Get those wine collections stateside

by Robert Szostek
USEUCOM Customs Public Affairs

Heidelberg, Germany ― Many Americans start a wine collection while stationed in Europe. With some advance planning, wine connoisseurs can still enjoy their favorite European vintages when they move to their new stateside homes.
“First contact your transportation office for shipping procedures and how, if possible, to get reimbursed for the transportation costs,” said Bill Johnson, director of the U.S. European Command’s Customs and Border Clearance Agency. He added that you will have to pay any customs duty or tax due on the wine.  Actual taxes vary from state to state.

Military transportation officials may recommend you not pack wine in personal property shipments for fear of damage if bottles break.

Transportation offices also maintain lists of wine merchants and moving companies that ship wine.

“The company will tell you about state restrictions on alcohol and how to pay any tax that needs paying,” Johnson said. He also said you should ship the collection to an airport with a U.S. Customs and Border Protection office.

After the packers pack the collection, they will provide a shipping document and a copy of the bill of sale/receipt for the tax and shipping costs. Find out the shipment’s airline, flight number, date of arrival and, most important of all, the shipping document number before flying.

“When you arrive stateside, go to the airport’s cargo section with the shipping documents,” Johnson said. “They will give you additional paperwork to take to the CBP office.”

He recommends people personally clear their wine collection at the port of entry because using a customs house broker is expensive. Customs will work out the duty and IRS tax and stamp the customs clearance.

Customs officials report that the duty on still wine is currently 8.4 cents per liter, but goes up to 19.8 cents for sparkling wine.  Duty can be as little as 3.5 cents for vermouth. IRS tax depends on the alcoholic strength of the beverage concerned and works out to around 6 cents per liter for wine. However, these rates of tax and duty are subject to change.

“Take your customs clearance back to the cargo section where the collection is released to you,” Johnson said.

As for other shipping options, Johnson pointed out that the U.S. Postal Service does not allow mailing wine and express shipping companies are usually unwilling to ship wine. Some airlines, however, will allow small collections to be checked as excess baggage for a fee.

Call a military customs office to find out more about shipping liquor products to the U.S. or consult the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms website at