Daily Archives: July 7, 2012

I’m back with a note on U.S. customs duties for wine

In case you got here through a search engine and are wondering how much wine you can bring into the United States from anywhere in the world my answer is this: As much as you can carry. The duty free allowance is one liter, which means one bottle. But, that is only the duty free allowance which means you have to pay no import duty on that amount. The thing is that US import duties on wine are very low, under $5 per gallon, which means less than $1 per bottle. So what you do is: Take as much as you can, declare it on your customs form, tell the agent that you have something to declare, and then they will most likely wave you through (we’ve brought 12 bottles per person many times and never had to pay anything). Good luck and safe travels! If you are wondering how to pack the wine, this is my post on how I do it. (Summary of 09/23/2013)


We’re back in the States. I am kind of embarrassed that I have not written more over the last weeks, but it just felt right to take a break and enjoy our time in Germany. The current heat wave in Ann Arbor (and that our house was without electricity for way over 30 hours upon our return) makes me miss the “German summer” with way less heat even more.

Our trip was really good, as I indicated in my last post in June. We ended up with way more wine than we had meant to acquire, but I guess that always happens to us. The last day in Germany was spent mostly scheming how to get as much wine into our luggage as possible. Turns out that we were able to bring 22 750ml bottles and 2 375ml! That is a new record for us. It makes sense, because German wine usually costs between twice and four times in the US compared to what it costs in Germany. Also, it is quite the hassle actually getting the wines because often they are only available through big wine sellers online and then you have to buy a minimum of 12 bottles plus shipping, which would completely overstep our budget. (If anyone has good alternatives, let me know!)

Scheming and packing…

A friend will bring an additional 13 bottles over the course of the next months, and 6 750ml as well as 4 375ml bottles will be waiting with my mother to make their way here.

A lot of people keep telling me that you can only bring one bottle of wine per person into the United States. That is wrong. Correct is: Your duty-free customs allowance is 1 liter of wine, which usually brings you down to 1 bottle. That is only the duty free amount. Naturally, you can bring home more. You will have to declare it and potentially have to pay customs duty on these wines. What nobody knows, and I have not been able to find the information online anywhere, is that customs duty on wine is dirt cheap. How I know? We were stopped by customs this time around.

I always declare the number of bottles I am bringing (usually 8-9) and notify the customs agent that I have wine to declare. This usually leads to them waving me through without checking. This time around, we declared our wine together (23 full bottles), and that startled them. So we had to go to a booth and talk to a customs officer. After him checking one bottle and being satisfied that it was indeed wine and not liquor, he had to check his lists for quite some time until he found out that the customs duty on wine is a whopping $3.45 (not sure about the .45, might be a bit higher) for a gallon of wine. You read right, a gallon. That is almost 5 bottles…Another customs officer explained that they have discretion on whether to collect customs duty up to $20. And since filling out the paperwork probably costs more than they can raise, they decided to waive the duty.

So, please, on your next overseas trip: Go and stock up on wine that you cannot get or want to pay reasonable prices on. It is really easy!

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