Ethics in the wine shop
What do you do? Do you tell the shopkeeper? Pass on the opportunity but say nothing? Or gleefully place it in your shopping basket to take advantage of an apparent error?
Wine lover David Seidner of Arizona came up with this question recently in our online Wine Lovers' Discussion Group, http://www.wldg.com, where it attracted dozens of thoughtful responses that ranged all over the ethical map. For this week's edition, I thought you would enjoy a peek at some of the replies - and, if you like (see below), an opportunity to log on to our group and join in the debate.
A Pennsylvania reader argued in favor of the "give them one chance" option: "I give the shop one chance to correct the error, usually by asking a knowledgable clerk for a price check. In my experiences, the clerk notices the error in about 60 percent of the cases. If they don't, I do not feel the obligation to attempt anything further. I buy and consider it my lucky day."
A participant in New Zealand took a tougher line, though, saying, "I am firmly of the belief that people working with the product should totally understand the product. If they put an expensive wine in the bargain bin, with a bargain sticker on it, then that is the price they have to sell it for (well in NZ, anyway as we have a 'Fair Trading Act')."
A gentleman in Paris viewed the moral issue this way: "If I thought for one second that an innocent cleck would pay the difference, I would never purchase at a false low price. Otherwise, unless I knew the store owner, I'd consider it a good buy and be happy to take it. It isn't up to the customer to ensure correct labeling and they'd probably not refund your money if you paid too much."
What do I think? I buy most of my wines from local shops where I know and like the proprietors, and both friendship and guilt would keep me from taking advantage of an obvious error. But what if I was traveling and spotted a similar unintended bargain, particularly in a large, corporate-style wine shop? I would like to think that I'd still do the right thing ... but it would be more of a challenge.
How about you? In theory and in practice, do you think it's fair to take advantage of a shopkeeper's pricing mistake? How do those of you who are in the wine business feel about this?
If you would like to join in a public discussion on this subject, you can point your browser directly to this Wine Lovers' Discussion Group topic at http://www.wineloverspage.com/cgi-bin/sb/index.cgi?fn=1&tid=2033. Or if you prefer to reply in private, send me E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. I regret that the growing circulation of the "Wine Advisor" makes it difficult for me to reply individually to every note, but I'll answer as many as I can; and please be assured that all your input helps me do a better job of writing about wine. Please feel free to get in touch if you'd like to comment on our topics and tasting notes, suggest a topic for a future bulletin, or just talk about wine.
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A bargain Italian red
This one is no mis-mark: Monte Antico makes one of the best Italian wine bargains around, and its 1997 release - new in my region, at least - is no exception. Very dark garnet in color, it shows black cherry and spicy oak aromas, characteristic of the Chiantis with which it shares a regional character. Tart, warm fruit and lemon-squirt acidity make for a flavor that's "rustic" and a bit rough, but an appropriate food match tames it and lets its fine fruit and overall balance show through. U.S. importer: Empson (USA) Inc., Alexandria, Va. (March 19, 2000)
FOOD MATCH: Fine with leftover roast tenderloin recycled as "French dip" sandwiches with Italian bread and hearty broth.
News and notes from Haut-Brion
As many of you know, only five wineries in all of Bordeaux - Chateaus Lafite-Rothschild, Margaux, Latour and Mouton-Rothschild, in addition to Haut-Brion - are designated as "First Growths," the top-ranked properties. Mouton-Rothschild was elevated to this status in 1973; the others were included in the original classification in 1855.
For this week's survey, we invite you to put yourself in the place of the 19th Century Bordeaux merchants who drew up the original classification. If the issue were reopened today, and you were authorized to elevate deserving properties to First Growth status - with all of Bordeaux's major red-wine producers to choose from - which one chateau would you add? The Voting Booth "ballot" lists more than two dozen choices, plus "other" and "none." I hope you'll drop by and add your opinion to those from fellow wine lovers around the world.
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All the wine-tasting reports posted here are consumer-oriented. In order to maintain objectivity and avoid conflicts of interest, I purchase all the wines I rate at my own expense in retail stores and accept no samples, gifts or other gratuities from the wine industry.
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Vol. 2, No. 10, March 27, 2000