Sassi Italy Tours Wine Check Review

December 15, 2016

Silveroaks Wine Check

Recently wine-lovers and seasoned travellers at Sassi Italy Tours took our 15-bottle Wine Check airplane carrier, fully loaded with great Italian wine of course, for a flight across the Atlantic. Wine bottles from Piemonte, Friuli, and the Veneto, Italy made it to the United States in pristine condition. Check out the video review below:

Video transcription of the Lazenne Wine Check review

One of the challenges we face in Italy, and that many of our clients face, is how do you safely transport home all the amazing wines you've enjoyed in Italy? FedEx and UPS really aren't legally options unless you're an importer or you know a wine importer that you can pay to ship the bottles home for you, and they're darn expensive. Getting 15 bottles home will probably run you over $200 with UPS or FedEx. Additionally, when you ship wines with UPS or FedEx you really don't have control over the temperature extremes a lot of cargo gets exposed to, and that heat is enemy number one when it comes to keeping those lovely perfumes you find in Italian wines you taste at the source from evaporating out of the bottle or being compromised.

If you're drinking a bottle of two-buck Chuck to wash down some pizza, you probably don't care, but when you drop $50 or $75 or more on a bottle of exquisite cellar kept Barbaresco or Barolo or Brunello, you really do want to make sure the bottle is kept safe and sound and away from the hold of a ship or the back of a delivery van where those lovely aromas are going to get heat soaked right out of the wine. There's really honestly only so much wine you can cram into your suitcase. How do you safely get 10 or 15 bottles of your favorite Nebbiolo or Dolcetto or Barbera back from the other side of the Atlantic?  

Checking it with the Lazenne Wine Check is a great option. You're going to pay for the Wine Check, sure, and you're going to pay that $100 that United or Lufthansa or whomever wants to charge you for that second checked bag in the cargo hold or the plane, but it's a heck of a lot less than what it's going to cost to ship with FedEx, and you can be a lot more sure about the temperature at which the wine travels.

The way it works is pretty straightforward. The wine is stored inside styrofoam containers that hold the wine snugly. If you're going to be shipping a lot of Prosecco or Franciacorta or Champagne, you're going to want to get the larger size containers from Lazenne that are designed for holding the larger bottles. The styrofoam containers are in turn held together securely by cardboard boxes that are perfectly sized to secure the foam containers, and then those boxes are in turn loaded into a canvas roller bag that has handles and wheels to help you move it about.

Here you can see the assembled Wine Check. You can see the straps used to pick it up and carry it around. You can see it's a pretty sturdily designed carrying case for the boxes of wine that are inside. The straps and carrying handles are cinched down to the Wine Check pretty securely and that's important, because when you're carrying 50 pounds of wine through an airport the last thing you want is for this thing to fall apart on you.

The zippers are easy to operate and fairly sturdy, and I like that. Notice that the wheels roll pretty smoothly. You can see this one took a little battle dent thanks to our friends at Lufthansa, yet it managed to hold together all the way back to the United States, so that was pretty encouraging. For situations where you can't roll it, it comes with a carry strap that you can throw over your shoulder. It works well, but after about 10 minutes your shoulder does start to hurt, so I'd suggest to Lazenne that they make that foam padding a little bit thicker.

Now we come to the moment of truth. This is what really matters. Did the wine make it home safely? My lovely wife is going to go ahead and open up the box and let's see if the wines are secure. While we were traveling through Venice we got hit by a pretty heavy rainstorm and I found out that the Lazenne Wine Check is certainly not waterproof, but I don't think that matters. The cardboard boxes themselves, while they're contained inside the canvas bag, they held together just fine and they kept the styrofoam containers in place. That's what really matters.

As you can see here, everything that I shipped back from Italy made its way back to Colorado safely despite getting caught in a rainstorm, a couple of transfers from Venice or Munich all the way back to Colorado, but all these bottles made it home safely, and that's what really matters. I think the Lazenne Wine Check certainly did what it was supposed to do. All things considered, we definitely give the Lazenne Wine Check two thumbs up.

It performed as advertised, got my bottles of wine home safely. I really enjoyed having it, in that I could carry home a lot more wine than just what I could cram into my suitcase. From that point of view it's definitely a must have for anybody who's planning on doing some wine exploration in Europe and wants to make sure that their bottles get home safely.

Criticisms would include that there are two wheels and not four on the bottom. That means it tends to want to tip over when you're towing it through an airport. I'm sure the reason they only put two wheels and not four is that it's lighter that way, but I think a few extra ounces for a better rolling bag would probably be a good addition. The carry strap could stand to have a little bit thicker foam padding for those times when you can't roll it and you need to carry it over your shoulder.

Other than that, I don't have any criticisms. It performed as advertised. It got my bottles home safely and I think it's a really useful tool for anybody who's planning on traveling with some wine.

Sassi Italy Tours offers a unique opportunity: a true-to-life emotional connection to Italy as it should be experienced. Their personalized and customizable tours immerse you in Italian art, history, culture, food, wine, architecture, and spirit from the moment your plane lands in this ancient, amazing place. They specialize in offering an authentic Italian experience — the off-the-beaten-path destinations, hidden cities, and magical places that most tours miss entirely.

Also in Lazenne Blog

Native Grapes of Catalunya

August 18, 2017 0 Comments

Catalunya vineyards

If you look around the world of wine today, you'll notice that most wine is made with the same grape varieties. Pretty much every 'New World' country produces wines made from grapes native to France; Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot... the list goes on. This is no bad thing as stylistically, all the above varieties can be drastically different depending upon climate, soil, viticulture and vinification. The vast majority of glossy, bold Shiraz from Australia is, literally and figuratively, a world away from the savoury, peppery wines of the Northern Rhone, for example. However, in the last 10 years the fashion has been to move away from seeking out the 'best' examples of these well known varieties and instead to look for unique expressions, typically from grapes native to specific countries and regions. This has seen the emergence of some new stars in the world of wine, from the austere, mineral wines of Mount Etna in Sicily to the powerful, racy Assyrtiko of Santorini in Greece. Austria has re-modelled its vinous reputation with the versatile Grüner Veltliner and even as afar as South America, Bonarda and Pais are resurging on both sides of the Andes, in Argentina and Chile respectively.

However, no country has been rediscovered in quite the same way as Spain. There are somewhere in the region of 600 grape varieties on the Iberian Peninsula, the vast majority of them indigenous and regionally specific in production. Despite this, Spain was for decades synonymous with oaky, extracted wines from Rioja, and to a lesser extent Ribera del Duero, with Tempranillo the only celebrated indigenous grape hailing from the country. Short-sighted producers ripped up their old, unfashionable vineyards and replanted with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and anything that was currently selling, not realising that in doing so they were giving up their major point of difference on the international market-place. However, this wasn't true for all producers and quietly, many went about their business as they had done for centuries; cultivating their families vineyards and producing wines of distinction and style, as their vines slowly became older, sturdier and produced better quality fruit. To look at the market now compared to 20 years ago is staggering. Shops in Barcelona are awash with local Catalan wines, Galician field-blends are appearing in top restaurants across the world and even Sherry is making a come-back! To cover the entirety of this resurgence would take a strong liver and a lot of time, but I'd like to share a few exciting varieties from my own little corner of Spain, the fiercely independent Catalunya:

View full article →

3 ways to destroy your wine before you pop the cork

July 03, 2017 0 Comments

why wine has bad odour

Wine is a fussy product. Starting from its very beginnings as embryonic genetic material located on the buds of vines, to its moment of glory in your glass, there are countless chemical reactions, pitfalls and opportunities to be navigated and controlled in order to create a good bottle of wine. The vast majority of these is, fortunately, taken care of by the time we actually buy a bottle of wine, as the vigneron has spent the entire year wrestling against nature, ensuring the right balance of sugars, acids and flavour compounds, before handing over the baton to the wine-maker. This is where the grapes will be converted into wine through the magical process of fermentation, possibly aged and then bottled with care being taken to ensure biological stability. Then depending on where the wine is to be sold, it will go through a long or short supply route, potentially crossing oceans, continents and all sorts of checks before it finally appears on a shop shelf or restaurant list somewhere in the world. 

Enter us; the consumer. We purchase the wine with the intention of one day drinking it, whether that be within minutes of the purchase, or 20 years down the line, after extended storage to allow for it to evolve within the bottle. Assuming the bottle has been purchased close to home and you intend to drink it in the near future, this is all well and good as any issues of storage are very much the responsibility of the retailer/restaurant and bottles can be returned for a refund. However, if you're buying the wine far from home, possibly, abroad, we run into some potential issues quite quickly.

View full article →

Best wine stores around Etna in Eastern Sicily

April 14, 2017 0 Comments

Wine Stores around Etna in eastern Sicily

Having just come back from a two week trip to the Mount Etna region of eastern Sicily we thought we'd share some of the best wine stores we came across travelling in the region. I must say I love the "enoteca" concept in Italy, where you can come for an aperitivo, taste local wines by the glass with some food, and then purchase bottles that you've tasted and liked. We loved visiting and tasting wines directly at the wineries of course, but the experience of tasting different producers side by side, and the ability to try older vintages can only be done at an enoteca.

View full article →