merchants and faulty bottles – some advice…

Update 16.11.2006(12.11.2006)billn

corksI don’t often whinge – I think!

When it comes to corked wine, my average is only around 4% detected – close to, but at the bottom-end of the rates from most studies – so I don’t consider myself a hypercondriac.

My approach to merchants when I have a bad bottle is simply to point out the problem and in a friendly-way ask (where possible) for a replacement, no histrionics, no emotion. The level of professionalism that merchants display at this juncture usually defines the longevity of your/my relationship with them – that’s my experience anyway. Those that can swiftly achieve the replacement, without fuss – I don’t need an apology as it’s clearly not their fault – tend to be my main suppliers, those that cannot are quickly ‘discarded’.

Why discarded? – That’s easy; there’s a big difference between ‘fault’ and ‘responsibility’. There is no blame attached to a bad bottle, but in a commercial transaction there is a responsibility to supply product (any product) that is fit for purpose – if it’s faulty it needs replacing. One ‘specialist’ merchant in my country of domicile points to the fact that their low (merely average) pricing does not allow for replacements – tant pis pour toi – they no longer have any business with me.

There are grey areas (of course) like when I had a bottle very recently with two winemakers; the bottle was clearly corked. I made my normal request and had the following experience:
“Do you still have the bottle?”
“No, I opened it in Burgundy and chose not to drive 260km back to Switzerland 4 days later with the faulty bottle and its contents” (which is anyway still 150km from the merchant’s location – I wonder if I was expected to post at my own cost an already opened bottle?)
“okay, I’ll have to check what we can do with my director – because this is an expensive bottle” (€90)

We anyway agreed, without further comment on what the ‘director can do’, that I would pick-up the replacement at a tasting. I got the bottle, but also with a note saying that I would be charged at 50%. Hmm. I have not yet made a fuss, because I have not yet been billed. It is also quite possible that I would have had 100% refund if I had been able to produce the bottle and its bad contents – though this implies a certain lack of trust and definite logistical issues. For now I will keep my powder dry, but a similar such occurance will certainly be the last with this merchant.

Personally speaking, only a portion of my faulty bottles will ever be replaced, as I only see it in the young wine when tasted at my first purchase. Once the bottles have lain in my cellar for more than a year – even if the problem is TCA (which will have been there since bottling) – I become philosophical and tend to agree (possibly wrongly): tant pis pour moi!

I think I’m very fair, I know that some people would say overly-so (?)

Agree? Disagree? Anything you'd like to add?

There are 2 responses to “merchants and faulty bottles – some advice…

  1. SobreVino12th November 2006 at 6:30 pmPermalinkReply

    I think you are absolutely fair, ando your procedure seems perfectly correct to me.

    If a merchant don’t see it that way, tant pis pour lui…

    Best regards,


  2. Steve Bachmann12th November 2006 at 7:41 pmPermalinkReply

    What a great post! As the CEO of Vinfolio, we deal with theissue of faulty bottles from the retailer point of view. Please see my response in my blog, The Wine Collector. Here is a link to my response.

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