A friend asked me recently about taking wine on airplanes, and it made me think. I fondly remember traveling in the 20th century, when you could pack your carry-on luggage with eight or ten bottles on a transatlantic flight (and then try to act all nonchalant while walking through customs, pretending as if you really didn’t have 35 pounds of liquid and glass hanging off of your shoulder). Obviously those days are forever in the past. Soon you will be prohibited from carrying absolutely anything on board, unless you pay 50 dollars per pound and have it inspected fourteen times by people whose job it is to actually prevent you from reaching your gate until fifteen minutes after your plane takes off.
Now I put my wine in a six-pack cardboard shipper and check it in. (I carry on all of my shoes, though, complete with wooden trees.) It changes the type of wine that you can bring—in the past I used to carry mostly old and rare wines, since what’s the point of taking a common wine to someplace where you can just buy the same bottle anyway? When you check the wine in, it gets shaken around much more, which is annoying, and so now I tend to choose wines that are younger and less fragile but that are still maybe rare enough that people at my destination aren’t able to easily obtain them.
But when my friend asked me about this, it made me wonder, what about the pressure? Does the act of transporting bottles in a luggage compartment at 30,000 feet have an effect on the wine? I suppose the compartment is pressurized, so it’s the same as inside the cabin? What happens to the pressure inside a bottle of champagne? I’ve never opened a bottle of champagne on a plane, nor have I paid much attention when flight attendants do.
Being woefully ignorant of the physical science that governs such things, I really have no answers, but I’m sure that some of you do. Perhaps I could persuade the Chief of Lab Science to refer this matter to his Department of Aviation and Aeronautics?