2 Questions in 1: Aged Bordeaux / Advice for Retailer

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Sh@n A
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2 Questions in 1: Aged Bordeaux / Advice for Retailer

#1 Post by Sh@n A » July 9th, 2018, 4:20 pm

Keen to hear folk's advice for addressing a retailer situation I am in. The two questions at hand are (i) am I possibly at fault on the 1986 described below, and (ii) what would you expect a retailer to do in this situation? I am going down the path of a large purchase with one retailer, and would love a relationship with one.

I interacted with a reputable wine store (that some purchase from on this site). I have exchanged a dozen emails on a personal topic and they helped educate me in advance of a multi-case purchase 5-10 cases of aged Bordeaux. As part of that process, I purchased three bottles, a ~$200 1986 bordeaux, a ~$90 1996 Bordeaux and an unrelated third wine (~$66 half bottle).

I immediately I took the bottles on travel over a flight and opened all 3 at my destination. The $90 1996 was opened at a Michelin and was obviously corked, but I had the restaurant staff confirm. I then purchased a 1996 from the restaurant directly and it was quite a great experience. I also kept the corked wine to compare against, experimented with different decant strategies (in bottle vs. decant vs. glass). Said another way, I tried to educate myself.

I then opened the 1986 Chateau Pape Clemente (https://www.cellartracker.com/wine.asp?iWine=15619)

Am curious for other people's thoughts, because I think the wine was bad, but the retailer does not -- and I am not experienced with old Bordeaux. The 1986 was flat. The nose was earthy, but more wet cardboard than forest floor. The wine had a sour finish. The flavor notes themselves were earthy, but again more wet cardboard than forest floor. The cork showed liquid 50% of the way, which I think suggests it was not dry. This was not opened at a Michelin, but the waiter thought it was bad. My wife and I did not consume the wine. The retailer stated that "outside of the sour finish" they cannot be sure the wine is bad and suggested I am just inexperienced.

I informed the retailer I would be moving ahead with a 4.5 case purchase of futures of a ~$50/bottle wine (the contemplated range was $45-60) plus some other purchases that will add up to $4,000-$6,000 in aggregate. The retailer does not know this exact amount yet, but they should have a definite sense it will be over $3,000.

For the bad bottles, the retailer offered to gift a magnum of aged Bordeaux (on their website at $100) with an unspecified discount to be given on my other purchases. The bottle in question has limited/poor reviews on Cellar Tracker (and obviously for $100 on a magnum for an aged Bordeaux that would be consistent with the QPR). Without knowing what the discount is, I suspect it would be $100 discount (to offset the bad bottle) and 50% split-the-difference on the 1986 Clement. It is possible I could be wrong on the discount amount (perhaps it would be $200 in aggregate, or even more).

So my questions are:

1) Is it possible I am incorrect on the aged bordeaux? the CT reviews on are consistent with tobacco/barnyard etc. However, the 1996 bottle i purchased from the restaurant was 50x better. A sour wine without aromatics seems like this was simply a bad bottle. But is it possible I was wrong or harmed the bottle in travel?

2) Would it be unreasonable to have expected for the retailer to just take off the 2 bottles in questions, with no questions asked, given the larger purchase at hand?

3) Given (a) possibly questionable retailer behavior and (b) I enjoy Burgundy more than Bordeaux, and this retailer specializes more in Bordeaux -- should I cut bait from here and move on? I am reluctant to do so given the retailer has spent a fair amount of time with me via email, and I do feel it is correct to give them my business (as long as my prior purchases are dealt with reasonably). Further, I can always develop relationships with other retailers for Burgundy, Barolo etc. in the future.
/ @ g r @ \

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Craig G
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2 Questions in 1: Aged Bordeaux / Advice for Retailer

#2 Post by Craig G » July 9th, 2018, 8:30 pm

The Pape Clement sounds corked as well. Wet cardboard is a common description. TCA seems to strip wine of flavor (or perhaps fool your brain into that impression) so the sour finish could make sense too.
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2 Questions in 1: Aged Bordeaux / Advice for Retailer

#3 Post by Kevin Porter » July 10th, 2018, 6:22 am

This has been said many times but just in case - corked wines are corked when bottled. There is some debate as to whether poor provenance can exacerbate 'corkiness' but for all intents and purposes treatment by the seller has no impact.

Nonetheless, I would expect the retailer to refund you, particularly in light of your commitment to them.

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2 Questions in 1: Aged Bordeaux / Advice for Retailer

#4 Post by Jim Brennan » July 10th, 2018, 6:39 am

Are you more concerned about their wines being bad/not stored properly, or is it something else rubbing you wrong (like they should have given a better bottle than a so-so magnum as recompense)?

It sounds like one and possibly both were corked, which isn't something that falls on the retailer.

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2 Questions in 1: Aged Bordeaux / Advice for Retailer

#5 Post by Sh@n A » July 10th, 2018, 7:23 am

So this was actually an open-ended question, to learn from. First, whether the bottle was more likely bad than not (as the retailer was pushing back on this), and Second, what the appropriate remedy would be. Admittedly, I am a little confused by the magnum offer as it seems to be a sub-standard bottle vs. the original purchase point.

As for answers:
1) Sounds like the bottle was bad.
2) The remedy sounds unclear: on one hand, the retailer is not responsible for corked bottles -- but it is commonplace for them to accept them for refund? In this case, since I am prepared to do a large purchase with them, a satisfactory remedy should be achievable; but in another case - what would the natural remedy be? A new/less experienced client purchased 3 bottles and claims 2 of them were bad bottles (with extremely high confidence on 1, and high confidence on the 2nd)
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2 Questions in 1: Aged Bordeaux / Advice for Retailer

#6 Post by Jim Brennan » July 10th, 2018, 8:11 am

Wet cardboard is a textbook descriptor for corked wine.

My point is that the fact that the retailer sold corked wine doesn't mean it was poorly stored. So the fact that 2 were bad doesn't necessarily mean that others are bad. Now if you had two heat damaged wines...

Sour is more complicated. Maybe someone else can weigh in on that. https://winefolly.com/tutorial/wine-faults/

The question of rectifying the corked bottles via retailer is more complicated... but definitely some retailers would try to make good, esp if you're a regular customer or potentially

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2 Questions in 1: Aged Bordeaux / Advice for Retailer

#7 Post by Sh@n A » July 11th, 2018, 6:03 am

Appreciate the thoughts and advice. Thank you.
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2 Questions in 1: Aged Bordeaux / Advice for Retailer

#8 Post by Jay Miller » July 12th, 2018, 1:18 pm

re returning corked wines to a retailer - it depends on the policy of the retailer. Some will always accept them, they tend to be more expensive (you get what you pay for...), some have an explicit policy of not accepting them. Some will accept them for current releases where they might be able to get something back from the distributor but not for older bottles. Some will only do it for regular customers.

Doesn't hurt to inquire before making a big purchase, though I'll admit I usually don't think to do so.
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2 Questions in 1: Aged Bordeaux / Advice for Retailer

#9 Post by Seth L. » July 13th, 2018, 10:35 am

I would have credited your corked bottles against your pending purchase, though not all retailers do that (see what Jay above said) - it certainly is helpful to retailers to bring in the corked bottles (so they can either get credit back or to see for themselves the state of the wine), which was not possible in your case. I hope it all works out for you in the end
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Bruce Leiser_owitz
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2 Questions in 1: Aged Bordeaux / Advice for Retailer

#10 Post by Bruce Leiser_owitz » July 17th, 2018, 8:25 am

Sh@n A wrote: 2) The remedy sounds unclear: on one hand, the retailer is not responsible for corked bottles -- but it is commonplace for them to accept them for refund?
The retailer might not be "responsible" in the sense that they didn't cause the wine to be corked in the first place. But they are responsible in the sense that they sold you a defective item.
For older vintages, however, many retailers disclaim any liability/responsibility.

For current release wines, if the bottle is corked and the retailer will not replace or refund, then reconsider doing business with them.

Bruce
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Sh@n A
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2 Questions in 1: Aged Bordeaux / Advice for Retailer

#11 Post by Sh@n A » August 2nd, 2018, 11:34 am

Latest update; I upped my order size to something more substantial ($10K), but on futures. Their current stance on the bad bottles (i) if I wanted a refund I needed to bring wine back for them to taste it themselves, (ii) will offer me 10% off my next order one time, and (iii) give a token bottle "as a gift to be nice" [whopping 87pter on CT aged aging into oblivion]. This retailer is consistently the highest price out there... so will just reduce my order size and call it a day.
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2 Questions in 1: Aged Bordeaux / Advice for Retailer

#12 Post by Mark Y » August 2nd, 2018, 12:39 pm

you are buying $10K of wine from a retailer, and they won't take back two bottle of corked wine?!

does it even matter who shoudl be responsible? This business case seems pretty no-brainer?


Any retailers out there wouldn't take the 10K in purchase in exchange for crediting 2 bottles?
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#13 Post by Sh@n A » August 2nd, 2018, 12:43 pm

Yea I know. Pretty stunned myself. My first order too. Only way I can justify is if future margins are lowe le than I would have guessed. This particular retailer focuses more on B2B I suspect more than I originally appreciated.
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2 Questions in 1: Aged Bordeaux / Advice for Retailer

#14 Post by Mark Y » August 2nd, 2018, 12:59 pm

If they don’t credit you I would take biz elsewhere. Their prices are on the high end too? What??

Which store was it if you can say?
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2 Questions in 1: Aged Bordeaux / Advice for Retailer

#15 Post by Sh@n A » August 2nd, 2018, 1:30 pm

shoot me a PM
/ @ g r @ \

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