A bottle of wine is a classic thank you gift and is suitable for birthdays, graduations or other special occasions. Sending a bottle of wine to someone, however, can be a tricky process, as it is illegal to ship wine across state borders without the correct license. Mail delivery services such as UPS or FedEx only work with licensed shippers, such as retailers, winery owners or wine brokers. The United States Postal Service will not ship alcohol.

To send a bottle of wine as a gift, go through a licensed third party or — depending on the location — choose a personal delivery service. In some cases, if you live across town and simply don’t have time to drop off the bottle, a private messenger or delivery service can hand-deliver your bottle — pre-purchased — to the recipient. However, most people choose to go through a third-party licensed service, such as a wine retailer, to deliver wine.

The wine-delivery service you choose will depend on your location and where you want to send the wine bottle. Because the laws can change from state to state regarding alcohol delivery, working with a third-party retailer — that is legally obliged to know the laws for sending alcohol throughout the United States and internationally — can simplify the process.

Before contacting a retailer, check state laws regarding the shipment of alcohol. Some states do not even allow shipment within the state from an in-state retailer.

Wine retailers that can legally ship wine in-state or across state lines will be familiar with the packaging requirements. However, knowing about the options can help you determine which packing solution is best for you. Some wine retailers will also allow you to specify what type of packaging you’d like for your wine.

Wine needs to be specially packaged for shipment, as the bottle and its contents are fragile.

  • Polystyrene or cardboard molds are used to ship wine bottles. They are designed to allow for minimal movement during shipping.
  • Containers and molds are designed to send one to 12 bottles at a time, and the molds are packed into a corrugated cardboard box.

The following packing materials are not allowed because they do not provide enough stability and cushioning:

  • Plastic foam peanuts
  • Cardboard sheets
  • Wadded paper

In many cases, wine retailers offer the option of gift packaging, as standard shipping materials for wine are not particularly festive. Ask the retailer to include a card or note and to decorate the bottle prior to sending it. For more expensive bottles, single wooden wine boxes can be used to box the wine prior to packaging it for shipping. For something less formal, a cloth wine bag can be used to wrap the bottle prior to packaging it for shipping.