We're always schlepping bottles around, it seems. As we travel, we discover some bottled something or other that we'd like to share with people somewhere else, so we pack it up in our luggage and protect the bottles by wrapping them in our own clothes.
When we travel from California to Europe, we bring stuff like maple syrup and California wine. When we travel from Europe to anywhere else, we pack olive oil, truffle oil and, of course, as much wine as we can pack.
I talked to a winemaker in Italy who had recently traveled to New York City, and I asked her how she traveled with bottles of wine. Surely, as an experienced professional, she had some great method or special suitcase.
Nope. She packs the bottles in her checked bag wrapped in clothing.
I was happy to learn that Alaska Airlines now offers a program called Wine Flies Free for their Mileage Plan members whereby they can check a 12-bottle case of wine for free. (Normally their fee is $25, which is reasonable.) This deal applies on Alaska Airlines, Horizon Air and SkyWest flights between specific airports.
It's a wonderfully gastronomad-friendly policy, and I hope it's a trend.
My advice is to ask the airline you're flying on what the rules are for checking items like cases of wine -- both the airline rules and the customs rules.
Also, I was shocked to learn upon entry to the Oakland Airport that it's perfectly legal to carry cheese into the US from Europe. The TSA has a long list of foods they frown upon, which include anything with meat or any kind of produce. But cheese isn't on the list!
If I had known this, I would have checked in a giant parmesan wheel, at least.