May (No. 496)
Watch out for customs
This is a note of warning for wine sector personnel who travel overseas. The rules have changed, to our disadvantage.
I have been travelling in and out of Australia for many years, always bringing in wine samples without any problem with customs. It was OK to show a business card, and state that one works in the wine sector, and there was no problem. For me, this would amount to just a few bottles, often in excess of the duty-free spirit allowance. Typically the wines were gifts from clients or friends, or otherwise interesting new varieties, styles etc.
That happy little arrangement has now all changed. Recently the duty-free allowance has been increased to 2.25 litres of alcohol. Bring in any more than three bottles of wine, and you forgo the concession, and pay duty on the lot!
My first encounter was at Melbourne on 23 February, when I was returning from speaking at the Cold Climate Grape and Wine Symposium in Minnesota. I had some wine bottles, and two bottles of spirits. The wines were interesting new varieties which we do not have in Australia, and ice wine, and one wine showing spoilage by the Asian lady beetle, which I wanted to show to the industry leaders.
Because I was bringing in more than the 2.25 litres, I paid duty on the lot! This was despite my protestations about the nature of the wines, and that they were samples only.
On 14 March I returned again, this time after speaking in Madrid. Again I was carrying four bottles of wine, gifts from Chivite, one of Spainís top wineries, where I had consulted. I thought no way will they penalise me for gifts of wine. But they did, and again despite protestation I had to pay duty on all.
I told the officer in charge that this was an unfair impost on the wine sector. Other industry personnel can bring in samples from their sector without penalty, but we cannot. He told me to write and complain, and I will.
This is a note of warning to others who travel. Donít bring in more than three bottles of wine, or you will pay duty. And donít think that you can get by without declaring. All luggage is X-rayed, so you cannot sneak it in.
Dr Richard Smart