Buying Wine from International Sellers
If you are interested in buying wine from international sellers, there are a few basic things you should know. Buying wine internationally is much different than buying domestic wine. There are a bunch of government rules and regulations about importing and exporting wine, as it is considered to be a food and beverage item. Additionally, some sellers refuse to sell their wines internationally. This is because selling wines internationally is more expensive than selling wines in a domestic setting. International wines are subject to many charges by various governments or shipping agencies, of which none of the proceeds actually go to the winemaker. It is much easier to go to your local restaurant that boasts imported wines, than it is to actually import the wines yourself. Nonetheless, if you enjoy imported wines enough, this task is completely doable.
International wines must go through customs. Shipped items go through customs in a way that is very similar to luggage when you travel internationally. The items are inspected, and if they pass, are allowed to enter the country. You may only import so much wine per year, without having to pay customs charges. The cost of the items you are allowed to import without incurring a fee changes from year to year, but is generally somewhere between five hundred and nine hundred dollars. Customs does have the right to deny your wine entrance to the US, even if you have already paid for shipping.
Tariffs are fees that some countries or areas may leverage against alcohol or international goods. Before you buy any international wines, look into the tariff laws of your local area, as well as the area from which you are buying the wine. Tariff laws can be pricey, but are generally reasonable enough to still support buying the wine.
Shipping is often the most expensive part of buying wine internationally. For example, one Australian company lists international shipping costs at over three hundred dollars for a barrel of one of their wines to be shipped to the US. Granted, while a barrel of wine is a lot, do not expect the shipping prices for bottles to be much different. Most winemakers will not ship internationally unless the buyer intends to purchase a barrel or crate of wine, otherwise it is not worth the extra money and hassle.
Be sure to educate yourself about wine before making purchases, some wines are steeped in tradition and mystique but may not be what you enjoy. Try to sample the wine locally, or at least one of its pedigree, before buying. You may be able to find a local club or a seminar put on by the local university to help expand your horizons.
Another point to keep in mind when buying wine internationally are to use a credit card without a credit card foreign transaction fee, to inform your credit card company that you may be making an international purchase, and to order with a group. By using a credit card without international transaction fees, you will save yourself money. Even though your feet will be firmly on US soil for the duration of your purchase, your card may be charged internationally, which for some cards, would allow you to be charged a fee. Certain airline and travelers’ credit cards, like the 100,00 Miles Capital One Venture card for example, do not charge international transaction fees.
For this same reason, inform your credit card company in advance of your decision to purchase something internationally. A large international purchase with no travel history may be denied by some credit cards, as they may assume identity theft. It would be really embarrassing to go through the entire process of setting up an international wine order, only to have your card denied. Lastly, if you split the order of a crate of wine with a group of family members or friends, it will end up being less expensive for everyone involved.