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Dear Dr. Vinny,
I opened a corked bottle of wine that cost about $40. My wife emptied the bottle before I could tell her I was going to bring it back for an exchange. So I pour a many-months-old $8 bottle of cooking wine into the now empty $40 bottle, and brought it back to the wine shop with a credited wine steward. He told me the wine was perfectly fine and in line with the profile of the original bottle. Uh-oh. Who was more dishonest—me or the expert wine steward? I did get a new bottle.
—Honest Abe, Bethel, Conn.
Yikes. Both of you! If you want to return a flawed bottle of wine for an exchange, the correct protocol is to bring the opened, undrunk bottle of wine in with the original cork—and receipt if possible—and see if they can exchange it for another bottle. Since your wife dumped out the original bottle of wine, instead of trying to pull a fast one on the retailer, I would have simply brought in the empty bottle and cork, and explain what happened. Every store policy is different, but I know of a few retailers who would have had a chuckle with you over the situation and happily replaced the bottle.
But you set up the steward for embarrassing himself. I try to put myself in his shoes—he's handed a bottle of wine that's been open for who knows how long, and is asked to assess it for corkiness. It's not there, so he says it's fine. Did you really expect him to suspect you of switching wines on him? Or assume anything other than it was a non-flawed bottle of wine that had been opened for a while? Oxidized wines all start to taste the same to me, so while his comment that it was in the profile of the original bottle was perhaps overly-confident, I can understand it why he said it.
The good news is that you got a replacement bottle, and for that I encourage you to frequent that wine shop for their customer service, and establish a relationship based on trust and good advice, and perhaps a few less shenanigans.
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