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How to Ship Wine | Wine Shipping Tips

By
Bradley Johnson
Table of Contents

Curious about starting an eCommerce business, particularly with wine? Are you asking yourself, “Can I sell alcohol online?” Yes, you can, and there’s never been a better time than now. Online wine sales are surging, with eCommerce sales channels responsible for 55% of the industry’s overall growth.

Whether you’re using an eCommerce website builder, online marketplace, a physical location, or a combination of the above to sell wine, it’s important to have your shipping process figured out. Keep reading to learn more about how to ship wine.

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How To Package Wine For Shipping

Unlike t-shirts, electronics, and even other kinds of food, wine storage and serving temperature needs to be accounted for. Individual bottles are weighty, fragile, and temperature-sensitive, so they have to be handled properly to prevent bottle shock in wine

Be sure to check out our wine storage guide, too--whether for your own establishment, advising customers, or both. For now, check out these tips on how to package wine for shipping and handling

Measure Your Box

It sounds obvious, but getting the right box size for your wine shipment is a necessity. If you haven’t standardized your business’s box sizes yet, learning how to measure a box for shipping is a great start. 

You may find you need different box sizes, new packaging materials, an updated picking and packing process, or all of the above. Write down the sizes you need for common order quantities and wine bottle sizes. Once your box sizes are standardized, you can move forward. 

Use Firm Inner Partitions

Inner partitions are essential when it comes to shipping more than one bottle of wine. Molded fiber dividers are useful because of their light weight. Firm foam dividers are also great because they fill void space in the box and make boxes easier to stack. 

Research materials and figure out what’s within your budget. There’s no right or wrong approach here, other than ensuring bottles don’t strike each other mid-shipment or fall over in the box. 

Keep Bubble Wrap Optional

When packing wine, bubble wrap should be treated as optional. Here are a few reasons why: 

  • It takes up a lot of space. It’s no surprise that bubble wrap fills a lot of space, especially when it’s already wrapped around another item. If used excessively, bubble wrap can reduce your number of units shipped per box, which decreases your profit per sale. 
  • It’s not the best cushioning material for wine. Objects of a different nature, like pottery or handmade jewelry, benefit more from bubble wrap than wine does. Due to its cylindrical shape, a wine bottle can easily slip out of bubble wrap or simply not stay put. It’s best to have your box sizes down pat and only use firm partitions to keep wine bottles spaced out. 

If you must use bubble wrap for any reason, wrap the bottles and lay them lengthwise in a box. This gives the bottles maximum safety and stability--a crucial part of learning how to package wine for shipping. 

Test Your Box By Tilting It

Once your box can be closed, pick it up and tip it to one side. Do you hear or feel bottles shifting inside the box? If so, your current eCommerce packaging or layout isn’t going to suffice. 

You should be able to tip your box from side to side without unwanted shifting. While delivery drivers don’t handle products carelessly, they still need to be able to rapidly move boxes in and out of trucks. Ensuring your wine shipments can handle a couple bumps in the road equals peace of mind for you and your buyers. 

Running an online or hybrid beverage business means you’ll be sending packages out frequently. Rather than figuring it all out yourself, take advantage of BlueCart eCommerce and the tools we offer.

BlueCart’s shipping capabilities aggregate our customers’ buying power to negotiate the best possible rates from more than 60 shipping companies. Calculate costs, print labels or a packing slip with a thermal printer, create an RMA number to track returns, and more. Book a demo now to see what BlueCart can do for you.

How To Ship A Bottle Of Wine

Selling wine is one thing; successfully shipping it is another. It’s no secret that wine needs to be packaged well to arrive safely, but there’s more to it than a neatly arranged box. 

eCommerce wine sellers need to follow state laws for every location they ship to, meet regulations for shipping companies, and more. Here's what you should be aware of when learning how to ship a bottle of wine. 

Review Your Licensure

As an online wine business, at the bare minimum, you need an eCommerce business license and a shipping license. The former demonstrates that you’re a lawful business. The latter shows that you have the permission to send alcoholic beverages to customers outside of a retail environment. 

Double Check Required Paperwork

Alcohol is a heavily regulated product, and with that comes essential business paperwork. Verify that you have necessary documents completed, like your eCommerce business license, shipping license, dealer’s license, or manufacturer’s license. 

Shipping licenses are particularly important as they dictate which states you can ship into as an alcohol business. You can get a shipping license from the state you plan to do business in by contacting their tax office and filling out the application. A shipping license incurs a fee and, depending on state laws, will require you to renew it every couple years. 

Complete Any Pre-Approval Processes

Major eCommerce shipping companies like FedEx and UPS require wine sellers to be pre-approved before you can ship it. These requirements exist to protect the companies and their customers from legal trouble. It also helps shipping companies track who is shipping spirits, and to whom. 

You can find FedEx’s alcohol shipping application on their Alcohol Requirements page. Click on the “The authorization process for U.S. shipments” tab and follow the steps listed there.

On UPS’ website, navigate to their “Shipping Wine with UPS” page and book an alcohol shipping consultation with a staff member. Pre-approvals with other companies and government institutions follow a similar outline.

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Use Packaging Best Practices

If they aren’t firmly sealed in a box, wine bottles are at risk of breaking the box open, getting cracked, and leaking. While these events aren’t likely, it’s always best to pack wine to prevent each of them. 

You can use polystyrene foam, molded fiber inserts, or any firm, supportive material that doesn’t take up much space. Cardboard alone won’t do the trick because it can easily be bent or torn, and plastic or paper sheeting isn’t sufficient enough as padding between bottles. 

You can also consult eCommerce shipping companies’ websites for their recommendations on how to ship a bottle of wine. As businesses that have shipped billions of packages every year, they know what works and what doesn’t. Using proven shipping materials and strategies will save you significant time and money. 

Offer Your Customers Optional Add-Ons

Shipping goods like alcohol can make even the most trusting of customers a little hesitant. Instead of running any risks, add options like product insurance and overnight shipping to your eCommerce store. 

This gives customers who want more peace of mind the opportunity to add it. It also boosts your reputation as a seller, because it communicates you want products to arrive intact, no matter the order size.

How To Ship Wine Through USPS

USPS doesn’t ship any alcoholic beverages, whether internationally or domestically. USPS’ freedom to ship alcohol may change in the future, though.

US state representatives introduced a bill in May 2021 called the USPS Shipping Equity Act which would allow the government’s postal service to ship alcohol. The representatives say the only reason USPS isn’t doing so now is because of a Prohibition-Era law that still stands.

Until the laws change, eCommerce business owners must use private companies to deliver their drinks. 

How To Ship Wine Bottles FedEx

If you’ve settled on FedEx as your shipping service for alcoholic drinks, they’re a great choice. There are some principles to be aware of when learning how to ship wine bottles FedEx. 

Take a look below: 

  • Complete the pre-approval process. FedEx requires businesses that are shipping alcohol to be approved in their system. You can accomplish this by going to their Alcohol Requirements page and completing the steps listed there.
  • Use pre-molded fiber trays or polystyrene containers. FedEx is fairly picky about what materials work for wine bottle shipping, and for good reason. Polystyrene and fiber trays or inserts are lightweight, yet durable and firm. Find a reliable vendor for this kind of packaging so you have a steady supply. 
  • Avoid packing peanuts, wadded paper, and air pillows. FedEx includes these on their list of materials that don’t work well for shipping heavy, fragile items like wine bottles. Unless there are firm, relatively lightweight packaging materials inside, your bottles are at risk of moving and breaking. 
  • Print your label with a shipping label printer. Thermal label printers are the easiest and fastest way to print hundreds of labels per day. They’re inexpensive and don’t require ink cartridges. 
  • Double seal your box and put the label on top. Making sure your drinks reach customers safely is key, so all of your boxes should be double sealed. Two to three bottles of wine can weigh about 10 pounds; without a secure box, even these can break open. Remember to put your label on top so drivers know which way is up. 

How Much To Ship Bottle Of Wine?

A wine bottle weighing three pounds or less costs anywhere from $8 to $16 to ship in most scenarios. This information is particularly handy if you’re more likely to ship out single bottles of wine at a time. 

The heavier the package and the longer the distance, the more it will cost to ship. You can mitigate such expenses by looking for bulk shipping rates and having dedicated picking and packing shifts.

How To Ship Wine To A Friend

Wine makes a great gift, partly because of how many wine names and wine varietals are available. If you want to learn how to ship wine to a friend, it’s easier than you may think. 

Check out these tips on how to get it done: 

  • Check your state laws and those of your friend (if out of state). Alcohol shipments are carefully regulated, whether you’re sending within the same state or out of state. Review the alcohol shipping laws on your state’s tax or commerce website to ensure you’re adhering to all laws. 
  • Select a shipping company. Since you can’t use USPS, it comes down to FedEx or UPS. Both offer competitive ground shipping rates and are capable of shipping fragile items like wine bottles.
  • If possible, ship in late spring or early fall. Temperatures during these seasons are milder, which helps prevent oxidized wine. Your wine won’t get frozen or burst open, ensuring your friend will be quite happy when it arrives!
  • Package the wine safely and effectively. Using the right packaging materials is essential when shipping wine to a friend. Whether you only need a single molded fiber tray or a box that fits two or more bottles, get what is sufficient for your shipment. Check that the box seals well, there are no old labels on it, and that the flaps are double taped.

Frequently Asked Questions About How to Ship Wine

Successfully shipping wine requires some industry knowledge, putting your customers first, and making the right calls with the packaging itself. If you’re serious about starting or growing your online wine business, it helps to have answers to common questions. Check out our insights for the questions below: 

Can you send wine in the mail?

Yes, you can send wine in the mail. As long as you’re a licensed manufacturer or dealer, and the bottles are packaged well, you’ve met the basic requirements. 

Shipping services require those mailing wine to provide proof of business licensing and shipping licensing. Companies like FedEx and UPS require those shipping alcohol to complete an approval process before sending spirits via parcel.

Can I ship wine via USPS?

Currently, USPS does not ship alcoholic beverages of any kind. This is due largely to a Prohibition-Era law that prevented the manufacture, sale, and delivery of alcohol, including the postal service. 

Until the aforementioned law changes, alcohol shipments can only be made through commercial companies.

Can you ship wine through FedEx?

Yes, you can ship wine through FedEx as long as you’re a pre-approved wine seller. FedEx has an alcohol shipping application commercial entities must complete before sending packages out. Once your application is approved, FedEx applies your account information to your shipments so you can quickly and easily send packages out. 

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If You’re Thinking About Starting A Business, Wine Not?

Getting wine from your warehouse to customers on time is a must for every wine business owner. Customers love a business that meets their shipping expectations, especially for foods and drinks. 

With the right packaging, legal documentation, and focus on quality, you can become an unstoppable eCommerce wine machine. Refer back to this wine shipping guide whenever you need to refresh yourself on the basics.