Corked Wine - Proper Etiquette?

I’m sure this is answered across multiple threads on this board, so forgive me for asking one more time…

I opened 2 bottles of 2010 Cakebread Merlot last night that were both seriously corked, to the point of being undrinkable. I took a pic of the bottles and sent an email to Cakebread asking that they kindly replace the wines. They were both ordered through a past club membership, and have been sitting in 55 degree temp in my wine cabinet.

My question - am I in my right to request a replacement? If they ask for a sample, what should my response be? Last thing I want to do is send a couple of bottles back, but I get if they’d like to test for TCA (assuming they have the equipment, given they’re a large winery).

Thanks - want to manage my expectations on typical actions around corked wine. At 1 bottle, I likely wouldn’t have bothered contacting the winery, but at 2, that’s a trend…

I would expect both bottles to be replaced. Who pays shipping costs for the replacwment bottles is a trickier question. if they want you to send them
the two bottles that are corked then they should pay the shipping for those.

I usually just inform them that the bottle was corked and they willingly offer to replace it. If it is a club membership though, they almost always say they will ship another bottle in the next shipment – but in my experience they never actually follow through on it. You may have to remind them.

I highly doubt they would ask for you to send something back.


The general assumption here is that stores and wineries should replace corked bottles purchased from them directly within memory. And I certainly do ask for such replacements. But I wonder why it is the responsibility of the winery to take the loss. I very much doubt that they get refunds from the companies that supplied them with the cork, who after all are the ultimate culprits.

This topic comes up from time to time. My view is that there is an implied warranty of fitness and merchantability in every bottle of wine sold. If you buy wine directly from a winery and it’s defective, then they sold you a defective good and they should either replace the bottle or refund your purchase price. Whether they can get a “refund” from their cork supplier is their issue, and not the concern of the innocent consumer who bought a defective good.


I think this is stated too strongly. Wines are not guaranteed by wineries not to have brett, va, etc. There’s nothing you can do about heat damage (which could be caused by the winery, the importer or the store). Corking does entail defective packaging, which does rise to a different level. But, finally, this view of who is responsible benefits the consumer to the disadvantage of the winery, who shares no more fault, really. And it is relevant who caused the defectiveness in determining who is negligent and owe’s restitution.

Really, I think we should remember that wineries and stores are doing consumers a courtesy in assuming responsibility for corking and should be treated accordingly when they do so.

It is the wineries responsibility to stand behind their products because they made it. Just because they may or may not get reimbursement from the their cork suppliers, is irrelevant to me. And yes, the cork suppliers are the ultimate party at fault.

Agreed. If your car breaks down because a screw came out of place the car manufacturer won’t say “go ask for a repair from where we got the screw”

Here in jersey if I get a corked bottle from a store they give a me a replacement no questions asked as long as I bring them the almost full bottle. The store in turn gets credit from the wholesaler. Not sure if the wholesaler in turn would get credit from the producer. They may have to eat it.

Makes sense to me.

Are you sure the bottles were corked? Maybe it is just that Cakebread is horribly undrinkable wine even when correct. [stirthepothal.gif]

I often wonder about this, as well. Not the issue of whether or not the seller should warrant the product against being corked, but just the actual mechanical process.

If you are buying directly from a winery and are a customer in good standing, I think they will usually just take your word for it and credit you somehow. Probably the same is true for a retailer with whom you do a high volume of business and who knows you.

But what about the rest of the time? What about some retailer in a different part of the country from whom you buy twice a year or something, or somewhere you occasionally buy from locally but not regularly? Do you need to produce the corked bottle or mail it to them if they are out of town? Do you need to have kept the receipt? Do you just ask and hope they’ll take your word for it but then drop it if they don’t?

I’m curious for the actual process of how this happens, not so much the theory of who should be responsible.

I was wondering how long it would take to get one of these replies. pileon We were in Napa last year with some friends who are die-hard cakebread fans (don’t ask me why). To skirt the tasting fees, I signed up for the club and then took a flyer on a few bottles. Much better merlot out there, but yes, definitely corked!

Well, I think we strongly disagree on this perspective. First, TCA can get into wine via sources other than the cork itself. Second, many (most?) of the better wineries don’t just assume that the corks are OK; they have them randomly tested to make sure they didn’t get a bad batch of corks.

More importantly, you have confused “negligence” (which is a tort concept) with breach of warranty (which is a contract concept). Under the general contract laws, someone who is in the business of selling goods impliedly warrants that the good is fit for intended purpose. If the good is defective, the implied warranty is breached REGARDLESS of any negligence (or lack thereof) on the part of the seller. For example, if you go to a grocery store and buy a defective or damaged food item, you should be able to return it to the store for an exchange or refund regardless of whether the store knew or should have known that the food item was defective.



If what you say were true, wouldn’t it also be the case that wineries would owe you a refund for brett, va, microbial problems, etc., etc.?

Most wineries I know of will replace wines if the customer says that it is corked (and not ask for bottles back), even giving the benefit of the doubt if when asked to explain what they found turns out to be tartrates or a hazy, unfiltered wine that has thrown some sediment. It is just good customer service and with how quickly (and likely) unsatisfied customers can comment on a negative experience through word of mouth or social media it is a situation that ultimately costs more than replacing the wine. When I was in retail, I had a couple times where I asked for a picture but used that primarily to explain that what they were seeing was within the boundries of ‘normal’. Obviously there is always the outside chance of someone wanting free wine but in my experience I have not personally seen that occur.

Question for those ITB.

I’ve been told by one winery (I won’t say who) they charge the cork supplier “X” amount of money for every returned corked bottle. Is that pretty standard now?

Stolpman has an extensive winery library. They will replace corked bottles, out many years. We were told they would go back at least ten years [we did not ask how much further back].

They maintain the library for past customers to be able to replace corked bottles.

Short answer: Yes.

Longer answer: When we talk about defective wines (whether due to TCA, brett, VA, microbial issues, etc.), there may be some bottles that present a “judgment call.” Part of this issue is due to the fact that
levels of the offending issue will vary. TCA, for example, can vary in levels from barely perceptible to massively obvious. In addition, different people will have differing sensitivity to the flaw:

So inevitably, when we talk about any of these defects, the levels may be so low that they represent a “judgment call.” But the fact that there will be some bottles where it is difficult to determine that there is a flaw without resorting to chemical analysis doesn’t detract from the fact that at sufficiently high levels, any reasonably knowledgeable wine person will detect that the bottle is flawed. Presumably, the winery is running its wines through standard lab tests at various stages of winemaking to catch defects before the wine is released.

Going back to TCA, there will be times when a wine is so massively corked that all you get on the nose and palate is moldy cardboard. When the TCA levels have reached a point where the aromas and flavors are overwhelmed by moldy cardboard, then the wine would be considered defective. Regardless of what caused the TCA contamination, the winery that sold it to you would have an obligation to give you a refund or exchange.

Of course, for many people the idea of contacting the winery is more hassle than it’s worth, especially if the bottle wasn’t very expensive.


Corked is corked, regardless of the amount, as long as you can perceive it and you would return that wine to store or winery without hesitation. So do I, as I said. I believe that you or anyone else would think differently of returning a wine with brett or tca differently. Doug Wilder, above, notes that wineries (and stores) will replace wines without question as a prudential way of doing business. But that’s a long way from your being entitled to it. We would be happy with a store that took bottles back we did not like. I think we should feel the same about places that replace corked wine.

The difficulty with my argument is that I feel about restaurants the way you feel about wineries. If they don’t take back wines that are corked or otherwise flawed, we would have an immediate problem. But in that case, they are selling me a service and not merely a product.