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Oct 17, 2011 10:46 AM

What to do with a bad case of wine. Can we return it?

My wife & I had a great bottle of Alto Moncayo grenache that was heaven sent. The smell, the taste unbelievable. So we decided to order a case of it online. It was more than we typically pay for a case, but it was so good we could not help ourselves. The case arrived and we eagerly grabbed a bottle for dinner. The taste was just off. It was drinkable, but not the supreme pleasure experience we had with the first bottle. We just chalked it up to not being in the mood, wrong food, etc. Over the next few months we opened up one or two more bottles all with the same negative experience: drinkable, but just not great. So now we are thinking maybe the first bottle we had, was a fluke. So a month ago we went for dinner at Batali's tapas place Casa Mono in NYC. We asked for a wine recommendation. We told the waiter what we liked and really did not pay much attention to what he picked. Sure enough he shows up with the Alto granache and once again it was unbelievable. So now we have confirmation that our case of wine is not good. What can we do?

We live in NYC and it just so happens that the on-line place was in NJ. Although not close, we could make a trip to return it. Is this possible? Especially since now it had been several months to a year later. My concern is that it is not "bad" (vinegar) by the normal definition. It just does not taste as good as we know it should.

(Note: All wines are/were the same vintage. 2007 if you are curious)

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  1. I may be wrong here but if you are saying that the wine you bought is just not as good as you expected, you may just have to "eat" the cost here. You may be able to get a credit swap if you return it face to face and deal with the wine shop directly, but if the wine is not damaged in any way, they don't have to re-emburse you. I would give them a call and explain the situation and be flexible about a solution. Ask if you could swap for something that they would recommend as a replacement.

    1 Reply
    1. re: budnball

      OP did say that the wine he purchased from the retailer was also the same vintage of the same wine he had at 2 separate restaurants, both times with outstanding results, so it would appear that the purchased case may not have been stored properly. It's worth giving the retailer a call, you never know. Although not a wine retailer specifically, TJ's will take any wine back, no questions asked.

    2. Agree with budnball. Your best course of action is to tell your story to the retailer, and see if they can do right by you. If I had to guess, I would say that storage conditions were not ideal in one or more of the following: warehouse awaiting shipping, shipping container/truck, wholesaler storage, retailer storage.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Brad Ballinger

        I agree with others that the wine was not stored properly, and experienced a huge fall-off in flavor.
        I'd contact the retailer owner, via letter. Put your story above in writing, almost verbatim
        what you've written in your post. Fax if you can. Call back if you don't get a response.
        Let us know what happens.

      2. I'm pretty sure it's illegal to return alchohol in NY so maybe similar in Jersey?

        3 Replies
        1. re: coll

          It is not illegal to return alcohol in NY. I've done so myself with bad bottles of wine.

          1. re: ecustard

            I sort of investigated after I posted that, and I think they say it's "illegal" because there's a bunch of paperwork involved. I just know I see signs in liquor stores stating it so that was my impression. Wish I knew before I suffered through all those off bottles. Maybe I'll test it out next time (or maybe I should just ask about a guarantee beforehand!)

            1. re: coll

              It's NEVER illegal to return BAD wine. It is often illegal to return wine simply because *you* didn't like it.

              OTOH, while I cannot speak for NY/NJ, most retailers I know often accept returns of wines people didn't like on the premise that, "if you keep the customer happy, you keep the customer."

        2. object lesson about the risks of having wine shipped.
          rarely is wine shipped in temperature-controlled vehicles.
          sorry for your bad experience.

          8 Replies
          1. re: westsidegal

            What object lesson? All wine one buys in a retail store is shipped from the winery to the distributor, and then to the retailer. It runs the exact same risks.

            1. re: ChefJune

              it makes a difference if the wine is shipped in a temperature controlled truck vs. in a UPS truck (especially in the hot months).

              MANY wine retailers AND many restaurants get their shipments in temperature controlled trucks.
              i've never seen wine that is shipped to individual consumers being shipped in temperature-controlled trucks.

              1. re: westsidegal


                But that means the retailer is still responsible for the bad wine. He can always deal with UPS if he has maintained appropriate storage conditions. This is not the purchaser's job since he cannot ascertain culpability: Is it the store or UPS that caused the wine to degrade?

                1. re: maria lorraine

                  i'm driven by laziness, though.
                  when i find a reliable retailer who will do all the due diligence for me, i usually just stick with them.
                  ordering wine directly with nobody supervising the shipping process, doesn't appeal to me.
                  knowing for sure that the wine will spend time in those dark brown trucks driving around in 90 degree heat REALLY doesn't appeal to me.
                  as it once was explained to me: "there is a benefit of dealing with a diligent, capable, retailer. in the end, it is can be the most economical way to buy things."

            2. re: westsidegal

              A number of years ago I spent a good deal of time researching how various wineries and distributors shipped wines. All used refrigerated warehouses and refrigerated trucks. But after delivery, the cases of wine often sat on the loading dock, unrefrigerated. Or worse, the wines sat in the rear of the store near the exhaust vents of a walk-in refrigerator, bathed in hot air. Finally, some stores turn off the air conditioning in the store at night, and turn it on two hours before opening. Meaning, a huge variation in temp during the day. All this led me to believe that it was retailer error almost always in the case of improper storage before purchase. The warehouses and trucks had strict temperature controls.

              1. re: maria lorraine

                When I ordered wine from CA to my FL home, the vineyard folks (Navarro) e-mailed me to say they were holding back my order for 3-4 days because of unusually warm weather ahead along the route. That's what I call being on top of your game.

                1. re: Veggo

                  The flip side is I have been told they would wait 1-2 months to ship insuring that the warm weather wouldn't be a factor... and then ship anyway.

                  1. re: Veggo

                    That's what I did on my last two cases

              2. It doesn't hurt to call the retailer. My guess is, that unless you do a lot of business with them your going to take it on the chin. It would have been a little easier if you called them after the first bottle was opened (how were you to know it wasn't a rogue bottle), but three bottles in and its not "undrinkable"? I think that might be a hard sell, but you never know.