Justerini's corked wine

Discussion in 'UK Wine Forum' started by Stefan Bogdanski, Mar 6, 2020.

  1. We recently opened some Perret St Joseph 2012, that I bought a few years ago from Justerini's. The first bottle was corked to death, so we opened another, which was not. The contrast between the bottles was big and even the civilians could tell immediately the difference.

    I wrote to Justerini's asking whether they would refund the corked bottle. The initial response was less than impressive, stating something to the effect that this is a mature wine, so I can expect some oxidation and that since only one bottle was corked and the other was not, this was not a "systematic problem" with the wine, so tough: no refund, no replacement. I pointed out that oxidation was not the issue, but rather TCA and that it usually is only one or two bottles per case that are corked. After a longish delay, I was told that it is not their policy to offer credits or refunds, that on this occasion they would deign to credit my account for the bottle, but that this is a one-off and they will not do it again.

    I am not a major buyer from J+B by any means, but I do buy enough of their stuff on a regular basis, so they can easily check that I don't bother them about corked bottles on a frequent basis (can't remember if I ever did in fact), so their response is a little vexing. Especially, since Berry's has always been very civilised about such things as have the less-be-warranted merchants.

    It's hardly about the 15 pounds or so that the bottle cost and more to do with their customer service and future trust. Have anyone here been in a similar situation? What advice would people offer on how to proceed?
  2. FWIW I tend to write off corked bottles, though I know I really should return every single on of them. I think this is mainly due to buying mostly via the internet and I can't be bothered with the hassle. So whilst I almost certainly wouldn't return a bottle, I am appalled at this attitude from them, and it's enough to mentally blacklist them.

    How to proceed? Write to the MD, including the correspondence to date, and say your relationship with Justerinis is finished. Feel free to point them to my post as well to show how strongly wine enthusiasts feel about such disrespect for consumer rights.
    Stefan Bogdanski likes this.
  3. Accept the credit and move on. The next time it happens raise a query again, you may find it was simply a maladroit communication from a particular person, whom you might avoid next time round

    Edited to add: in my view Ian that would be overkill although that's a personal decision. I think life's too short to escalate quite like that, for what's at stake.

    I can sense the indignation but I don't see it being deployed here in a way that helps long term
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2020
  4. I think it's the 'few years ago' which means you haven't much of a claim.
    Adam Ventress likes this.
  5. My own experiences with J&B is that they would do well to learn from BBR in the art of customer service. I haven't bought from them for a while but last time I did I received a call to tell me that their records were wrong and the case was actually a case of 11, not 12 - did I want it? I was somewhat surprised to be told that as the wine was well priced, they wouldn't discount it by 1/12. As it was something I really wanted I took it but with a very bad taste in my mouth.... In contrast BBR have refunded corked bottles without question, have given me 'free' credit to taste in the shop etc etc - they are a true pleasure to deal with.
  6. (Fine) Wine is a product that is sold and bought with the expectation of cellaring, so I don't buy the time lag argument (otherwise we'd all be accepting of premox). Now there probably is a cut-off and IMO that's when in a genuinely older wine it can get harder to determine if it's simply OTH or there is mild taint stripping the fruit. In this instance:
    a) the wine is not that old - a max 7 years since retail, perhaps quite a bit less
    b) the evidence of the 2nd bottle shows the TCA effect to a clear degree

    p.s. I found the bullshit response about oxidation to be most offensive - like an ignorant waiter, rather than representative of a long established fine wine company.
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2020
  7. Legally there is no question at all of liability. I would hope that they would anyway offer a refund if requested, though I wouldn't ask for one myself. I wouldn't expect one had I bought a £15000 bottle of corked Romanee-Conti either, which is just one of the very many reasons that I don't buy Romanee-Conti.
  8. Tom Cannavan

    Tom Cannavan Administrator

    Maybe some of our fine wine ITB members can tell us how this would work in terms of the supply chain? I'm guessing that a bottle bought last week and corked would be refunded/exchanged by the retailer, and they would seek recompense from the distributor and possibly, eventually, the producer so that everyone is being recompnsed as far back as the 'source'. But a bottle bought 5 years ago? Would the supply chain accept it? Do all elememts of it still exist?

    Don't get me wrong: I think a wine merchant probably should just suck it up as part of their overall customer service - it is a faulty product bought from them - but a 5 or 10 year old wine is a bit different from a faulty laptop bought from John Lewis, that would certainly go back to their supply chain if found faulty in its guarantee period.
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2020
  9. I tend to send back corked bottles if I have taken delivery within say a year or so (unless it’s the wine society of course) otherwise I’d probably take it on the chin.
    Leon Marks likes this.
  10. As others, I also do not to return every corked bottle I open, in fact probably quite the opposite. But from time to time there are bottles which are so clearly defective (as in this case) that I do ask. I've always had really positive responses from merchants on this (BBR are impressive, but so are the other smaller merchants), either with replacement bottles of the same or later vintages of the wine, or a refund. I understand it may not be possible for the merchant to get their money back at this stage, but at some level it is about trust and service. Isn't this setting very different to an auction/caveat emptor sale? It makes me very uncomfortable buying something from Justerini's in the future, and certainly not something expensive.
  11. If corked, it is a simple fact that the wine is a faulty product.
    I used to take a hardline stance with retailers, but nowadays I’m more inclined to shrug & move on with life.
    J & B’s stance is not befitting of a ‘proper’ wine merchant.
    Stefan Bogdanski and Ian Sutton like this.
  12. If it's a £15000 DRC, it worths a legal fight. But the problem is whom to make claim to, the merchant or the wine maker?
    You probably need to prove that problematic bottle is the exact bottle you buy from that merchant, not another bottle from somewhere else. I guess for DRC you got bottle number certificate or something.

    Recently I had a bit issue with IdealWine, which doesn't offer return option for the auction bottle, understandable; but their 'fixed price' bottles should be under customer protection regulation? I asked this question to their UK customer service manager, so far I got no reply.
  13. To some extent my expectations are governed by the source of the wine. Unless a wine has been badly stored I generally take the view that something on a broking list is at my risk. With an ex Chateau or Domaine release of an old wine I would expect the same guarantees as with any other product, as there is a direct and clear supply chain.
    John Wigglesworth and Ian Sutton like this.
  14. Even a corked La Tache can make one wince.
    Richard Zambuni and Thom Blach like this.
  15. I think in the case of your Chavy Chevalier that you mention in the other thread you have an extremely strong case for refund or replacement.
  16. I suspect that my case would have been stronger had I contacted the merchant with my concerns after opening the first bottle.
  17. I think a corked bottle of wine is a faulty product under the Consumer Rights Act and as such one should be entitled to a refund. If you buy a bottle from Tesco on Friday, find it's corked on Saturday it is clear you are entitled to a refund and you will get it without an argument from most retailers.

    Fine wine, where it has been bought several years ago, and stored at home is less clear cut. To take legal action (if necessary) you have 6 years (5 in Scotland). You would also have to prove the wine was faulty when sold. I suspect J&B are implying that it wasn't clearly faulty when sold but has somehow become faulty whilst in your possession. Is it easy to prove that a corked wine today was clearly faulty, say 5 years ago, when sold? Also with old wines the question of how it was stored is likely to become an issue. The retailer may well argue that how the wine was stored has caused or contributed to the problem.

    Rights are against the retailer, not the producer, although if the producer is prepared to refund/replace then that is likely to make it easier for the retailer to do the same.

    I'm surprised by the response of J&B and I'd have thought for good customer relations they should have just arranged a refund when you first complained especially as it wasn't very much. Because of the arguments you have had to have with them to get the refund it seems like you will consider taking your custom elsewhere and who could blame you. I wouldn't.
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2020
  18. I thought six months was the time limit, and only 30 days for a refund to be automatic?
  19. If one can prove it's TCA (by laboratory report), and there's no fungus growing at the upper side of the cork (more laboratory report?), one can argue that it could only be a problem from inside of the bottle, not outside? And probably better offer witness' claim (eg. sommerlier's statement) ... plus proving the bottle is the bottle you bought...
    Quite a lot of effort, but one should be able to claim all the testing cost and legal fees, providing he or she wins the case.
  20. As others have said it's surprising that J&B's customer service wasn't better. There are many different ways to handle such a situation which may or may not end with a replacement, but won't leave the customer frustrated or disappointed.
    Stefan Bogdanski likes this.
  21. Not only on corked bottles, it should include wines with other fault as well like the PJ Belle Epoque 2008 that we had last time.
    Stefan Bogdanski likes this.
  22. I thought six months was the time limit, and only 30 days for a refund to be automatic?

    You're right. One can reject in the first 30 days for a full refund but after that one is only entitled to a repair from the retailer but if the item cannot be repaired (and you can't repair a corked wine!) then you are entitled to a full or partial refund depending on the item. I guess if your TV breaks down after 2 years and can't be repaired and a TV might normally be expected to last 5 years, let's say, then the refund you could expect would be 60% of the original price. A whole bottle of corked wine is rather different and I see no reason why you couldn't have the full refund.
  23. I thought six months was the time limit, and only 30 days for a refund to be automatic?

    Sorry didn't address the 6 months bit in the above post only the 30 days. I think where you are getting confused Thom is that if the fault arises in the first 6 months it is automatically assumed to have been there at time of sale unless the retailer can prove otherwise. Handy if you discover your wine is corked within 6 months of purchase. If you find the wine is corked more than 6 months after purchase, as would be the case with a lot of fine wines, then you have 6 years to take legal action should it come to that. Whether it is worth it is another question altogether.
    Ian Sutton likes this.
  24. In my wine importing days, I would always replace or refund any faulty bottle. Usually I would just absorb the loss but if the wine was very expensive, or I had frequent problems with the same wine I would always tell the domaine that I had imported it from. Almost without exception they would apologise and replace the faulty bottle.One exception was a courtière through which I had to buy a particular white burgundy. I was complaining about a village white burg that was premoxed after 4 years. She told me that it was stupid to complain as the wine should have been drunk years ago! She refused to take the remaining cases back so I simply deducted the total sum of these faulty bottles from the amount I owed her and never did business with her again. The other case was the Corton Charlemagne of Bonneau du Martray 1996. Amazingly, because he was such a gent, he also refused to take premoxed 96's back.I continued to buy from him though as the domaine was too important to ditch.
  25. Sounds like what you would consider customer service to me, and be grateful for it. Business is much more than pounds shillings and pence, it's about relationships.
    Stefan Bogdanski likes this.

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