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Sunday, 28 November 2021

Are you being conned when you buy your wine?


Have you ever received a cold call from a helpful person offering to sell you a case of wine that is "extraordinary value" or a "one-off opportunity"? 

Caveat emptor. Buyer beware. Let alarm bells ring. 

A friend of mine received a call out of the blue the other day from a company from which he had previously purchased a very acceptable Coonawarra cabernet sauvignon. 

A Kiwi expat and a huge fan of Marlborough sauvignon blanc, he was seduced by a sales patter for a sauvignon blanc which he was assured was a "bargain"  and "remarkable for the price"

"I don't think it tastes like what I was told," he says.

He paid under $10 a bottle for a dozen generic label sauvignon blancs that were labelled "South-East Australia". And came from a no-name producer. 

I tasted the wine and he got what he paid for: a $10 wine of the quality you might expect to see poured by the glass in a suburban pub. 

He did not, however, get what he was promised. I advised him to send the remaining wines back for a full refund. 

Many others buying that same wine - and others like it - will not be bothered with the hassle of going to the post office. They will be drinking inferior wine, feeling cheated, while a salesman will be drinking better wine on the commission he has just made. 

There are plenty of pitfalls when it comes to buying a wine you have not tasted, whether that a purchase be over the phone, through a wine club, or buying cleanskins at a local bottle shop. 

Let me advise you of a couple of common scams.

One very well-known wine club, which I will not name because I have no wish to be sued, offers, and I paraphrase, "outstanding wines from some of Australia's finest boutique producers". 

Yet many of those wines actually come from very large wineries and are bottled as special labellings for that wine club and others like it. 

The blurb may well say "RRP $40" or "worth $50 a bottle" - but these wines are usually not available in retail stores and are sold under labels you may never see again. 

Also watch our for "rated 98 points". I'm increasingly seeing wines promoted by making that sort of claim that use the seller's own ratings, or those of paid-for reviewers. Pay attention. 

Also beware of reviews of a completely different vintage of the wine which you are being encouraged to buy. Some years are much better than others. 

Also beware of cleanskins (wines with no labels and no label info) and make sure you buy bottles from the same case as the wine you have tasted comes from. 

One box of $4.99 a bottle cabernet in an unopened box may be very different to the delicious wine you have just tried. Smoke and mirrors.

Just remember that there is plenty of cheap fruit on the market. Anyone can bottle up a batch under flashy label and make outrageous claims about a "failed export order" or "the biggest bargain of the year". 

Try before you buy, or choose wines that have been recommended by someone you trust. It's a wine jungle out there and you don't want to be the one who gets eaten alive.    

My friend, meanwhile, is awaiting his refund and has learned a valuable lesson. 

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