Friday, October 05, 2007

Corking News.

I've had two bottles of corked wine in Korea. Both from Burgundy interestingly enough. Is that interesting? Yeah, course it is. The first bottle was about 8 months ago from Les Vins Maeils at Jamsil and I bottled it in terms of dealing with the issue. I should have returned it and explained the situation but my lack of Korean meant this was a terrifying concept. So I just did myself out of about 30,000won and poured it down the sink.

The most recent bottle was a Louis Latour(excellent negociant and producer of Burgundy) Chardonnay from the new Homeplus/Tesco at Jamsil. I was hoping for a lightly oaked, simple white Burgundy at a not unreasonable 24,000w. It smelled of mouldy clothes(more of which later). However, on my first visit to the store I had the good fortune to meet with one of the marketing managers of Tesco who was taking a hands on role in the wine club. We talked for a little while and exchanged details, hopefully leading to some sort of wine club for foreigners in the future, we will see. This meant I had an excellent source of information on a company's policy towards corked wine. So I emailed. The good news is that Tesco policy appears to be that they will happily exchange a bottle of corked wine. I say appears to be as until my complaint there had been no instances of this happening.

In my previous life in the wine industry our policy was to exchange corked wines with no questions asked and I think this is the only sensible policy to adopt. Something faulty has been sold and the customer is perfectly within their rights for a new bottle. However this policy only applied to bottles under 20 pounds. Fine wines were sold as seen and there was no guarantee of how they had been kept before they made it to our store. Given the price of wines in Korea this raises a few problems, going over 40,000 won a bottle is really not hard to do and so the cost of corked wines to the retailer is exponentially higher. With corked bottles running up to an estimated 15% there is the potential for some hefty losses.

This is something that will only come with more education fortunately(for the retailers). I am pretty sure that the majority of corked wines are drunk, even in more established markets, with people putting it down to an unpleasant bottle of wine. Without knowing what you are looking for it is very easy to assume that it is you who has made the mistake in your initial purchase. I will say this, generally, if a wine doesn't smell good then there is a fault with it. Trust your nose. I equate the smell with clothes that have been left damp for too long. That musty, lingering smell that can be quite subtle but once detected leaves an insidious stain on your nostrils that can haunt you through the day. In a wine I tend to find my initial reaction is something is not right followed by a detection of the cork taint followed by an inability to smell anything but the damp nastiness. Sorry, smell is a bit subjective and I can't describe it better.

Having the confidence to return a bottle of spoiled wine is actually quite liberating. You are trusting your ability to detect problems and taking it back to the experts and leaving them with the decision of how to deal with it. If you are only spending a couple of pounds, euros or dollars however then the bad smell might well be the wine itself. Trade up!


Big Bliss said...

"Having the confidence to return a bottle of spoiled wine is actually quite liberating".....or is it?

I speak as one of the exclusive number who is allowed to return a pint in my local gin palace without fear of being barred/harangued/subjected to violence.

This honour, it transpires, is bestowed due to my many years of excessive imbibing leading mine host to conclude that I surely must be able to spot a bad one. Not so much liberating, as rather a damning indictement of my leisure activities

Anonymous said...

I just have one question.Why every Wine that is spoiled is due to the Cork? It is not correct to say "it is corked". The Wine has its faults and several chemical reactions can happen in the Bottle.
I believe that it is time to give a name to spoiled Wines and stop sayng "it is corked". Pls don't forget that the cork absorves all the smells, so if the wine is spoiled, mouldy, that will go to the Cork. Several wines with Screwcaps are nowadays corked...