Last Updated on July 20, 2022 by Jeremy
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When it comes to traveling with wine, we are always aware of the risk of bottles breaking in transit.
While there are many ways to mitigate the risk of breakage when bottles are on the move, one of our recent favorites has been a fairly simple product known as a Wine Skin (sometimes written as WineSkin). These padded bags do a great job to provide an extra layer of protection and are something we never forget to pack when traveling!
So in this one, we thought we'd discuss what Wine Skins are, how they work, when you may want to use them, and some risks associated as well!
How Do Wine Skins Work?
Wine Skins are pretty simple and intuitive products. They are plastic bags, often shaped like wine bottles, lined with bubble wrap, and contain adhesive seals in order to trap wine inside the bag in the event of a break. This all comes together to provide an extra layer of protection on what is typically a pretty expensive investment all for a couple of dollars per bag.
But why are they necessary for traveling with wine outright?
Generally speaking, wine bottles are fragile. This really should go without saying, but we're going to dive into it anyway. You do not need to drop a bottle on the ground from six feet up for it to break; glass can shatter relatively easily with one wrong vibration, jolt, or other kinds of shock- such as two bottles lightly bouncing into each other. As suitcases regularly see all of this when in transit, it shouldn't be that big of a stretch to understand why added protection is not only helpful but a necessity.
But using Wineskins is only half the battle in reducing the intensity of shocks that your bottle sees. No amount of padding will do you any favors if your bottle of wine is bouncing around in your suitcase, Wine Skin or not, so you need to take care in packaging these newly wrapped bottles in your suitcase all the same. Only by doing this combo will you have the highest odds of your bottle surviving, and with that comes great peace of mind when traveling.
So, what are the biggest causes of shock that need to be mitigated? To us, the biggest concerns are two bottles hitting each other or just one bottle hitting the edge of your suitcase outright (and by extension, hitting whatever could be on the outside of the suitcase when the impact occurs- none of these are generally soft).
As such, we package our bottles in such a way to minimize the potential of these two scenarios occurring, namely with the following rules (illustrated in the above photo):
- Our suitcases should be so full of clothes that they're practically bursting. By using soft clothing to occupy otherwise empty space, general bottle movement is minimized significantly.
- We often travel with an extra carry-on suitcase to take any excess clothes that bottles may displace- this happens especially when we jam half a dozen bottles in a single suitcase.
- We layer our clothes strategically so they form a cushion layer around the edges of the suitcase as well as in between the bottles themselves. We try and shoot for about 3″ minimum distance between edges and other bottles as a means to provide even more protection outright.
We've been using these products for several years now, bringing dozens upon dozens of bottles of wine home from Washington state, Portugal, and even rums from the Caribbean, and have yet to have a single bottle break when using this method (although we view it as an inevitability one day). In fact, when one of our Puerto Rican rum bottles had an improperly sealed cap (naturally it was the one bottle we bought without a cork), the first adhesive seal in our Wine Skin ensured no rum escaped the bag at all! A win all around in our opinion.
Overall, this all comes together for a scenario where bottles are robustly protected. Excess clothes ensure bottles don't move around to a great degree outright, and strategic bottle placement away from edges and other bottles, with ample clothes in between, helps reduce impact points as well. From there, if an impact does occur the Wineskin becomes the last layer of defense from breaking, not the first.
So while some may look at the above logic and think they can get by with strategic wine packing on its own, we really have to ask- would you really leave that up to chance? To us, the sub-$3/bag price (at the time of writing) is a small price to pay for that extra level of protection, and when it comes to traveling with wine, we don't leave home without our Wine Skins- ever.
Can You Reuse Wine Skins?
To wind down this review, we need to address one additional question that often comes up with these products, and that is simply: can you reuse Wine Skins?
The official answer is no- we do not recommend reusing Wine Skins if only because the adhesive seal no longer functions properly after the first use. If a bottle breaks, the level of leak protection you have will go down dramatically. Wine does not need a terribly large hole to make a big mess and odds are good you won't get a perfect seal if you attempt to reuse these products.
That being said, we take the risk and do it anyway- for a few times at least (dirt accumulates in the adhesive and the bags can get, shall we say, gross).
There are a few reasons for this. First, and perhaps most importantly, is that we've yet to have a bottle break to force us to re-evaluate our choices. This is obviously not a great answer, but it is the truth. Second, we don't fully trust the adhesive seals as a catch-all even in the first use.
Are the bags designed such that they should keep liquid in the bags outright? Yes, we fully believe that when done perfectly, especially for Wine Skins with a double seal, the bags shouldn't leak in the event of a break (a new Wine Skin did catch all of our rum from that one improperly sealed bottle, after all). Do we think users will get perfect seals 100% of the time in practice? No, not at all. This makes it a user error problem more than anything, and that could be a point of failure in extreme circumstances.
This gets back to the root of the reuse question- we generally accept the risk of wine leaking in our bags because we never trust ourselves to get a perfect seal outright. Every time we travel we are mentally prepared for a mess with new Wine Skins just as much as old ones, and primarily use them for the added protection from the bubble wrap- not from the adhesive sealant.
All we can hope is if a break does occur (or when, rather), that it happens in a new Wine Skin, with a cheaper bottle of wine (preferably a white for staining concerns), and we have some degree of protection from leakage. The rest is up to fate, but so far, we are okay with taking our chances. If you are not, only using new Wine Skins really are the way to go.
Overall, these are pretty great products and we think they are a worthy investment for protecting what are otherwise expensive investments. But be sure to pack your bags properly and be mentally prepared for a break (and leak) all the same and you'll be better off all around!
Looking to pick up some Wine Skins before your next trip? Click here to grab a set or two!
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