specific type and quantity of alcohol, brand name, purpose of import, the importer's name and address, and other pieces of information stated here.
As regulations in the industry are growing, there are many important pieces of information a wine shipper must understand.
This article is useful for businesses in 2 distinct groups.
Odds are, if you’re interested in the best way to ship wine to someone, you’re either the proprietor of a winery, or you’re a wholesaler/retailer.
The rules (depending on where you live) might not be the same for all 2 sets of businesses.
If you’re trying to import foreign wine, we will also cover all the essential facts you need to know.
By the end of this article, you’ll know where you stand and what action on your part (if any) is necessary or required by law.
The information that you need to know before any other is that each individual state in the U.S., not the federal government, legislates its own rules about wine shipments. That means you need to know what your state permits and forbids.
● 42 states currently allow winery direct-to-consumer shipping
● Only 13 states allow retailers to ship directly to consumers
● It is illegal for unlicensed individuals/businesses to sell or ship any kind of alcohol
You must check with local authorities to find out the rules based on your particular state and type of business
Now that you’re aware of your local wine shipping guidelines, it’s time to clear up another aspect rife with complication: THE PARCEL DELIVERY SERVICES
There are 3 leading major shipping companies you might consider...
The United States Parcel Service
They don’t want to ship your wine. In fact, it's completely illegal to ship any alcohol-containing package with this federal organization.
Don’t try to ship your wine via U.S. Post Office ... it’s just not worth the risky hassle when we have 3 more shipping businesses to look at together.
Federal Express requires wine professional to hold a FedEx account before they’re permitted to ship anything containing alcohol.
They have an alcohol shipping agreement that you’ll have to read and agree to with your signature.
FedEx wants to be sure you have packed the box with plenty of padding to protect the glass, as well as some packaging that is absorbent enough to stop wine from leaking in case of breakage.
You’ll be provided with a special label for the package indicating that it contains alcohol.
The final caveat is that a signature is required upon delivery, and the recipient must show proof of age so the FedEx package carrier can legally make the delivery free of liability.
When shipping and creating the label, the shipper must choose “adult signature” as a signature option.
United Parcel Service is willing to transport your alcoholic goods provided you adhere to several requirements.
Like FedEx, you must have an account with UPS for them to knowingly and willingly ship wine on your behalf.
They allow for the transport of alcohol-containing beverages on a per-contract basis.
The company mandates that you be a licensed and authorized professional in accordance with any and all state & federal laws and regulatory guidelines.
UPS does not agree to ship an alcohol-containing package to-and-from any UPS location. They adhere to a policy of only transporting beverages of an adult nature between selected states, probably based on the local laws of each individual state.
UPS also eschews customer home-delivery. They won’t knowingly agree to deliver a package containing alcohol to a consumer’s home.
The company, like FedEx, gives you a “contains alcohol” label you must affix to the parcel’s exterior.
An adult’s signature is required by UPS also. Recipients should be prepared to show photo identification or delivery will be declined by the United Parcel Service.
How To Properly Package Wine Bottles for Shipping
Wine bottles are fragile, which goes without saying.
You must be sure to use a good box when shipping wine. Make sure it has plenty of room for the wine bottles as well as ample soft packaging materials surrounding the bottle to prevent movement. Your shipping box should be sturdy; strong enough to keep it from splitting open, but avoid a box too heavy for a person to lift with some ease.
How To Import Wine
Becoming your own importer can give you pricing flexibility when dealing with distributors, but the legal fees and costs associated with running a US based import business often offset any potential gains.
Requirements for Importing Wine Bottles
For you to import wine you have to undergo several key steps before you’re legitimate and authorized.
Mostly you’ll be dealing with paperwork. Here is a rundown of the required permits and licenses you have to have in order in order to receive imported wines:
● Employer Identification number (EIN)
● Federal Importer Basic permits.
● Certificate of Label Application.
● Home State Licenses.
● Broker Power of Attorney
● Customs Continuous Bond
Understand your terms of sale in each agreement and transaction. Understanding your various specific individual responsibilities when negotiating terms of sale with suppliers is critical to having success as an importer of foreign goods.
If you want to pursue this, you have to be able to figure out all your duties and taxes exactly.
Wine Shipping Insurance
Wine shipping insurance is something you should purchase to protect yourself from financial loss in the event that anything happens to your fragile bottles. When looking for the best way to ship wine, you must know which carrier is best fit for you, understand and follow regulations within the carrier and state laws, and find the best shipping insurance coverage.
Accidents aren’t just possible; they are probable - especially with fragile items like wine.
Items are damaged all the time during transit for delivery. A shipping insurance policy specially written for wine deliveries can save you from getting hit hard if something ever goes terribly wrong.
This is not only important for delivery mishaps and carriers not taking proper care with your packages - there have been many instances where a truck carrying product is involved in collision.
Now comes an opportunity to make some real decisions:
Do you find the major package handling businesses to be plausible options for shipping your wine?
Third-party insurance companies typically tend to be the best option for insuring any high-value shipment, like wine.
While it is convenient to get your parcel insured at the same time in the same place when creating your labels, 3rd-party parcel insurance plan providers offer better pricing, and since it’s what they specialize in, the policies are more extensive even though they’re less expensive. Moreover, with a company like Cabrella offering automation to shipping carrier software, you can achieve less expensive rates, better coverage, and do so all without any significant changes to your logistics process.
Shipping insurance is not an expense worth foregoing. Compromise elsewhere, because safe arrival is essential to customer satisfaction with such a fragile product.
Looking for a better shipping insurance policy for wine makes a lot of sense for high-priced merchandise that can possibly spoil by heat exposure or if the packaging doesn’t remain intact. UPS & FedEx policies may not protect against the value of the shipment if it goes bad from heat or other spoilage factors.
You will guard against more of the possible ways that things can go wrong by insuring with specialists. If you don’t opt for specialized wine parcel insurance, read your FedEx policy carefully before you plunk down the extra funds. They might not cover bottle breakage since the odds are so high that glass might break on a journey of hundreds or even thousands of miles.
As a rule of thumb, leave shipping to the shipping experts and protection to the insurance professionals. We hope this helps your company in finding the best method to ship wine.