Properly Relocating Your Wine Collection: Inventory, Appraise, and Transport Your Wines in Safety

Relocating Your Wine Collection

Unlabeled boxes packed with other household items are dangerous for wine. Ship your wine separately in a temperature-controlled van instead. Photo Credit: Flickr CC user Nicolas Huk

The first time I moved my wine collection, I thought it would be a simple process. After all, I was only moving my collection from my apartment to my new home 20 minutes away in another state. What I didn’t realize until a week before my scheduled move was that, because I was moving to a new state, I had to spend hours researching my new state’s alcohol import laws so that I could legally carry all of my wines with me. Import laws are just one of many factors you need to consider when relocating your wine collection, especially if you’re moving to another state or country. U.S. Customs and Border Protection suggests that anyone planning on shipping more than a case of wine into the United States from another country needs to keep the wine shipment separate from the rest of their household goods. You don’t want all of your items to get held up at customs if your wines are delayed by officials. Unless you have a very small wine collection, you need to plan ahead for your wine shipments long before your move-in date, taking all of these legal and safety factors into account.

Consider Third Party Storage

Before you get too far into the weeds of relocating your wine collection, take a look at qualified professional wine storage first, like the service offered at Vinfolio. A pending move is the perfect excuse to get your wines into a professional storage warehouse, saving you time and money on future moves. Rather than carting your bottles from one home to the next, a third-party storage facility keeps all of your bottles in one spot outside of your home. Should you move again, you never have to worry about taking your wine collection along for the ride. Professional storage is less risky than keeping your wine in a home wine cellar because the temperature, humidity and storage rack details are handled by the experts. If you move once every 10 years or more, professional storage is probably the best option for your collection, since you’re putting unnecessary stress on your wine bottles every time you take them with you. A full-service storage company can ship your bottles to any location, including your new home, on-demand.

Appraise Your Wines

It’s a lot more work to ship your bottles every time you move, but it’s possible to do this safely when you take inventory of your collection first. To start, hire a wine cellar expert, like those offered by Vinfolio, to inventory the wines in your collection. These experts visit your wine cellar in-person, uploading each of your wines into the VinCellar app. This is an important step before you hire a wine appraiser, as it gives you the chance to get rid of bottles that you no longer need. Vinfolio’s experts can pinpoint which wines in your collection are worth keeping, and which should be drunk or sold, saving you money on shipping wines that aren’t worth it.

After organizing your cellar, ask Vinfolio’s experts, wine merchants, or your insurance company for recommendations on quality wine appraisers; you’re more likely to find someone trustworthy when you stay within the network of wine experts that you already know and trust. Your new wine appraiser will look over the wines that are left over from your organization purge, providing you with an accurate value for your collection. Sometimes, appraisers estimate the value of the whole collection, while other times they’ll assign values to individual bottles. Rare wines like DRC or Screaming Eagle need their own individual values. If your appraiser isn’t assigning an individual value to your rarest wines, ask why not, and make sure you get a value for these wines. Also make sure that your appraiser’s value matches the value estimated by the moving company you plan on using.  

Next, give these values to your insurance company to get a moving policy started on your collection. This covers any damages that might occur during the move. Make sure you get everything in writing, and get coverage for as much damage as possible. Now all you have to do is take photos of every bottle in your collection. Having photographs of the pre-move condition of your collection protects you from denied insurance policy claims down the road.

Build Your New Wine Cellar

It’s easy to forget the basics when you have to deal with everything from insurance companies to packing your wine glasses safely. That’s why having a moving binder for your wine collection is an essential tool. Put all of your appraisal documents, bottle photographs, moving contracts, insurance documents and cellar contractor information in your binder to keep everything in one place. Include a calendar in your binder that details the exact date your cellar contractor anticipates finishing your new home wine cellar before you pack a single bottle of wine in a box. Wine bottles are sensitive to changes in the weather, so any delay on your wine cellar construction could spell disaster for your collection. If you’re moving to a home that already has a cellar, make sure the cellar is ready and at the proper temperature before moving in your bottles.

For instance, if you’re moving from Los Angeles to San Francisco in the middle of summer, your wines are going to be in a van for 380 miles, or about six hours. After a trip like this, you’ll want to immediately put your bottles inside of a cool, temperature-controlled cellar. At this point, you can’t afford to move into a house with a half-finished cellar. Some collectors will move into their new homes first to check that the wine cellar works, then ship their wines separately, at the last possible moment, to keep them safe. Alternatively, you can temporarily ship your wines to a storage warehouse until your home cellar is ready, then have the bottles shipped again to your new home after the cellar is complete.

Secure Your Bottles

Traveling with wine can be dangerous, so it’s important to take precautions when relocating your wine collection. Temperature-controlled vans will be more expensive, on average, than regular cars or trucks, but they are well worth the extra cost to keep your bottles safe. You’re far more likely to end up with cooked wines if you go with the cheapest option, which means you’ll pay more in the long-run for spoiled wine.

Once you have your moving budget in mind, you’ll want to plan for a spring or fall move-in date, while the weather is mild. High or low temperature extremes lead to spoiled, stressed wines. Be suspicious of any moving company that claims they can safely ship your bottles on the hottest summer days or the coldest winter nights, because a temperature-controlled van can only protect bottles from the elements for so long, especially on extensive trips.

As for packing your wine, keep your wine separate from your other items, that way your movers know exactly how to handle your precious cargo. Label these boxes as “fragile,” and specify which side of the box needs to remain upright throughout the trip. After your bottles have arrived safely, treat them with special care; don’t open any of the bottles for at least a few weeks, because many of the bottles need to recover from “bottle shock” (where the wine temporarily loses flavor during a move). Contact your insurance company immediately should you find any damage on your bottles, no matter how small. Even if you don’t think they’ll reimburse you, it’s always worth asking.

Whether you are starting your high-end wine collection or adding to an established portfolio, Vinfolio is your partner in buying, selling, and professional storage. Contact us today to get access to the world’s best wine.

At Vinfolio, we help our clients buy, sell, store, and manage their most
treasured bottles of wine. But in our spare time, we’re just a group of
passionate and slightly obsessed oenophiles–we love sharing a great
glass of vintage Champagne, followed by a Burgundy, and then a
Bordeaux, to get things started. We’re always obsessing over the latest (and oldest) vintages, and we want to share that knowledge and passion with our readers.