You know how much I hate to complain, but even in this holiday season of generosity and good cheer, I’ve got a few things on my mind. There is a lot to love in wine; there’s also a lot to loathe about the way it’s sold. As always, I’m here to share.
Look, I understand that running liquor stores is a big deal. It ain’t easy. I wouldn’t do it for a night with Morgan Fairchild. Nevertheless, there is one thing that really irritates me about Utah’s booze shops: no returns.
I’ve never actually tested out the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control’s no-return policy. Why? Because I’ve been embarrassed to do so. There are signs in every wine and liquor store in the state admonishing customers with the warning: “No returns of beer or wine.” Does that mean you can return rum?
I understand the reasoning behind this policy, which is essentially that booze customers are children. In much the way that George W. Bush refuses to treat his constituents as thinking, caring, responsible adults who might want to know the unvarnished truth, so does the UDABC when it comes to woeful wine. I suppose the thinking is this: Allow customers to return bad wine, and you’ll have mobs of winos on the doorstep every Monday morning, leaving you half-consumed bottles of over-oaked Chardonnay to deal with.
And yet â€¦ I don’t think so. I have a fundamental belief in the soulful honesty and righteousness of humankind. While there are certainly evildoers among us, I don’t really think that wine consumers stay up at night strategizing for ways to get freebies. In other words, I don’t think that the honorable wine-drinking folks of Utah would drink from a bottle of perfectly good wine and then return the bottle to get their money back. There are easier ways to screw the system.
But what about bad wine? Thanks to the likes of wine czar Brett Clifford at the UDABC, there is very little lousy wine in our state stores. But Clifford can’t taste every bottle. Wine experts estimate that as much as 10 percent of all wine sold is “corked.” Personally, I’ve had better luck than that. I’d say my corked wine percentage is down around 1 percent. Maybe that’s because I buy the cheap stuff before it has a chance to go bad.
Not too long ago, however, I bought a bottle of my honey’s favorite vino: Rosa Regale. As I was pulling the Champagne-style cork, I noticed a little chip on the rim of the glass bottle. I remember thinking, “That’s weird. This bottle is corked and wrapped in wire and foil. How did that chip get there?” Well, it probably happened way back in Italy when the wine was being bottled and before it was corked. At any rate, I didn’t think it would have any affect on the wine. And yet I did consider taking it back to the wine store for an exchange, just in case'before I pulled the cork out. And then I remembered the no-exchanges, no-returns policy.
You can guess what happened next. I uncorked the rose-colored wine and poured my mate and myself a decidedly less-than-effervescent splash. The wine was flat. That little chip in the rim of the bottle did make a difference. So what did we do? Well, because we live in no-return Utah we drank a no-bubbles bottle of bubbly. I was out $25.
Last week, I bought a bottle of Spanish wine called El Paseo 2003 Tempranillo. It sucked. Now, for $4.95, I wasn’t expecting much. But this wine was undrinkable, and there’s not much wine I won’t drink. Could I take it back for a refund? Nope.
I pity the poor sucker who decides to shell out $500 for a bottle of spectacular Bordeaux that’s been sitting in the glass case at 3rd & 3rd wine store for the past decade. Buyers beware.