WineBid - leaking bottle

I recently picked up a few bottles of 1977 Smith Woodhouse VP on Winebid (my first purchase there). I didn’t have any birth year wines and this seemed like a good way to get ready for my 40th next year.

Bottles arrived yesterday and one leaked during shipment. Small amount of sticky residue trickling down the capsule. Previous signs of seepage was not noted when posted for sale and there’s no evidence (that my untrained eye can see) that this leaked any time before now.

I emailed customer service just asking what the protocol was and whether I had any options. I received this response:

“Thank you for contacting the customer service team at WineBid. We regret that your bottle seeped in transit. Ports and dessert wines are notorious for seepage because they are fortified. We will issue a one bid increment, flat fee refund $5.00 for this issue.

We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you.

We appreciate your business.”

…. So I have a few questions:

  1. I have never heard that fortified wines are more likely to leak…. smells like BS to me…. is this true?
  2. Does the credit seem fair?
  3. Will the wine be any good? (I’m guessing the answer here is “probably” and “open it sooner rather than later”)

I will freely admit that I didn’t expect anything. Their policy gives them a pretty clear “out” on bottles over 20 years old. The response just seems bizarre to me.

Five whole dollars? Wow. That’s actually the MOST anyone I know has received.

You paid for a wine that is leaking and may be compromised at $$ and they offer you $5, does not sound fair.

I’m surprised they even gave you $5.

I had issues with seeping bottles from them and instead of resolving my issues, they just banned me.

Ill trade you my spoiled heat damaged winebid wine for your leaking port.

I’ve never had problems with them in the past. When I contacted them they offered to either take the wine back and credit my account for the price I bid or one bid increment (usually $5). I’d call customer service again and tell them that you’d rather return the wine because it was not delivered as advertised.

Bummer. I’ve used Winebid without a problem, but there’s always a first time. If the wine is fortified, it is probably OK.

I agree with Kirk. I would ask for return (and they pay the shipping) and refund. If the wine is not delivered as advertised, it’s on them.

I had a similar issue with a 1980 Cali Cab bought from them. It was a rare magnum and so, instead of sending it back for a refund, I took the $15 offer they gave me and opened the bottle on a spoiled and undrinkable bottle of wine.

With old wine, the chances of it being crap are high. With old wine bought from WineBid, it’s even higher. If a Winebid bottle is leaking, you’re up shit’s creek with a boat and no paddle.

I’ve used Winebid for a long time. Mostly it’s been great. Some times a bottle has been bad but whatever, you take your chances. Working with them has always been pretty much perfect.

But what you’re describing is something else. The condition is not right and the response sounds amateurish. There’s no reason fortifieds would leak anymore than anything else. Good luck with the remedy.

Maybe it’s chance, more likely it may depend on what types of wines one is buying, but I’ve had hundreds of older bottles from Winebid and overall, the success rate was very good, every bit as good as with bottles I’d stored perfectly myself or bought from reputable retailers.

As to the OP’s question, the wine is probably just fine, but I think he should also have the right to receive a refund if he wants and if the listing didn’t say anything about leaking.


The wine was shipped as advertised, the OP himself said so. What happens in transit is not the seller’s responsibility. Shipping insurance usually covers breakage but not damage from temperature fluctuation or weak corks. The terms and conditions probably address this clearly.

The line about fortified wine is silly, though. The #1 category of leakers in my cellar, all perfectly stored since release, is spatlese/auslese riesling at ~8% alcohol.

The one time I had an issue of this sort with winebid, they initially pushed back but made it right after I persisted.

I backfill quite a bit, and from solid sources, my hit rate is exceedingly high. I can count on one hand how many old wines I have bought that were “crap”. I do not buy from sites like WineBid or any other sources that do not, for me, have proven provenance and high quality customer service. I might pay more, but if my hit rate is high, my overall price for what I get is low.

What was the auction? Please post a link as they tend to miss leaking bottles of port in there descriptions. Especially if you are buying 4 of a particular wine and you only see one picture. Also if the wines are listed as pristine, the photo is stock and not your wine, typically.

Have bought multiple bottles of port from winebid and all surprise leakers I have returned for a full refund. Never has been an issue. But I also ask to return it in my request which includes photos of the styro and bottle compared to the photo listed in the auction. I also ask them for a return shipping label.

I’ll do you one better - I get cheap access to the ugly wines that don’t make the cut for our standards for sale at work. Seepers, depressed corks etc. My success rate is extremely high. When buying regular stock that does meet the standard for most back-vintage specialists, my success rate is near 100%.

I’ve seen several comments on Berserkers lately about the lack of quality or consistency with older wines in general. That is frankly just not my experience after years in the business and personally purchasing and consuming 100’s of bottles - many of which were heavily cosmetically challenged.

edited for clarity

Why do we still buy from places like Winebid ?

Ive had nothing but bad luck with sites like this and auctions, im convinced a lot of the bottles for sale have already suffered severe damage so they are being moved along to another chump

Buy from reputable store, winery, friend, fellow berserker you trust or if it is at auction but case lots with known history

I’ve had zero issues at Winebid.

It’s interesting how much people’s stories about Winebid seem to vary. I guess there is some chance involved, but I can only figure that the main variables must be (1) what kinds of wines different persons are buying, and (2) maybe individual perception of when an old wine is good or not good - sometimes it’s obvious in one direction or the other, but many times old wines tasting like old wines is beloved by one person and disliked by another.

For me, I always had great success with Winebid wines, including old ones. The one thing I can think of is that I was mostly looking for bargains and good wines that had reasonable price tags because they weren’t the “it” wines.

For example, I would buy a lot of 1990s Napa and Sonoma cabs from good producers but not ones that had a collector’s buzz to them. It’s possible that if you’re buying the highly pursued wines, it may be more likely the wines have changed hands multiple times, collectors have dumped off spoiled cases, there are fakes, or whatever. But if you’re buying 1995 Duckhorn merlot or 1993 Arrowwood cabernet for $30-40 or 1998 Dehlinger pinot, these aren’t wines that anyone would bother to fake, nor are they wines that collectors would have pored over or traded a bunch. They’re wines which, most likely, the original owner just wanted to sell.

That’s pure speculation, but it is interesting how so many of us have had hundreds of bottles from Winebid and no complaints, but others say most of the wine from there is garbage. I assume everyone is being honest, so I’m speculating about the reasons.

They would have been correct in the statement above except for one word, fortified. Ports and dessert wines leak because they are sweet, not because they are fortified.

People should stop buying from there…so that I can buy more.