This week, I've received a couple of e-mails about Wither Hills, a New Zealand winery at the center of a controversy.
Wither Hills was accused of creating a special bottling of its Sauvignon Blanc to enhance its chances in wine competitions. The winery admitted to bottling two slightly different wines under the same label.
Bottles from the smaller lot were sent to various competitions, and garnered a number of medals. The other, much larger, lot was distributed for sale around the world (and earned an 86-point rating in Wine Spectator blind tastings).
According to our news story, however, Wither Hills was cleared of deliberate misrepresentation.
It’s not uncommon for large wineries with huge volumes of wine to have different cuvées of a specific wine. But if a winery knowingly and deliberately sends a publication a “special” cuvée for review, then that submission is fraudulent.
I would think that submitting a different wine for review than the wine that's sold in stores would not be worth the risk.
The only time I think about "special" cuvées being offered is when I taste barrel samples, because the winery has to create one small sample from perhaps dozens or hundreds of barrels. But even then I don't suspect vintners are trying to deceive me with a "super sample."
I think it’s challenging for winemakers to create a representative barrel sample of a young wine when faced with scores of barrels, and then reduce that to a 375ml or 750ml sample.
That's why, as I explained in my blog on Monday, I only review wines that are finished and labeled, unless otherwise noted.
John Wilen — Texas — December 9, 2006 9:11am ET
Gregory Katseyeanis — December 10, 2006 5:38am ET
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