I tend to agree there should be written disclosure of color for white wines. I agree that in the case of the 82 Chablis above it’s obvious one of them is different but sometimes with single bottles, a bad picture or the type of glass can obfuscate color. In those cases, the retailer/auctioneer could note it. That said, it is much more of a grey area than say signs of seepage (binary), damaged label or capsule (binary) or fill level (quantitative value). We are dealing in shades of yellow here… Could get subjective fast.
I definitely think there should be some sort of comment/indicator as to what these colors really mean.
Personally, I wouldn’t sell these dead wines without many clear disclosures. Otherwise, you’re purposefully giving someone an expensive lesson (a new wine drinker) or a ruined memory (like someone who doesn’t know much about wine, but just wants a bottle for a special occasion).
Regarding Winebids policy here it is from RMann On another thread.
“Similarly, some of you have commented in the past on coloration/discoloration of older wines, or fill levels, for example , and wondered why WineBid puts them up on our site. I can tell you that after checking for authenticity and provenance, we will still put those up (again, with detailed notes and photographs) because inevitably, there is some collector who wants that bottle, regardless of potential drinkability, and if they want it, we want to make it available to them.“
If they really feel this way they should list it as not for drinking, display purposes only.
Agreed; if there is significant color variation within a lot, the relevant auction site ought to disclose that. For ethical reasons if not legal. Happy for them to let the buyer determine if they want to take the risk, after they’ve discharged their duty to disclose
Fair point, but consider just how much it would cost to have someone like me go through every bottle in every auction and render an opinion on the color. That would be prohibitively expensive, and it would also create even more of an expectation of a guarantee that is not offered when one is buying wine at auction. There is no real financial incentive for any auction house to do this- the customer certainly is not interested in bearing the expense in the form of higher fees or reserve prices.
I get everyone’s point, but freely admit being an active participant in the wine auction markets of yore that I think we have it much better now than we ever did to have photos of every lot in many online sales, plus the ability to reach out and get quick emailed photos in cases where an auction house has not photographed everything.
At some point you have to be prepared to accept the risks of buying at auction- or be prepared to pay the far higher prices that will come with buying the same bottle from a retailer that may offer provenance guarantees or returns. You can’t have it both ways.
Tom that is quite fair. In my day job I’m obliged to watch the margins of my business quite closely and so I’m sympathetic
From my uninformed pov, it seems like if an auction house is going to the trouble of cataloguing lots and taking pictures and so on, it should be trivial to note color variation. Since they’re already taking a second to write down notes like very top shoulder or 3.5cm or bin stained label
I do personally spend money at retailers who seem more attentive and conscientious wrt bottle condition. For example I buy a good amount at Benchmark (no affiliation) because their stuff always seems to be in better shape, even if it costs me more. The opportunity cost of a disappointing bottle down the line is worth so much more than saving a few bucks at the time of purchase. My personal conviction, and I have no facts to back this up, is there are others out there who think the same way. But maybe it’s just me
Asking for judgments about color to be written into descriptions is likely to open a small can of worms. I think photos should suffice as long as the houses picture the wines against a white background.
I see lots of wines I would never bid on in online auctions with bids. People clearly have different tolerances for fill levels and color.
Tom, I don’t really understand this given most auctions already inspect and report on every bottle’s condition, but many still don’t provide photos. I’d much rather read about color of a white wine than about a lightly scuffed label or capsule. Reporting on color variation (or a clear indication of color using a properly backlit photo of every bottle) should be standard now. Shifting the risk to the buyer on this issue IMO should require some type of affirmative act by the seller’s agent (the auction house), who is in the best position to assess and report any issue to the potential buyer. Otherwise, the house should take a clearly brown bottle back if it didn’t indicate in any way to the buyer there was an issue.
That said, I don’t think color is a one-size-fits-all issue given different glass tinting. I’ve seen good whites languish, which appeared to be because the bottle was tinted brown, making the wine appear brown in a photo.