UPDATE: Auction purchase - wine beyond damaged

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UPDATE: Auction purchase - wine beyond damaged

#1 Post by Joe Abruzzo »

I've been buying at auction for 20+ years, backfilling old favorites. I've purchased well over 200 bottles from Winebid, HDH, TCWC, Brentwood & recently Acker auction houses - can't recall a single bad bottle. Many of these purchases were wines 30, 40, 50 years old.

However, I opened this bottle last night and was shocked pouring this into the glass. I've never seen a (red) wine this color, even older wines 50+ years old. As in the photo, the color was light brown (not a hint of ruby/red). The fill was into the low neck and did show some slight seepage through the entire cork. Just wondering what could have happened to this wine that it could turn this color? I immediately opened the second bottle from the same auction lot and the color was much more in line with what I would expect. The second bottle was also damaged but not to the extent of this first bottle. Obviously both bottles were poorly stored and undrinkable.
Click to see spoiler:
The wine: 1996 Chateau St. Jean Cinq Cepages
First Bottle
Image (2).jpeg
Second Bottle
Image (3).jpeg
Last edited by Joe Abruzzo on January 15th, 2021, 7:51 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Auction purchase - wine beyond damaged

#2 Post by Jorge Henriquez »

That looks terrible. If the auction house has a shred of interest in keeping you as a customer and their reputation intact, they should refund you immediately.
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Re: Auction purchase - wine beyond damaged

#3 Post by Andrew K. »

Just looks oxidized. I think you've just been lucky previously to never have encountered a wine like this.
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Re: Auction purchase - wine beyond damaged

#4 Post by ybarselah »

Joe Abruzzo wrote: December 28th, 2020, 8:46 am I've been buying at auction for 20+ years, backfilling old favorites. I've purchased well over 200 bottles from Winebid, HDH, TCWC, Brentwood & recently Acker auction houses - can't recall a single bad bottle. Many of these purchases were wines 30, 40, 50 years old.
this is my takeaway. i suppose you can reach out and ask for a credit or something. I'm not typically a superstitious dude, but this feels like you may not want to jinx the wine gods.
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Re: Auction purchase - wine beyond damaged

#5 Post by larry schaffer »

Quick question - did you slow ox it and recheck the wine later? I've found that many of these wines 'come back' after being revived with a bit of oxygen. May seem 'counter-intuitive' but it has often happened.

Also, you give no mention of the wine or the age of the wine - nor show the bottle or cork. All of this would be helpful to know / see.

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Re: Auction purchase - wine beyond damaged

#6 Post by HoosJustinG »

Andrew K. wrote: December 28th, 2020, 8:52 am Just looks oxidized. I think you've just been lucky previously to never have encountered a wine like this.
Which is going to be hard for OP to prove should have been obvious when it was purchased at auction. Auction house may well claim it oxidized in OP’s cellar after purchase (and to be clear, that’s very possibly true).
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Re: Auction purchase - wine beyond damaged

#7 Post by Barry L i p t o n »

I thought there would be no warranty on drinkability of old wines, just an accurate description of the bottle condition and provenance if known.

I’m not sure I agree that the right thing would be for the auction house to make the OP whole, if the bottle condition was accurately described. I expect a significant share of old bottles to be over the hill, and I bid accordingly.

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Re: Auction purchase - wine beyond damaged

#8 Post by Jorge Henriquez »

Gents, read the spoiler.

It's a 1996 Ch. St. Jean Cinq Cepages! No way it should look like that.
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Re: Auction purchase - wine beyond damaged

#9 Post by Joe Abruzzo »

This was 1996 Chateau St. Jean Cinq Cepages. This was pop and pour. What you see in the glass was within 20 seconds of popping the cork. I suspected it was oxidized but have never seen an oxidized (red) wine turn this color. Had it been a white wine I would have not been as shocked. It was not even a darker shade of brown. It seems like all of the color disappeared from this bottle of wine.

I'm not even looking for reimbursement. My thought has always been that when buying from auction, it's a risk I'm taking. I've had good success with my auction purchases so a few bad bottles is to be expected. I just wasn't expecting the one bad bottle to be this damaged (especially for a 25 year old bottle with good fill).

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Re: Auction purchase - wine beyond damaged

#10 Post by Jorge Henriquez »

How long ago did you purchase it Joe?
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Re: Auction purchase - wine beyond damaged

#11 Post by Markus S »

Jorge Henriquez wrote: December 28th, 2020, 9:15 am Gents, read the spoiler.

It's a 1996 Ch. St. Jean Cinq Cepages! No way it should look like that.
So?
Any particular wine can go bad with time, and the longer the time the more bad things can happen. With auction, you pays your money and you takes your chances. Surprised Joe never had a bad bottle before buying at auction. I've bought retail only and had defective wines (never oxidized like that though).
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Re: Auction purchase - wine beyond damaged

#12 Post by HenryB »

recent notes on cellartracker suggest it might be past its peak, but i wouldnt expect it to look anything like what you show us OP

https://www.cellartracker.com/wine.asp?iWine=5960
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Re: Auction purchase - wine beyond damaged

#13 Post by larry schaffer »

As many much wiser than me have repeatedly said - 'there are no great wines, just great bottles' . . .
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Re: Auction purchase - wine beyond damaged

#14 Post by Joe Abruzzo »

Jorge: This was purchased June 2020 (so only a few months ago).

I just went back to the listing and reviewed the conditions (1ssos 2vhs 2vlbsl). I do recall being aware that one bottle condition did acknowledge slight seepage.

I know the risks involved in purchasing auction wine. I was just really surprised at the color of the wine. I've had some bad wines from the 50's and 60's but at least there was a hint of red showing. This color of this liquid could have passed for a tawny port.

Again, I'm not looking for recourse against the auction house. But I will certainly be hesitant on buying from them again.

FWIW, I have one bottle of the 96 Cinq Cepages that I purchased at the winery and have stored in my cellar since release. I should have opened it after these two purchased at auction, but ended up just opening a completely different wine. I'd be shocked if the bottle I bought and stored is not still in great condition and singing - will update this thread when I do!

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Re: Auction purchase - wine beyond damaged

#15 Post by Arv R »

That's a bummer, but I don't think you have much recourse to anyone. If you had bought a current release that would be a different story.

Corks are variable, and after 25ish years, there are some that fail.

Signs of seepage sounds like it was fairly described.
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Re: Auction purchase - wine beyond damaged

#16 Post by Cris Whetstone »

If you drink enough 'old' wine you run into bottles that have matured more than their peers. It's to be expected. That bottle certainly looks much more advanced that you should normally expect. That does not necessarily mean it was treated badly.

Editing as you've given more info. If there was some seepage on one of the bottles then it's buyer beware. That's not really on them. They gave due warning. It's also an indication you should feel comfortable buying from them as they described it accurately. You are taking as extra risk buying a bottle like that. After all, they cannot examine the contents of the bottles. There is always some risk opening older bottles, even when you know the exact provenance yourself.
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Re: Auction purchase - wine beyond damaged

#17 Post by Joe Abruzzo »

Just to reiterate again - I'm not blaming the auction house, nor am I seeking a refund!

I have bought at auction many times, even bottles noted with slight seepage. But I've never had a (red) wine with this color. The photos I posted is the same wine, two different bottles from the same auction. I would assume they were both likely purchased and stored at the same location until sold at auction. Just amazed at the difference between the two bottles and how one is so much more advanced and destroyed. For all I know, something could have happened at the winery during the bottling process.

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Re: Auction purchase - wine beyond damaged

#18 Post by Cris Whetstone »

Joe Abruzzo wrote: December 28th, 2020, 10:51 am Just to reiterate again - I'm not blaming the auction house, nor am I seeking a refund!

I have bought at auction many times, even bottles noted with slight seepage. But I've never had a (red) wine with this color. The photos I posted is the same wine, two different bottles from the same auction. I would assume they were both likely purchased and stored at the same location until sold at auction. Just amazed at the difference between the two bottles and how one is so much more advanced and destroyed. For all I know, something could have happened at the winery during the bottling process.
Yes. I think you've been very very lucky if this is the first time you've run into an older bottle that was more advanced than you've wanted. Or even just secretly cooked. They are an adventure which is part of the fun.
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Re: Auction purchase - wine beyond damaged

#19 Post by R M Kriete »

Joe Abruzzo wrote: December 28th, 2020, 10:51 am But I've never had a (red) wine with this color.
Obviously you have never had friends who store their one good bottle of wine in their garage in Florida. [wink.gif]

Always tough to act gracious for their generosity...." I just knew that you would enjoy this bottle because you like wine so much"... while simultaneously trying not to spit.

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Re: Auction purchase - wine beyond damaged

#20 Post by Victor Hong »

Jorge Henriquez wrote: December 28th, 2020, 9:15 am Gents, read the spoiler.

It's a 1996 Ch. St. Jean Cinq Cepages! No way it should look like that.
What about female or non-binary readers? [snort.gif] neener
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Re: Auction purchase - wine beyond damaged

#21 Post by Jorge Henriquez »

Victor Hong wrote: December 28th, 2020, 11:04 am
Jorge Henriquez wrote: December 28th, 2020, 9:15 am Gents, read the spoiler.

It's a 1996 Ch. St. Jean Cinq Cepages! No way it should look like that.
What about female or non-binary readers? [snort.gif] neener
Are you either of those? Doubt it. See above who had responded to OP up to that point. It was them who I was addressing. [snort.gif] neener
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Re: Auction purchase - wine beyond damaged

#22 Post by Victor Hong »

Joe Abruzzo wrote: December 28th, 2020, 8:46 am
...The wine: 1996 Chateau St. Jean Cinq Cepages........

First Bottle
Image (2).jpeg

Second Bottle
Image (3).jpeg
The first glass looks like a lot of oak, or maybe even pain grille. If so, what is wrong?
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Re: Auction purchase - wine beyond damaged

#23 Post by Eric Ifune »

I've seen Vintage Port so poorly stored that it appeared and tasted more like old Tawnys but without the enjoyment.

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Re: Auction purchase - wine beyond damaged

#24 Post by Brian G r a f s t r o m »

No way should a '96 Cinq Cepages look like the top one. Bottom one is far more reasonable.
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Re: Auction purchase - wine beyond damaged

#25 Post by Jayson Cohen »

I’ve bought old Barolo at auction and retail with this tawny color. Not a good sign.

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Re: Auction purchase - wine beyond damaged

#26 Post by jordan jacobs »

Jayson Cohen wrote: December 28th, 2020, 3:09 pm I’ve bought old Barolo at auction and retail with this tawny color. Not a good sign.
I have purchased old Barolo at auction and it was this color and it was excellent.

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Re: Auction purchase - wine beyond damaged

#27 Post by jordan jacobs »

Brian G r a f s t r o m wrote: December 28th, 2020, 3:06 pm No way should a '96 Cinq Cepages look like the top one. Bottom one is far more reasonable.
Exactly, plain and simple. The lighter one, if that was the bottle that showed signs of seepage, that is on the buyer. Otherwise, that indicates something was amiss. An auction house should not be listing “that one good bottle sitting in a garage). They should know storage conditions of their co-signers.

PSA, I go into auctions at least a little open-minded to bidding on bottles with questionable fills or seepage but in 20 years I have never actually placed a bid on one.

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Re: Auction purchase - wine beyond damaged

#28 Post by Marcu$ Stanley »

I feel compelled to share with the group a review from John Gilman, written in 2007, of the 1996 Chateau St Jean Cinq Cepages which may clear up the mystery. This is copyrighted material but I am sure Mr. Gilman will forgive me:

"Sep/Oct 2007, Issue #11, Road Kill II: More Highly Rated Wines of Very Questionable Merit

68 points (Château St. Jean Cinq Cepages) At eleven years of age the ’96 St. Jean Cinq Cepages is already beginning to maderize, without ever bothering to mature and blossom from all the signs that I can read. The dank and oxidative nose is a nasty blend of barnyard, chocolate, dank herbs, coffee ground and dead ants. On the palate the wine is full, inky and extremely ugly, with a dried out finish that still retains some oak tannin, though no fruit, and is extraordinarily bitter, but at least, mercifully short. Contemptible wine."

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Re: Auction purchase - wine beyond damaged

#29 Post by J. Rock »

Marcu$ Stanley wrote: December 28th, 2020, 3:47 pm I feel compelled to share with the group a review from John Gilman, written in 2007, of the 1996 Chateau St Jean Cinq Cepages which may clear up the mystery. This is copyrighted material but I am sure Mr. Gilman will forgive me:

"Sep/Oct 2007, Issue #11, Road Kill II: More Highly Rated Wines of Very Questionable Merit

68 points (Château St. Jean Cinq Cepages) At eleven years of age the ’96 St. Jean Cinq Cepages is already beginning to maderize, without ever bothering to mature and blossom from all the signs that I can read. The dank and oxidative nose is a nasty blend of barnyard, chocolate, dank herbs, coffee ground and dead ants. On the palate the wine is full, inky and extremely ugly, with a dried out finish that still retains some oak tannin, though no fruit, and is extraordinarily bitter, but at least, mercifully short. Contemptible wine."
Got to love that dead ant note!
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Re: Auction purchase - wine beyond damaged

#30 Post by Jayson Cohen »

jordan jacobs wrote: December 28th, 2020, 3:33 pm
Jayson Cohen wrote: December 28th, 2020, 3:09 pm I’ve bought old Barolo at auction and retail with this tawny color. Not a good sign.
I have purchased old Barolo at auction and it was this color and it was excellent.
Me too. I almost wrote that earlier. But i still think it’s not a good sign.

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Re: Auction purchase - wine beyond damaged

#31 Post by Brian G r a f s t r o m »

Nebbiolo seems to frequently show bricking at a young(ish) age, so I wouldn't go applying those experiences here.

That's a very interesting note from Gilman. How the heck does he know what dead ants smell like?!?
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Re: Auction purchase - wine beyond damaged

#32 Post by Jim Hanlon »

Jayson Cohen wrote: December 28th, 2020, 4:10 pm
jordan jacobs wrote: December 28th, 2020, 3:33 pm
Jayson Cohen wrote: December 28th, 2020, 3:09 pm I’ve bought old Barolo at auction and retail with this tawny color. Not a good sign.
I have purchased old Barolo at auction and it was this color and it was excellent.
Me too. I almost wrote that earlier. But i still think it’s not a good sign.
As I understand it, Nebbiolo is something of an outlier in terms of pigment dropping out of the wine. That's one reason we see so much sludge in old bottles. A robust color is a good sign, but I've had many bottles with faded color that end up showing well, particularly after some gentle aeration. Some can even become a bit darker.

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Re: Auction purchase - wine beyond damaged

#33 Post by Marcu$ Stanley »

Brian G r a f s t r o m wrote: December 28th, 2020, 4:32 pm Nebbiolo seems to frequently show bricking at a young(ish) age, so I wouldn't go applying those experiences here.

That's a very interesting note from Gilman. How the heck does he know what dead ants smell like?!?
you've never crushed one with your finger? Should I admit to that on a real names site?

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Re: Auction purchase - wine beyond damaged

#34 Post by J D o v e »

Marcu$ Stanley wrote: December 28th, 2020, 3:47 pm I feel compelled to share with the group a review from John Gilman, written in 2007, of the 1996 Chateau St Jean Cinq Cepages which may clear up the mystery. This is copyrighted material but I am sure Mr. Gilman will forgive me:

"Sep/Oct 2007, Issue #11, Road Kill II: More Highly Rated Wines of Very Questionable Merit

68 points (Château St. Jean Cinq Cepages) At eleven years of age the ’96 St. Jean Cinq Cepages is already beginning to maderize, without ever bothering to mature and blossom from all the signs that I can read. The dank and oxidative nose is a nasty blend of barnyard, chocolate, dank herbs, coffee ground and dead ants. On the palate the wine is full, inky and extremely ugly, with a dried out finish that still retains some oak tannin, though no fruit, and is extraordinarily bitter, but at least, mercifully short. Contemptible wine."
Please take this in the spirit it’s offered, but I lost a bit of respect for you learning you would buy that wine, of all wines, at auction. It was probably purchased at an estate sale, stored in someone’s cupboard atop a stack of Wine Spectator magazines.

(You’re meant to laugh at this and not get irritated.)
Last edited by J D o v e on December 28th, 2020, 5:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Auction purchase - wine beyond damaged

#35 Post by Jeremy C »

Marcu$ Stanley wrote: December 28th, 2020, 4:45 pm
Brian G r a f s t r o m wrote: December 28th, 2020, 4:32 pm Nebbiolo seems to frequently show bricking at a young(ish) age, so I wouldn't go applying those experiences here.

That's a very interesting note from Gilman. How the heck does he know what dead ants smell like?!?
you've never crushed one with your finger? Should I admit to that on a real names site?
Sure, but then smelled it? Nope.
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Re: Auction purchase - wine beyond damaged

#36 Post by Br1an Th0rne »

I would not purchase a ‘96 cinq cepages with signs of seepage and a high shoulder fill. Not under any circumstances. If you buy wine that has stated signs of seepage and poor fills, you’re kinda asking for it in my opinion. Sorry you had a bad experience here.

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Re: Auction purchase - wine beyond damaged

#37 Post by c fu »

Joe Abruzzo wrote: December 28th, 2020, 10:25 am Jorge: This was purchased June 2020 (so only a few months ago).

I just went back to the listing and reviewed the conditions (1ssos 2vhs 2vlbsl). I do recall being aware that one bottle condition did acknowledge slight seepage.

I know the risks involved in purchasing auction wine. I was just really surprised at the color of the wine. I've had some bad wines from the 50's and 60's but at least there was a hint of red showing. This color of this liquid could have passed for a tawny port.

Again, I'm not looking for recourse against the auction house. But I will certainly be hesitant on buying from them again.

FWIW, I have one bottle of the 96 Cinq Cepages that I purchased at the winery and have stored in my cellar since release. I should have opened it after these two purchased at auction, but ended up just opening a completely different wine. I'd be shocked if the bottle I bought and stored is not still in great condition and singing - will update this thread when I do!
not sure what you were expecting with those bottle conditions. A wine from 1996 in high shoulder is a very poor fill. THen you add on signs of seepage. Auction house posted the description.
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Re: Auction purchase - wine beyond damaged

#38 Post by Brian G r a f s t r o m »

Marcu$ Stanley wrote: December 28th, 2020, 4:45 pm
Brian G r a f s t r o m wrote: December 28th, 2020, 4:32 pm Nebbiolo seems to frequently show bricking at a young(ish) age, so I wouldn't go applying those experiences here.

That's a very interesting note from Gilman. How the heck does he know what dead ants smell like?!?
you've never crushed one with your finger? Should I admit to that on a real names site?
Ha! Yeah, I have, but never noticed any smell therefrom. Now I'm starting to get oddly curious ...
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Re: Auction purchase - wine beyond damaged

#39 Post by Joe Abruzzo »

So as promised I opened the 96 Cinq Cepages that I bought on release and stored in my cellar. This was a fabulous bottle of wine, still showing great fruit structure (obviously not deep but mellow with age), and with great balance and finish. An easy buy if I can find more @ $65-90. Here is a photo showing the color.
IMG_4136.JPG

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Re: Auction purchase - wine beyond damaged

#40 Post by Brian G r a f s t r o m »

Yeah, that looks more appropriate. Glad it showed well for you!
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Re: Auction purchase - wine beyond damaged

#41 Post by John Glas »

The fill was into the low neck and did show some slight seepage through the entire cork.
Did they describe this in the auction? If not full 100% refund should be issued.

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Re: Auction purchase - wine beyond damaged

#42 Post by Joe Abruzzo »

c fu wrote: December 28th, 2020, 5:18 pm not sure what you were expecting with those bottle conditions. A wine from 1996 in high shoulder is a very poor fill. THen you add on signs of seepage. Auction house posted the description.
I never said the auction house did not post the description correctly, but I was definitely not expecting what I got from that 1st bottle (or I would obviously not purchased it!). What I got from the 2nd bottle I would have anticipated as appropriate. That first bottle was way beyond anything I've seen (including wines 30-50+ old with much worse fills). For a 96, the fill was pretty good (I'd say maybe 2cm wine lost; and @ base neck). While the description was noted SSOS, it was slight - I've definitely seen much worse.

In any case I haven't, nor would I, ask for a refund. I understand the risks of buying old wines at retail & auction. I will chalk this up as one bad experience and use extreme caution when buying from this house. However, if this had been my very first auction purchase, I would have assumed that this would have been more the norm than exception and would have never purchased at auction again.

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Re: Auction purchase - wine beyond damaged

#43 Post by Joe Abruzzo »

John Glas wrote: January 13th, 2021, 11:07 am Did they describe this in the auction? If not full 100% refund should be issued.
Auction house did properly describe, not blaming them. Just have never encountered a wine this "gone" and was surprised when I poured.

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Re: Auction purchase - wine beyond damaged

#44 Post by David Kubiak »

As everyone says, the fine print in auction catalogues protects them just about 100%. My one experience to the contrary is sort of amusing. I was having lunch with a friend and we were following an on-line auction. I leaned over to reach for the salt and knocked his hand, resulting in his having spent $42,000 on a case of La Tâche. The auction house eventually took it back, but I doubt they would had he not been an established client. I told him to keep it and expect $52,000 in a year. He was not amused, nor was the auction house at the whole business.

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Re: Auction purchase - wine beyond damaged

#45 Post by David Glasser »

Joe Abruzzo wrote: January 13th, 2021, 11:12 am
John Glas wrote: January 13th, 2021, 11:07 am Did they describe this in the auction? If not full 100% refund should be issued.
Auction house did properly describe, not blaming them. Just have never encountered a wine this "gone" and was surprised when I poured.
Have you bought wines with signs of seepage before? If so, and have not encountered a dead duck like this, you have been very lucky indeed. The take-home lesson: signs of seepage = high risk.

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Re: Auction purchase - wine beyond damaged

#46 Post by JBrochu »

Marcu$ Stanley wrote: December 28th, 2020, 4:45 pm
Brian G r a f s t r o m wrote: December 28th, 2020, 4:32 pm Nebbiolo seems to frequently show bricking at a young(ish) age, so I wouldn't go applying those experiences here.

That's a very interesting note from Gilman. How the heck does he know what dead ants smell like?!?
you've never crushed one with your finger? Should I admit to that on a real names site?
These days the critics are so sophisticated that they would have to distinguish between freshly killed and long dead ants as well as between red and carpenter ants.
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Re: Auction purchase - wine beyond damaged

#47 Post by LawrenceM »

I’ve had in the last month a Congo Ravera 2006 and Produttori Barbaresco 2013 come out similarly brown and stinky. Clearly oxidised and I suspect some heat damage thrown in for good measure. Bad luck.
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Re: Auction purchase - wine beyond damaged

#48 Post by David Baum »

Had a 97 Cinq Cepage a few days ago. Was kinda meh but in fine condition and it was an auction purchase a couple years ago

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Re: Auction purchase - wine beyond damaged

#49 Post by Joe Abruzzo »

UPDATE: I finally got around to discarding the rest of this bad bottle (after I poured initial glass a few weeks ago, I recorked and left in area for bottle to be recycled). As much as I was surprised with the initial pour, the bottom of this bottle was just as surprising. I've seen sediment, but nothing like this!

Probably 2" of the bottom of the bottle was this gelatinous sludge, some chunks an inch square. It seems as if all of the pigment of the wine coagulated into these chunks (no, it's not what it looks like 💩) I gotta think something happened during bottling? There was more than just oxidation that happened to this bottle.
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IMG_4154.JPG

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Re: UPDATE: Auction purchase - wine beyond damaged

#50 Post by mike pobega »

Wow, looks like a mother sauce. Espagnole to be exact.

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