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Wine Travel Bags

By Cook's Illustrated Published September 2015

How we tested

You can tuck a bottle of wine between soft clothes in a suitcase and hope that it doesn’t break, or you can shield it in a wine travel bag that’s designed to protect bottles on the go. We tested four (priced from about $5.00 to $28.00) made of various types of plastic or neoprene by running them through a series of abuse tests. After loading each model with bottles that were skinny, squat, short, and tall, we dropped them from waist height, packed them in a suitcase and tossed them as an airplane baggage handler might, and rolled them down a flight of stairs. We even flew with them back and forth across the country.

Two of the bags were useless. Bottles stored in the two bags made from thin, lightly cushioned plastic—one lined with something akin to paper towels and the other with bubble wrap—broke in almost every test, and when they did, the glass shards slashed the plastic sides and wine spilled out. The thick cushioned neoprene material of another model looked promising, but its bottles broke, too, and since its sides were open, the wine spilled everywhere. Our winner, an inflatable bag made from thick, durable plastic (inspired by the dry bags that sailors use), was the best of the bunch. You blow it up like a beach ball (when loaded with a bottle, it’s about the size of a loaf of bread), and the air cushions the bottle. We had only one break in this bag—the fifth time we dropped it from waist height onto hard pavement­—but even then the heavy-duty plastic kept all the wine contained. It was also the only bag that accommodated taller wine bottles or wider liquor bottles. We’ll be packing one in our luggage from now on.

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The Results

Winner
Recommended

Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

Admittedly expensive, this handsome block certainly seemed to live up to its billing as “the last knife block you ever have to buy.” The heaviest model in our testing, this block was ultrastable, and its durable bamboo exterior was a breeze to clean. Well-placed medium-strength magnets made it easy to attach all our knives, and a rotating base gave us quick access to them. One tiny quibble: The blade of our 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a little.

$248.64*
Recommended

Schmidt Brothers Downtown Block

This roomy block completely sheathed our entire winning knife set using just one of its two sides—and quite securely, thanks to long, medium-strength magnet bars. Heavy, with a grippy base, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard made this model extra-safe but also made it a little trickier to insert knives and to clean; the wood block itself showed some minor cosmetic scratching during use.

$141.90*

Schmidt Brothers Midtown Block

This smaller version of the Downtown Block secured all our knives nicely, though the blade of the slicing knife stuck out a bit. With a base lined with grippy material, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard afforded extra protection against contact with blades but made it a little harder to insert knives and to clean; the wood itself got a little scratched during use.

$67.99*
Recommended with Reservations

Swissmar Bamboo Magnetic Knife Block

This small, scratch-resistant model had a stable, rubber-lined base and could hold all our knives, though the blade of the 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a bit. But inch-long gaps between its small magnets made coverage uneven and forced us to find the magnetic hot spots in order to secure the knives. Its acrylic guard made it safer to use but harder to insert knives and to clean.

$49.93*
Not Recommended

Messermeister Walnut Magnet Block

This handsome block was done in by its shape—a tippy, top-heavy quarter-circle that wasn’t tall or broad enough to keep the blades of three knives from poking out. It lacked a nonslip base, and its extra-strong magnets made it unnerving to attach or remove our heavy cleaver. Finally, it got a bit scratched after extensive use.

$129.95*

Epicurean Standing Knife Rack 12"

This magnetic block sheathed all our knives completely, though with a bit of crowding. But it was hard to insert each knife without hitting the block’s decorative slats on way down, and because the block was light and narrow, it wobbled when bumped. Worse, we couldn’t take it apart, so splatters that hit the interior were there to stay. Additionally, the outside stained easily, and when we wiped it down, the unit smelled like wet dog.

$99.95*

Kapoosh Rondelle Knife Block

This model stabilized knives with a mass of stiff, spaghetti-like bristles that shed and nicked easily after extensive use, covering our knives with plastic debris. While all our knives fit securely, several of the blades stuck out, making this unit feel less safe overall. Finally, though the bristles could be removed and cleaned in the dishwasher, their nooks and crannies made this block hard to wash by hand.

$24.99*

Kuhn Rikon Vision Knife Block, Clear

This plastic block required us to aim each knife into the folds of an accordion-pleated insert that was removable for easy cleaning but got nicked easily with repeated use. Because we could only insert the knives vertically, longer knife blades stuck out; a cleaver was too wide to fit. The lightest model in our lineup, this block was dangerously top-heavy when loaded with knives.

$35.88*