Tag Archives: wine lawsuits

Winebits 405: Legal affairs edition


legal affairsBecause what fun would writing about wine be if we couldn’t write about lawsuits and other various legal affairs?

Aldi brings in the lawyers: It’s difficult for those of us in the U.S. to understand how touchy the British are about price comparison advertising and marketing for booze; hopefully, this bit about Aldi suing a retailer over price comparison will help explain. The discount retailer wants competitor Bargain Booze to stop the ads, which compare its products to Aldi’s with the tagline that they you can buy a brand name for the same price as Aldi’s private label. Plus, Aldi wants damages. I’d love to watch a bunch of barristers in wigs argue about this, but as much fun as it would be, the suit would have little chance of success in the U.S. That’s ironic, too, given that our booze laws, thanks to three-tier, are so much stricter than those in Britain.

Messing with Putin: Who knew that a geopolitical event like the Russian annexation of the Crimea would turn into a wine legal tussle? But it has, with Ukrainian prosecutors charging that the director of a winery in Russian-occupied Crimea opened a 240-year-old bottle for Russian President Vladimir Putin and former Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi. The Associated Press says that the two men illegally drank rare vintages from the Massandra winery, some worth tens of thousands of dollars, and that the winery director committed a crime by serving them the wine. Obviously, since the Russians control Crimea, nothing much will happen, but it’s another example of the power wine has over people. I wonder: did Putin and Berlusconi give the wines 95 points?

Only in Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania’s state store system has come in for its fair share of criticism, here and elsewhere, but this one is the best yet. A state resident illegally brought wine into the state, which means he likely bought it in New Jersey and drove it over the William Penn bridge, committing a crime in the process. As part of his settlement with the state, he had to forfeit about half of the 2,447 illegal bottles. Silly enough? It gets worse. As Bloomberg News Service’s Noah Feldman writes, the state will destroy the wine because a judge has ruled that it can’t be given to a hospital for fund-raising, since hospitals don’t use wine for medicinal purposes. Don’t worry if you’re confused here, since the entire episode — in keeping with Pennsylvania’s warped state store system — makes no sense. Just read the link and wonder at how this happens in the 21st century.

Winebits 384: Odd grapes, wine glasses, wine lawsuit


wine lawsuitOnly seven percent: Regular visitors here know the Wine Curmudgeon’s passion for odd grapes, and it’s good to know that I’m not the only one. By one estimate, eight grapes account for 93 percent of the annual harvest in California — chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, zinfandel, merlot, pinot noir, syrah, sauvignon blanc, and cabernet franc. A group of winemakers, reports Marcy Gordon at Come for the Wine, wants to focus on the other seven percent, and is holding a couple of tastings this week to show off those grapes. This is most welcome news for those of us who care about diversity and variety in wine, as well as style and taste. That someone who makes wine isn’t intimidated by chenin blanc is some of the best news that wine drinkers can have.

The right way: Sommelier Stephanie Miskew writes about how to hold a wine glass correctly, which always makes me smile It’s about the only thing in wine that I’m a snob about; I can’t stand to see a wine glass held by the bowl, and when I see it in TV shows and movies I want to throw something at the screen. Miskew’s piece hits all the highlights, and it also gives me a chance to link to this: Wine Curmudgeon video, in which I demonstrate how to hold a wine glass.

Calling all lawyers: Wine’s legal experts are at it again, with a Champagne house suing a top California producer over the name of a wine. Lew Perdue at Wine Industry Insight has all of the wonderfully silly details about this wine lawsuit, including that the side are fighting over the name “Delice.” Imagine all of the time and money being spent on what seems to be a very ordinary, if not lousy, name for a wine. At least the Cristalino lawsuit was over a name that mattered.

Arsenic and cheap wine


arsenicDavid K. TeStelle may be a terrific trial attorney, a tremendous human being, and a snappy dresser. But he apparently knows little about logic and even less about wine.

“The lower the price of wine, the more arsenic you are getting,” said TeStelle, one of the lawyers suing Big Wine for knowingly selling arsenic-laced wine in the class action lawsuit that has the wine business all atwitter (pun fully intended).

The Wine Curmudgeon will assume that TeStelle was misquoted or taken out of context, since to assume that all cheap wine is stuffed full of arsenic and that all expensive wine is pure and virginal is silly. Logical fallacies, anyone? Did we stop driving cheap cars because the Yugo was a piece of junk? My Honda Fit certainly isn’t. Are Mercedes and BMW models never recalled?

The testing behind the lawsuit apparently didn’t check the arsenic level in any expensive wine, which takes the rest of the logic out of TeStelle’s argument. Maybe BeverageGrades, the lab that did the testing, didn’t want to to spend the extra money, and it was easier to buy Two-buck Chuck since there are three Trader Joe’s in Denver. Or that the Big Wine companies that make most of the cheap wine in the lawsuit have deeper pockets than a $40 brand that makes 25,000 cases. One can’t get damages out of a company that doesn’t have money to pay for damages.

Besides, and I can’t emphasize this enough, none of my wines — the three dozen or so in the 2015 $10 Hall of Fame — are on the arsenic list. This speaks volumes about the difference in quality in wine, cheap or otherwise, and something that I have repeated and repeated and repeated throughout my wine writing career. It’s not the price that matters — it’s the honesty of the wine. Does the producer care about quality and value, or is it just making wine to make wine? Which is just as true for $100 wine as it is for $10 wine.

That’s something that everyone who is being snarky about the quality of cheap wine in the wake of the lawsuit (including people I like and whose opinions I respect) should remember. Quality, as well as safety, isn’t something that can be measured by price. It’s something that depends on integrity, and no amount of money can guarantee that.

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