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Mismatched Cork?

Kat Sep 2, 2013 01:41 PM

Ok, we had a BBQ this weekend and someone brought a bottle of Yellow Tail Merlot (hmmmm... but this person hasn't a lot of funds to spend). Anyhoo, when he uncorked it, the cork said Rioja and had info about its origin in Spanish, which he tossed before I could get a good look. Anyone know why? Are they reusing corks? Buying overstock cheap? So strange.

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  1. Gussie Finknottle RE: Kat Sep 2, 2013 03:10 PM

    It is unlikely IMO that anyone is trying to pass-off something else as Yellow Tail. So there are a number of possibilities. Maybe what was stamped on the cork was details of the supplier of the cork and part of their addres contains the word Rioja.

    Or maybe the wine was bulk shipped and bottled in a factory that had been bottling Rioja previously.

    Without seeing the cork or knowing what was stamped on it who can say...

    6 Replies
    1. re: Gussie Finknottle
      plaidbowtie RE: Gussie Finknottle Sep 3, 2013 05:57 PM

      Yellowtail, by volume, is the most faked wine in the world.

      1. re: plaidbowtie
        Robert Lauriston RE: plaidbowtie Sep 3, 2013 06:02 PM

        Seriously? Seems kind of like counterfeiting $1 bills.

        Though I guess you could make it up in volume, and you'd be less likely to get caught.

        1. re: Robert Lauriston
          plaidbowtie RE: Robert Lauriston Sep 4, 2013 11:01 AM

          yep, wines are faked on the very high, and very low end. A fake palette of YT will fetch the same profit as one bottle of Lafite, and no one will ever look at it..

          1. re: plaidbowtie
            Robert Lauriston RE: plaidbowtie Sep 4, 2013 12:17 PM

            Yeah, that's what I was thinking. Seems like the retailers or distributors who were knowingly selling it would be taking a big risk since they'd have to fake tax records.

            If such low-end counterfeiting is going on it does not seem to be common knowledge. Googling around, the few references I found to counterfeit Yellow Tail were more or less jokes.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston
              plaidbowtie RE: Robert Lauriston Sep 4, 2013 12:24 PM

              Much of it doesn't make it to the US (thankfully) because tax records do add another layer of inconvenience.

        2. re: plaidbowtie
          maria lorraine RE: plaidbowtie Sep 3, 2013 07:31 PM

          I wonder if it's even Merlot, rather than some innocuous red.

      2. Kat RE: Kat Sep 2, 2013 03:16 PM

        No, I did not mean to infer that anyone is trying to pass off the wine as Yellow Tail (!), but wondering if Yellow Tail itself is trying to save $ by buying Rioja cork overstock or something similar.

        7 Replies
        1. re: Kat
          Bill Hunt RE: Kat Sep 2, 2013 09:20 PM

          That could be a possibility. Like buying mis-marked Titelist Pro-V1's, that had some mistake with a logo, or similar.

          Maybe they got a good deal on some corks, intended for elsewhere, but the order was canceled? I would suspect that a producer, such as Yellow Tail, does not expect the purchaser to ever see the cork.

          I can imagine a telephone conversation like this:

          Cork dude - "Hey, we have a deal for you. Some Rioja producer just went into bankruptcy. Do you want them at 60% off?"

          Yellow Tail guy - "Sure. Our patrons never look at the cork anyway."


          1. re: Bill Hunt
            maria lorraine RE: Bill Hunt Sep 3, 2013 02:54 PM

            I wonder if the Merlot was grown in Spain, and bottled in Rioja, and merely labeled with the Yellow Tail brand. Licensed operations like this are not uncommon, though I don't know if that's the case with YT.

            ETA: What seems more likely is that YT's huge bottling facility in Australia (one of the biggest anywhere) also bottles Rioja, perhaps shipped via tanker, and the bottling line made an error (using corks from the Rioja batch).

            Merlot could have been shipped to Rioja and bottled there also for the EU market, but the other possibility seems more likely.

            1. re: maria lorraine
              Robert Lauriston RE: maria lorraine Sep 3, 2013 03:16 PM

              If that were the case, wouldn't the label have to read "product of Spain" instead of the usual "product of Australia"?

              1. re: maria lorraine
                Bill Hunt RE: maria lorraine Sep 3, 2013 08:12 PM


                Good question. I know zero about Yellow Tail, other than I have tasted some of their whites, and was not impressed.

                Just spent 10 days in Sydney, and I turned a bunch of sommeliers loose, to do pairing menus, but from Australia, Tasmania or New Zealand. Only one did not take up the challenge, and refused to deviate from his B-T-G offerings for the pairing - weakest of the entire trip, and with an attitude.

                I discussed the wines from Oceania, that we get in the US, and we all had a few laughs. We get stuff, that is export-only, and then The Grange, or similar - little between. I mentioned Yellow Tail, and no one had ever heard of it. These were all wine-professionals, at the highest-end Sydney restaurants. They did not get my little joke, as they had never seen, much less tasted, Yellow Tail.

                What is in those bottles, below those corks? I have no clue, and will most likely not have a chance to examine "Exhibit A." You could be correct as to the source of that wine, if it IS Merlot.

                Beyond some parlor-game speculation, it boils down to a "do I really care?" situation.


                BTW - each sommelier, who took up my challenge, had great fun, was surprised greatly, and we benefited from their knowledge of the chef, the kitchen and their cellars. Fabulous pairings, and a lot of laughter. None had ever been confronted with such a prospect. The chef/sommelier/owner of EST went sort of wild. Each dish had 2 - 4 wines, as he wanted to showcase his kitchen, and wow us. Let's just say that he did, and in a big way. Nothing was from the B-T-G list, and he dredged up all sorts of "local wines," that were fabulous. One was a 3 ltr. btl, and I only hope that he was able to sell the rest, during the next few days. A few asked if we would like to go to France, but my feeling was that we had just returned from Burgundy, and while we loved almost every wine that we tasted, we were in Oceania, so wished to sample wines that would never make their way to US shores. I am not used to turning down Burgs (whites or reds), but each came through (except for one), with flying colors. Next trip to Australia will be 3 days in Sydney (we missed some good stuff, even with 10 days), and then down south, for some serious Australian wines. Did Hunter Valley, which was fun, but not all THAT serious. Good, but I want more!

                Yellow Tail from Spain? Could be, but then, "who cares?"


                1. re: Bill Hunt
                  maria lorraine RE: Bill Hunt Sep 3, 2013 08:17 PM

                  It is sort of an academic "mystery," because we can't know what really happened unless someone is willing to do the digging.

                  Shipping wine by tanker to be bottled elsewhere is nothing new, especially since the weight of the glass bottle adds so much to international shipping costs.

                  Certainly there's a possibility that even though the label reads "Merlot," it's really something else that's similar to Merlot, perhaps Tempranillo (Spain) and I doubt anyone is going to do a DNA analysis of YT Merlot.

                  1. re: maria lorraine
                    Bill Hunt RE: maria lorraine Sep 3, 2013 08:45 PM

                    Actually, and from my very limited tastings, I think that Yellow Tail reaches the US in LPG tankers, that have been lightly washed out. Still, it IS a hot-selling wine, so some segment of the populace must be ready to buy it - regardless of what it is.


                    1. re: maria lorraine
                      Midlife RE: maria lorraine Sep 4, 2013 12:06 AM

                      Really? Counterfeit wine? Imagine that!!!

                      When I was doing a consulting project for a Chinese food importing company I spoke with one large California 'private label' winery and inadvertently made a joke that apparently appeared to suggest they they label some wine as Napa when it wasn't from there. You'd have thought I was an undercover narcotics cop on a college campus.............. the way I was grilled after that slip. I thought the person "did protest too much", and it even got to a disavowal of any and all remote possibility of that, followed by "we wouldn't jeopardize our people with a criminal act". Sheesh! That wasn't what I meant at all!

            2. Kat RE: Kat Sep 3, 2013 02:18 PM

              Ha, LOL! That is probably exactly what happened.

              1. Robert Lauriston RE: Kat Sep 4, 2013 09:15 AM

                There's a whole chapter about Casella Wines and Yellow Tail in George Taber's book "A Toast to Bargain Wines."

                Australians don't know about the brand because it was developed for export to the American market.

                Wine industry types know little about the brand because Deutsch Family, the importers and money partners, ignored the usual wine-industry promotional apparatus in a successful attempt to reach consumers not influenced by that stuff. Marketing was focused on things like paying retailers to stock the distinctively colored wines at the end of aisles and put up signs. For the first three or four years of explosive growth, the wine was on allocation and there was no advertising.

                Casella has a strong focus on quality (albeit of a type not appreciated by us wine snobs) and a strong interest in protecting its brand, so counterfeit seems the most likely explanation if indeed there's Rioja being sold as Yellow Tail Merlot.

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