How Osama Bin Ladin Damaged The Wine Trade

The most profitable bottle of wine sold by a wine company is a bottle that it sells direct to the consumer.  Mail order and cellar door sales have always been a useful extra for our business (we export 80% of our production) but for some small producers it is the bread and butter of their business.  No one else gets a margin on the sale of the bottle.  I have seen a bottle of our Reserve Pinot Noir on wine lists in Sydney for A$120.  We have only received arond NZ$20 for that bottle.  The rest is margin taken by others.  Likewise we only receive around NZ$20 for the same bottle sold here in New Zealand at a retail outlet.  Our New Zealand agent and the retailer take the other $20.

Our cellar door is on State Highway 6.  There is lots of passing traffic.  As we are the first wine sales and tasting facility you strike when driving from the West Coast to Queenstown we get plenty of foreign tourists calling in.  In years gone by we used to sell good quantities of wine to these tourists – three to six bottle sales were common.  Sometimes they would even buy a case.  This wine was hand carried back to their country of origin. (I too used to buy multiple bottles of wine to hand carry back to New Zealand from various wine districts around the world.  I own a “pilot’s briefcase” which can hold 12 bottles of still or 9 bottles of sparkling.  Many serious wine tourists had similar devices available.)

Since 9/11 and subsequent terrorist incidents it is not possible to hand carry liquids in containers of more than 100ml.  Wine can be carried in cabin but only if purchased at airport duty free shops and in sealed bags from these shops.  So if a visitor to a winery wants to buy bottles of wine to take home they have to put them in checked in baggage.  This is risky even if one packs the bottles well in moulded wine packs.  It also affects the weight of one’schecked in baggage.  People don’t like packing wine in their suitcase, even to the States were weight isn’t an issue.  In consequence the amount of wine sold direct to foreign visitors has plummeted.  We still make plenty of single bottle sales (for consumption while in New Zealand) , but the multiple bottle sales are pretty much a thing of the past.  Wine tourism all over the world has been affected negatively by the hand carry on rules.

I personally think the rules are a bit of an over reaction.  And their strict intepretation is even worse.  I have seen alcohol purchased duty free in one jurisdiction confiscated at transit points in other jurisdictions on the grounds that it wasn’t purchased at that transit point (Frankfurt Airport does this regularly).  And I once had a near empty tube of tooth paste confiscated at Singapore Airport on the grounds that the tube said the contents was 120 ml.  These practices do not need to happen.  One day I hope we can revisit the 100ml regulation. 

Update – While writing this post we have had visitors from the UK and US (Seattle) call in for a tasting who have said that they can’t buy any wine because of this regulation…..


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2 Responses to “How Osama Bin Ladin Damaged The Wine Trade”

  1. adamsmith1922 Says:


    I sympathise.

    Some years ago I did some work which involved working with a security expert. His opinion was that many ‘security’ precautions are in fact ‘feel good’ factors for the citizenry and do nothing to deter well prepared terrorists

  2. PaulL Says:

    Absolutely these security measures are over the top. They won’t stop any terrorism.

    You’ll notice that the incidence of hijackings in the air has dropped almost to zero. The reason isn’t that the security measures are working. The reason is that, in the good old days, the accepted response to a plane hijacking was for all the passengers to wait it out. 95% or more of them survived – they just waited till someone gave the terrorists what they wanted.

    9/11 changed all that. The accepted response to an in-air hijacking is now for all the passengers to rush the hijacker and beat him to a pulp, even if it means a couple of them die in the process. Because the alternative is that you all die anyway – every single passenger. Without a gun, it is now basically impossible to hijack a plane.

    The security measures are largely aimed at three things:
    1. Stopping someone bombing a plane. However, what is the point in bombing a plane when you could more easily bomb, say, the Sydney Harbour bridge? That would be a far more potent attack.

    2. Stopping someone from smuggling explosives and the like, and catching terrorists who are just moving around the place. Trick is, it almost never succeeds at catching anyone.

    3. Making all the concerned citizens feel like their government has things under control. It works well for this – and in a democracy, it is very important for the government to be seen to be “doing something.” It is also economic for the airlines once it is in place – cuts down on carry on baggage and hassle. Thing is, it annoys the crap out of all the people who actually travel.

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