I’m the type of person who, when traveling, likes to bring back some local flavor. And by that, I mean bottles of alcohol, whether they be wines from Italy or whiskeys from Ireland.
In the past, getting my cargo home safely has meant haphazardly rolling the bottles in T-shirts, stuffing them in my checked baggage and hoping for the best. But then I found the VinGardeValise Grande suitcase, luggage designed specifically to make it safe and easy to travel with a bevy of beverages.
I immediately ordered one ahead of a trip to Ireland to test it out.
For those who like to return home with wine or other spirits, this checked suitcase is a must-have. We found it incredibly packable and lightweight (even with six bottles), and it kept our bottles safe during a transatlantic flight.
What we liked about it
The inserts keep everything in place
The Grande suitcase comes with 12 foam inserts that are game-changing for a wine and spirits connoisseur. Shaped like traditional 750-milliliter wine bottles, they hold bottles of any shape. In our testing, three whiskeys, a bottle of wine, a bottle of gin and a bottle of olive oil (all part of a balanced travel diet, of course) fit easily yet snugly despite their varying shapes and sizes. The inserts — as well as a top foam panel that rests flat atop the bottles, which is then secured by straps — are designed to keep your bottles safe and sound, and they did a great job on our trip.
What was most impressive is that not one bottle so much as showed the slightest sign of rattling during our seven-hour transatlantic flight (and the customary throwing around by baggage handlers). That’s quite a departure from my former roll-and-tuck method of packing bottles, which ultimately left all my finds at the bottom of my suitcase bumping up against each other.
The VinGardeValise’s exterior proved durable too, though it’s overall less scratch-resistant than the Away bag my travel companion brought along. After lugging it overseas twice and through two busy airports, it only showed a few scuffs on the corner guards — but no scuffing on the face.
It offers extreme packability
One of my prime worries was that having half the suitcase dedicated to bottles of alcohol, I wouldn’t be able to fit much else. And as a chronic overpacker (four nights away? Of course I need 14 pairs of boxers!), I was sure I’d need another checked bag.
I removed six of the inserts from one half of the bag so I could pack clothes. Using all 12 inserts that come with the Grande bag means you’re using the bag solely for bottles, which to me is a bit extreme. I managed to restrain myself a bit, but even with half the case dedicated to bottles, I was able to fit enough clothes for two weeks of cold, rainy Ireland weather — a Barbour jacket, a wool jacket, six heavy sweaters, five pairs of pants, several shirts and other odds and ends. I did, however, have to stuff my extra pair of shoes in my carry-on luggage.
It is surprisingly easy to handle
When unpacked, the suitcase weighs 14 pounds. Compared to two of the best hard-shell checked bags we’ve tested, the Away Medium and the Samsonite Freeform Medium Spinner, which weigh 9.9 pounds and 8.48 pounds, respectively, I was worried the bag would easily exceed the airline’s weight limit.
But even stuffed with six bottles and two weeks’ worth of clothing, the packed bag only weighed in at 45 pounds (20 kilograms), well below the 50-pound limit on most airlines. So my fears of paying extra fees were alleviated. Comparatively, The Away Large checked bag that my travel companion took, which weighs 11.6 pounds when empty, was packed with a bit more clothing and three pairs of shoes (along with a few more bits and pieces) and weighed in at 50 pounds for our trip. So while the larger Away was roomier and we were able to fit more clothing inside, it ultimately was a bit more of a nuisance to drag along — and more susceptible to overpacking and added overweight baggage fees.
What we didn’t like about it
The handle is too short
This is certainly nitpicking, but one big downside — especially for someone with long legs — is that the telescopic handle was shorter than the handles on our favorite checked luggage. It does not extend as far as the handles used on either the Away Medium Bag or the Samsonite Freeform Medium Spinner, and it was noticeable while we made our way through the airport.
When dragging the bag behind me, I found myself kicking it with my heels more often than I would prefer. So, I resorted to rolling the VinGardeValise off to my side to avoid doing so.
Bottle transportation is a niche use case
Obviously, not everyone is looking to lug home several bottles from their destination. While we liked almost everything about the bag, if you don’t share our hobby, there’s a better bag suited for you out there. We’d recommend either the Away Medium Bag or the Samsonite Freeform Medium Spinner for general travel.
While the VinGardeValise is rugged, relatively lightweight and will hold everything you’d need, you’re paying a needless premium if you’re not using it to carry wine when compared to the $345 Away Medium and $180 Samsonite Freeform.
How it compares
The VinGardeValise is mostly geared toward travelers who are looking to bring wine and other bottles with them. Therefore, it’s hard to make an apples-to-apples comparison to other luggage.
What’s more, if you have another suitcase you love and want to keep, you can buy VinGardeValise inserts separately in order to turn it into a wine-protecting savant. We do have to mention that we believe it’s the overall ruggedness of the VinGardeValise (not just the inserts, but the heavy-duty corner guards and tough exterior shell) that helps provide full protection against bottles shuffling or breaking.
Comparing the VinGardeValise as an everyday suitcase, we did find that it scuffed less than the Away bag on its face, and felt more high-end and dependable than the Samsonite, which feels to be a bit cheaper.
For anyone who likes to bring back bottles from their travel destinations, the VinGardeValise is a no-brainer. It keeps bottles snug and protected throughout the travel experience while also proving to be incredibly packable and lightweight.
Looking for a travel credit card? Find out which cards CNN Underscored chose as our best travel credit cards currently available.