The downside of wine clubs

Wine PourLet me preface these comments by saying that I love wine clubs. I am such a fan of my favorite one that I link to their site in my sidebar, and seem to mention them in about every 3rd post. I have discovered many excellent wines through wine clubs. However, there is an uncontrollable downside to them sometimes.

Last night I opened a Chilean cab that I had gotten from a recently canceled club. They hadn’t been sending the greatest wines so they had to go to make room for other clubs. Anyway, this cab had been sitting in the rack for a couple of months, so I decided to give it a try.

As soon as I poured it I started to get excited. The color was heading for brick and the edge had a nice tawny look to it. I grabbed the bottle, and sure enough, it was a bit older than expected.

I gave the glass a nice swirl while admiring the color, all the while anticipating the bouquet. As the glass reached my nose I inhaled deeply and got a nose full of what smelled like a nasty sherry.

I tried to drink it, and tasted what could have been. Smooth tannins, velvety fruit…and slightly off stewed prunes. Damn the brown oven on wheels that delivered my wine the hot Texas sun!

To be honest, I am surprised that this isn’t a more common occurrence, considering the part of the country I live in. Bouncing around in a darkly painted truck in a place that gets way more than its share of sunshine, and has temperatures over 90 for the majority of the year is no way to treat a wine. Unfortunately, that is the reality of the situation.

There are ways to minimize the risk, however. One is to ask your club to use a shipper that uses lighter colored, or air conditioned vehicles. Many do this as a matter of course. Other ways are to have them drop your package off at a convenient location. If it is an option, have it delivered to your place of business to ensure that it gets off of the truck as early as possible. Alternatively, most shippers have locations where customers can pick up packages. In my area UPS has small drop centers that will keep a package for $2 a day. That $2 is well worth the price, in my opinion. FedEx uses Kinkos as a drop center, and the one I use doesn’t charge a fee at all.

By using these methods, I have been able to ensure that experiences like the one described above are very rare. Also, any reputable wine dealer will replace a flawed wine for you without any argument or cost.

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