The Wine Ethicist: Retail Politics
So The Wine Ethicist is off to a great start; the first two installments drew a fantastic response, and my thanks to all who have weighed in. Next week’s edition will feature the first reader-generated question, and as I said before, I hope people will suggest questions and topics.
Last week’s subject was gift bottles, and whether hosts should feel obliged to open wines that have been given to them as presents. The consensus was that hosts have no such obligation; if a bottle is brought as a gift, the host can do with it whatever he or she pleases. If the host is a friend, and the relationship is such that you can ask in advance about the menu and indicate to the host that you’ll be bringing something to match the food, then it’s reasonable to expect that your wine will be uncorked. Otherwise, though, you should bring a bottle knowing that you are probably kissing it goodbye.
I still insist, however, that it was cheeky of my potluck friend not to serve the bottle I brought to her shindig. As luck would have it, potluck is the subject of the lead article in today’s New York Times Dining section. The writer, Jennifer Steinhauer, decries the widespread practice of bringing store-bought items to potluck gatherings, which she says is antithetical to the spirit of such get-togethers. I think she’s right. But people supplying wine for potluck events are obviously off the hook on this one; unless you happen to be a winemaker, the wine you contribute to a potluck supper is probably going to be store-bought.
That provides a good segue to this week’s topic. If I purchase a bottle from my nearby wine shop, open it tonight, and discover that it is corked, I will bring it back to the store tomorrow expecting to be offered a refund or replacement bottle, and hopefully, the merchant will do just that (I hate arguing in public). But what if I put the bottle in my cellar and don’t open it for a year—should the store still be willing to take it back? What if I don’t pull the cork until, say, 2016? As far as I know, this is an issue for which there are no regulations or guidelines; merchants make their own rules. I would love to hear from people on both sides of the checkout counter. Those of you who sell wine: beyond what point will you not take back a corked or otherwise damaged bottle? Those of you who buy wine: what do you think is reasonable, and what’s the oldest bottle that you’ve tried to return to a store on account of TCA or other flaws?
Since retailing is in the spotlight this week, I’ll toss out another question: If you buy a bottle from a merchant, open it, and decide immediately you don’t like it, should you be entitled to return it?