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Collecting Q&A: Will Auction Houses Take Back Faulty Wine?

Peter D. Meltzer
Posted: July 19, 2007

Q: When one buys wine at auction from a reputable house and opens it to find it oxidized or just generally shot, is that just part of the risk assumed in buying at auction, or can I be refunded? --Matt Lynch, Chicago

A: Auction catalogs generally stipulate that you are buying "as is," leaving you little recourse if a wine is oxidized or otherwise flawed. As a rule, auction houses carefully inspect a consignment prior to acceptance, so danger signs such as low fill levels, inappropriate color, protruding capsules, etc., will be detected in advance, causing the lot to be rejected. However, auction houses are not in the business of making enemies, and they sometimes make exceptions. If you discover an oxidized bottle, immediately bring it to the attention of the auction specialist and provide him with a sample to evaluate. (However, this won't work if you wait several years after purchase.)

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