Wine Fraud/WineRant: When Drinking What You Like Is Impossible

15 May

Usually, I like receiving money.  Today just isn’t one of those days.

Allow me to explain…

 

I’m looking at a cheque that sits in front of me, untouched on my table, and it makes me seethe. Yes, the mere existence of this piece of paper angers me. For if I deposit the check, it means I legally accept that a debt owed to me has been paid, albeit horridly underpaid. And this paltry cheque is nothing compared to what I purchased and the seller confirmed, then failed to deliver. I can not emotionally absolve the seller for not only failing to complete the transaction, but actually cheating me, because this was done with intent. And wine is more to me than a commodity. It represents so much: happiness, community, decadence, serenity, -and certain special wines mean even more. You know what I mean, if you’ve had one of those rare, gorgeous, transcendent wines, and you ache to find more. And eventually you find some, and you pay for it and believe that it’s yours, until it’s taken away.

Just looking at this cheque reminds me of an awful thing. It reminds me that I am a member of a horrid club, the group of more than 2,300 customers who purchased wines from Premiere Cru in California and didn’t receive their wines.

just kidding

I was smart in that my first purchase was for only two bottles, which I received in a timely manner. The second purchase, for six bottles, took longer to receive, but the wines were well-packed, exactly what I ordered, and were a delight to drink. It was more than a year later, at a time I was flush from completing a huge project when I was searching to order a few more bottles of a specific white burgundy that is very special to me, in essence my personal equivalent of crack cocaine- I saw the name on a list and all I could do was say “yes, please!”  I picked up the phone, confirmed they were available, gave my payment information, and waited. And waited. And the rest, as they say, is history.

 

This is not the first time I have lost on a deal in the wine world. Oh yes, I’ve failed before. I trusted sellers to hold up their end of business, and was shocked when they didn’t.    
-I went through a period in which I followed and participated in a number of wine auctions with (mostly) pleasant experiences, until I purchased a lot at auction in which _all_ the bottles had cooked. I specifically use the word “purchased” where the auction house would use “won”. I don’t say “won” because it is insulting, to say the least. Of a dozen successful auctions, this is the purchase that essentially killed auctions for me, and now makes my blood boil when I see an advertisement from this house. I can recall blogging about how much I was enjoying auctions five years ago…exactly six months before I opened my cooked bottles from auction.

The fact that the entire lot had cooked demonstrates improper storage, which is much harder to accept as a buyer than one corked bottle from a lot, when the auction is from a top house and the wines are touted as being “removed from professional storage”.

 

-I purchased a case of a gorgeous burgundy wine from a respected retailer at a great price and waited patiently for the wines to arrive. On the phone I was promised a few days to three weeks, max before I received the wine. Ultimately I waited a half a year for resolution, for the wines still had not arrived, teaching me the importance of the word: “pre-arrival” in advertising. As opposed to en primeur, aka purchasing wine futures (pre-bottling), this vendor said the wines would arrive within days, not weeks…and after call after call, I found out so much of the story it made me livid: “The shipping container was filled by another order, so your wine had to wait for the next one, which is scheduled in three weeks. Oh, that might be three months. The negociant bumped our order, but we’re next…” This charade went on and on. I had purchased the wines in early August, intending to drink them in September, since they’d be available “almost immediately”, I was told over the phone when ordering. By March, I was incensed. After writing a letter to the company and detailing the issues, I was finally offered a refund or an exchange. I accepted the exchange to a similar Burgundy, (a slightly lower quality at a higher price I had to ‘buy up’ for, of course) but I was furious because they had advertised something they could not accurately provide- and so I didn’t do business with this company for several years. After being personally invited to a complimentary tasting at their shop, however, I started buying from them again,  -but only wines that are in stock, in small quantities- with satisfaction.

 

What lessons have I learned? 

 

Build personal relationships with your vendors. You might be big or small in their eyes, but people will think twice about losing you and often work hard to help you and retain your business relationship if there is a personal connection.

Confirm you are purchasing wines that a vendor has in-stock.  Respect the word “pre-arrival” and know exactly what risk that entails (that you are paying for something the seller does not have either in inventory, or under their control).

-To take smaller risks with a vendor, buy in small amounts. This is simple, but can be hard to do sometimes.

-To take delivery in person when possible. This helps with each of the above lessons and practices.

If it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Premiere Cru was selling wines far below their competition…because it was a ponzi scheme.

If you buy at auction, be aware of everything that means. Read the fine print, and accept that you might be bidding on something you won’t or can’t drink.

 

The good news, dear reader, is that I learned, and have grown, from experience.

I stopped doing business with companies I could not trust, and I found vendors who are reputable and who work harder to maintain customer satisfaction. The more I learn about wines and the more winemakers I meet, the more “desert island” wines I find, and the more relationships I build both with winemakers and vendors. This constantly provides me far more quality wines to taste and enjoy- and more great, afforable wines to share with you! Where in the past I went crazy for a specific chateau and vintage, these days I am more a fan of winemakers and their philosophy. If I were to qualify that by comparing it with a food analogy, then instead of wanting to re-create a great meal, I want to go re-visit that chef and taste what they are doing currently. If I can manage to score another bottle of a great vintage, then that’s a lovely treat, but these days I’m so very happy when I can get a few bottles of recent releases  from a winemaker whose work I really enjoy.

Thanks for letting me share,

and maybe you’ll learn from my mistakes,

or share your own mistakes with me. 

Lastly…

I’d really like your opinion:

What should I do with that cheque?

 

à votre santé!

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4 Responses to “Wine Fraud/WineRant: When Drinking What You Like Is Impossible”

  1. okiewinegirl2015 May 17, 2017 at 11:24 am #

    Cash it quick before it bounces. Buy a bottle you love and drink it while contemplating the fact these things happen.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. intastebudswetrust May 16, 2017 at 3:13 am #

    I feel your pain. Shops that do that kind of stuff to me are immediately blacklisted!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Jimmy L. May 15, 2017 at 10:37 pm #

    Cash it and put it all on black.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Duff's Wines May 15, 2017 at 10:21 pm #

    Cash the damn thing. Then at least they experience some financial pain. Plus you can buy some wine from your new trusted wine merchant.
    Well put about trust. In all relationships but particularly with something as important as wine.

    Liked by 2 people

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