JM and I were very excited when we discovered a wonderful local wine producer at the Espezel fair. He and his wife have a lovely vineyard in Castelrang, where amongst other things, they produce — by themselves — the best Blanquette Methode Ancestrale that I have tasted.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about our drive over there, when we purchased a couple of cases of the Blanquette as well as their heavenly grape juice. 6 bottles of the Blanquette were scheduled to go to some business contacts in the States.
The French post office has a line of specialty packaging for a variety of things, and, this being France, that includes special wine bottle boxes. They are ingenious (if not perfect) and you can pack a bottle knowing that there is a 99% certainty that it will arrive at its destination unbroken. The boxes are postage paid, and they are NOT inexpensive. But Christmas comes just once a year, and we wanted to do something special for these particular people.
Last week, I assembled the boxes, printed out personalized Christmas cards and schlepped 6 VERY heavy boxes to the post office with JM. Both of us were excited and couldn’t wait to hear what our friends thought of the Blanquette.
This morning, as I was walking out the door on a little errand, one of our local mail carriers stopped me. In her van were THREE of the wine boxes! They had all been REJECTED by U.S. Customs!!
I have to admit I was, and still am a bit, in shock. We had looked at customs regulations online, and it seems to be perfectly legal to bring wine into the U.S.,; so why has this happened? On the advice of our mail carrier, we called the post office in Limoux and the nice woman who answered the phone said that she vaguely remembers now that it is illegal to send alcohol to the U.S.! Excuse me?
I would be annoyed at the post office, except that they can’t really be expected to remember what is legal or illegal for every country in the world. Although, given that this is a specific, international product, it would be nice if they had a list of countries where the KNOW you can’t ship. But, frankly I’m really angry at the United States. For heaven’s sake! How paranoid have they become?
Last week, I heard from another friend who had shipped some cheese to a third friend in the States. That was also returned as refused by customs. I suppose I can understand that a little more, as it was an artisinal cheese and not wrapped in plastic. But, still, we’re slowly losing our ability to send ANY presents to friends in America.
Now we have to write to the friends who are not getting their Christmas presents. We have to wait to hear back from the Post Master to find out if we can be reimubursed for the costs of the boxes. We have to wait to see if any of the other 3 boxes, which we assume are okay, still come back to us in the next couple of days. And, we have to figure out what the hell we can buy as presents that will be permitted entry onto sacred American soil. That seems like it will be the hardest part of all.