Many Americans start a wine collection while stationed in Europe. With some advanced 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 options and procedures and how to get reimbursed for the transportation costs,” said Tim Sellman, director of the U.S. European Command’s Customs and Border Clearance Agency.
He added each military service allows for the importation of alcoholic beverage shipments. However, their methods vary, and you will have to pay any customs duty.
Actual taxes vary from state to state as Customs and Border Protection generally determines the admissibility of wine according to the regulations of the state where the shipment first enters the U.S.
Depending on the shipment options offered by your branch of service, military transportation officials may recommend you not pack wine in personal property shipments.
Transportation offices also maintain lists of wine merchants and moving companies that ship wine at personal cost.
While the only federal regulation governing the importation of alcohol for personal use requires the importer to be 21 or older, a federal permit is needed to import alcohol for commercial or resale purposes.
If your wine collection is really large, a CBP officer might suspect that you are importing it for resale and require you to get a permit from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.
If you think this could be a concern, call the port where your goods will enter the U.S., and ask what proof they will need that the shipment is for your own personal consumption.
Many states, but not all, will allow you to enter with up to one case of wine without requiring you to get a license from that state’s Alcohol Beverage Control Board.
Some states make a distinction between personal and commercial importations and will grant a license for one-time importations, while others will not.
As a general rule, the carrier handling your shipment will make arrangements for a Customs Broker to handle all the paperwork, and if your collection is large enough that you do need a license to import it, the broker will need a copy of it, preferably before your wine arrives at the port of entry.
State Wine Laws: www.wineinstitute.org.
Personal Imports of Alcoholic Beverages: www.ttb.gov/importers/personal_importation.shtml.
Alcohol Beverage Control Boards: www.ttb.gov/wine/state-ABC.shtml.