As you may have read in the alcohol section, I believe wine is probably the most difficult Duty Free category to research in advance or to evaluate in-store. That’s because the vintage year is often not shown online.  The display conditions can be far from ideal – bright lights, heat, upright bottles.  And finally, Duty Free wine prices vary widely – from attractive to vastly overpriced – depending on your benchmarks.

If you’re tempted to buy a reasonably priced bottle and its condition looks good – go ahead.  At a moderate price, whether you get a good deal or not won’t kill you.  So if it appeals to you, buy it and enjoy it.  Likewise, the same applies if you run across something unusual or interesting that you can’t find at home.

However, if you’re planning to buy an expensive wine or come across one that grabs your attention in-store, it gets more difficult.  Consequently, what you’d really need is a good online price comparison website/app to check what you’d pay at home.  And I’ve found one.  It’s called Wine Searcher.

It’s global, accurate, and up-to-date. Furthermore, they quote prices in over 70 currencies which are updated daily. So it’s a “must have” for any wine lover. While the basic version is free, they also offer a premium version, which I use.

Wine Searcher Image for Duty Free

A Few Duty Free Examples

Maybe you might think that you’re best off buying a locaI wine Duty Free, but that’s not always the case.  I’ve picked out some examples to illustrate how Duty Free wine prices compare to what you’d pay at home.

I looked at a representative sample of major airports and wines – you’ll see my criteria in the section headings. In each case I chose an expensive wine from their list. Using Wine Searcher, I compared the Duty Free price to the Domestic prices in countries which are major sources of outbound traffic. I used the local currency of the airport to make comparisons easier. The Domestic prices include duties as well as VAT or sales tax.  I then ranked those prices from most expensive to cheapest. The results were interesting.

If you want to see the prices in another currency, click the dropdown menu.

 

Australian Duty Free Wine in Australia

As of this writing (October 2019), at Sydney airport, you can buy a local Torbeck The Factor Shiraz (vintage not specified) for AUD 129.  Here’s the comparison for the 2015 vintage:

Sydney Duty Free vs. Domestic Prices

      Local Currency Converted Currency
Russia: AUD 270AUD|270
Germany : AUD 202AUD|202
Japan: AUD 163AUD|163
Switzerland: AUD 159AUD|159
France (2013): AUD 154AUD|154
UK: AUD 151AUD|151
USA (New York): AUD 148AUD|148
Australia Domestic: AUD 140AUD|140
SYDNEY Duty Free : AUD 129AUD|129
Hong Kong: AUD 127AUD|127

Sydney Duty Free is a pretty good deal. Only Hong Kong is cheaper.

 

French Duty Free Wine in France

Since Paris Airport doesn’t put its Duty Free offer up online, I’ve looked at Nice Airport instead.  There you can find a Bouchard Pere & Fils Gevrey Chambertin (vintage not specified) for €54.00.  You can buy this whether you’re travelling inside or outside the EU.

So how does Nice compare for the 2016 vintage?  

Nice Duty Free vs. Domestic Prices

      Local Currency Converted Currency
Russia: EUR 85EUR|85
USA (NY): EUR 67EUR|67
NICE Duty Free: EUR 54EUR|54
Germany: EUR 46EUR|46
UK: EUR 45EUR|45
Hong Kong: EUR 44EUR|44
Japan: EUR 43EUR|43
France Domestic: EUR 43EUR|43
Switzerland: EUR 40EUR|40

This is a good deal only you live in Russia or the USA.  Otherwise, Nice Duty Free is more expensive than all the other countries.  You’d actually be far better off buying this wine on the French Domestic market.

 

American Duty Free Wine in the US

International Shoppes runs the Duty Free stores at JFK Terminals 1,5,8.  They offer a highly regarded California Stag’s Leap Napa Valley Artemis Cabernet Sauvignon (again no vintage specified) at $76.

This compares the JFK price for the 2015 vintage to the lowest price you’ll find at home:

JFK Duty Free vs. Domestic Prices

      Local Currency Converted Currency
Russia: USD 136USD|136
China: USD 108USD|108
France: USD 91USD|91
Hong Kong : USD 78USD|78
JFK Duty Free: USD 76USD|76
Switzerland: USD 75USD|75
Japan: USD 75USD|75
UK: USD 71USD|71
Germany: USD 67USD|67
USA (NY) Domestic: USD 62USD|62

This is only a good deal if you live in Russia, China, France, or Hong Kong.  Like the French wine, you’d also be better off buying this wine locally.

 

French Duty Free Wine in a Major Shopping Hub (London Heathrow)

Heathrow Duty Free offers a Chateau de Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape, vintage unspecified, at £100.99.  Similarly to Nice, you can buy this whether you’re travelling inside or outside the EU.

The 2016 vintage is the one most available internationally, and here’s how Heathrow compares:

Heathrow Duty Free vs. Domestic Prices

      Local Currency Converted Currency
HEATHROW Duty Free: GBP 101GBP|101
China: GBP 93GBP|93
Russia: GBP 89GBP|89
Japan (2015): GBP 79GBP|79
Switzerland : GBP 59GBP|59
Germany: GBP 58GBP|58
Australia: GBP 58GBP|58
USA (NY): GBP 56GBP|56
UK Domestic: GBP 54GBP|54
Hong Kong: GBP 51GBP|51
France: GBP 51GBP|51

This is a really lousy deal.  I wanted to be sure it wasn’t an anomaly, so I checked another expensive wine (the Australian Penfolds Bin 150 Marananga Shiraz), and the results were pretty similar.  So you should be very careful buying wine at Heathrow (as well as Gatwick since prices are the same.)

 

Australian Duty Free Wine in a Major Shopping Hub (Dubai)

Dubai Duty Free offers an Australian Penfold’s RWT Shiraz (again no vintage specified) at 574 Dirhams (AED).

This is how it compares to prices at home for the 2016 vintage:

Dubai Duty Free vs. Domestic Prices

      Local Currency Converted Currency
Russia (2015): AED 1255AED|1255
Japan (2015): AED 746AED|746
Germany: AED 706AED|706
France: AED 700AED|700
USA (NY): AED 698AED|698
Switzerland: AED 586AED|586
DUBAI Duty Free: AED 574AED|574
China: AED 516AED|516
UK: AED 454AED|454
Hong Kong: AED 441AED|441
Australia: AED 377AED|377

Dubai looks to be pretty good unless you live in China, the UK, Hong Kong, or Australia.

 

Conclusion

To sum up, these examples highlight what a tricky proposition buying Duty Free wine is, and how important doing your research is.  Ultimately, your own benchmarks will determine whether or not a particular Duty Free wine is a good deal for you.

Please remember that the prices and exchange rates I’ve used in the above examples were valid on the day I looked at them.  But I highly recommend you evaluate your Duty Free wine purchases in real time when you’re considering buying something expensive.  Otherwise you may be in for a nasty shock when you get home.

 

Check Out Your Home Price Immediately

Have you just seen a Duty Free wine that grabs you?  Put in the name and vintage in the search box below to find out how much you’d pay at home.

On a PC, navigating the search results is pretty straightforward.  You choose your country at the top and the currency on the far right in the title bar or at the very bottom of the web page.

However, if you’re using a smartphone, it’s a lot less obvious.  When you get to the search results, use the following procedure:

  • First, select the location by clicking the little symbol to the right of the blue search button.
    • Choose your country from the dropdown menu in the dialog box.
    • Make sure you press the blue search button at the top to confirm your choice.
  • Then, choose your currency by scrolling down to the bottom of the page.
    • You’ll see the symbol of the currency currently specified and a “Change Currency” link.
    • Click the “Change Currency” link.
    • Then use the “Change currency to…” dropdown menu to choose a currency.
    • Confirm by pressing the blue “Change Currency” bar.

You’ll then be taken back to your search results for the country and currency you’ve chosen.