Friday Rant: Who is to Blame?

rantIt has been a good long while since I had a healthy rant, so I figured with a week to go before Armageddon, I would get at least one more rant in (yes, that was a political allusion, if you do not share my views on the soon to be leader of the free world, that is certainly your choice and we should talk about it maturely over a glass of wine!).

This rant is a tough one since there are many facets, and it is not entirely clear where I should focus my wrath, which is why I have you, my trusted reader, to set me straight. As I believe this is essentially an oenological “whodunnit.”

Here are the facts:

  • I bought a case of 2010 Couly-Dutheil Chinon Les Chanteaux (Chenin Blanc) in the Spring of 2012 from the importer, Cynthia Hurley Wines.
  • The wine stayed in the original shipping case in my cellar in Philly until I moved to Houston this past summer.
  • I shipped all my wine by refrigerated carrier to a wine storage facility here in Houston, where it remained until I retrieved it just over a month ago once I had finished my wine cellar.
  • These bottles I actually placed in a commercial wine refrigerator located on the third floor of my house, where they remained until New Year’s Eve.
  • On New Year’s Eve, I opened a bottle and it was dark yellow and clearly badly oxidized. As I was watching my football team get pummeled that night, I figured I would open another bottle. Same result.
  • Depressed by both the wine and the game, I proceeded to open every bottle of the wine and all were as badly oxidized as the previous.
  • All of the bottles were closed with a synthetic stopper made by Nomacorc.chant2

After that fateful night, I waited a few days before sending a note to the importer, expressing my displeasure, and I received no response. After another week, I resent the email to another in the company. Again, absolutely no response.

No, that is not diluted Coca-Cola.

No, that is not diluted Coca-Cola.

As I mentioned in my email, I realized that the wines were “older” but since Chenin Blanc is a variety with the capability to age very well (I opened a 2001 the same week and it was delightful), I would expect that while the wines might not be as “fresh” as they would have been a few years ago, they should not have been virtually undrinkable. I also acknowledge that there are a few Loire Valley Chenins that are produced in an oxidative style (Nicolas Joly’s Clos de la Coulée de Serrant comes to mind), but that is not the case with Couly-Dutheil’s Les Chanteaux. In fact, I tasted the wine at the winery in 2014 and it was wonderful.

I would like to be clear; I was not looking for any recompense, but rather acknowledgement that something was amiss with the wines. Had they simply replied: “Wow, sorry about that, but we always suggest that you consume wines you purchase from us in the first three hours of receiving them. Sorry bub!” I would still have been more than perturbed, but I would also not be writing this now.

But they didn’t.

In fact, they have not replied in any way whatsoever.

So, who is to blame?

Here are the prime suspects.

  1. The Vintage: by all accounts, 2010 was a good to stellar year in the Loire.
  2. The Producer, Couly-Dutheil: Until this event, I considered C-D among my favorite producers in Chinon and perhaps all of the Loire. If nothing else, they potentially showed poor judgment in the wine making process, particularly in using the next suspect….
  3. The Stopper made by Nomacorc: I have bashed the use of synthetic “corks” before, and this only reinforced my disdain. While some might see synthetics as an economical alternative for short-term storage, I know of no one (other than the manufacturer, possibly) that would claim it is good for keeping a wine any more than a year or two (at most). There was, however, absolutely no way for me to know that the bottle was closed with such a device. I assumed, since I paid about $25/bottle, that this was a quality wine, ergo could be held for more than a couple of years. I have long felt that since producers continue to use the obsolete foil on top of the bottle (it is pretty much useless), they should have to disclose what type of closure is underneath. Had I known these wines were stopped with a synthetic, I doubt I would have purchased the wine, let alone hold on to them for a few years.



  4. The Importer, Cynthia Hurley: I have purchased wines from this importer before, and I have always been pleased. I hesitate to assign any culpability here, but their collective silence is “deafening.”
  5. The Moving Company/Storage Facility: While certainly possible that something occurred during transit, it is highly unlikely as the other wines I have tried have been fine and the storage facility is one of the most respected in Houston.
  6. Me: I am fully willing to admit that it is possible that I simply waited too long to pop these wines, but given my previous assertions, it is hard for me to fathom that every single wine was equally bad. One? Certainly. A couple. OK. But every single one?

So what do you think? Is there a culprit to be found? Or am I just screaming “sour grapes” (pun intended)?



About the drunken cyclist

I have been an occasional cycling tour guide in Europe for the past 20 years, visiting most of the wine regions of France. Through this "job" I developed a love for wine and the stories that often accompany the pulling of a cork. I live in Houston with my lovely wife and two wonderful sons.
This entry was posted in Chenin Blanc, Cork, Rant, Wine. Bookmark the permalink.

34 Responses to Friday Rant: Who is to Blame?

  1. Jill Barth says:

    The only thing to do: write a mystery novel about this.

    Boo, no fun. I feel for you…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. talkavino says:

    Despise synthetic corks, period. The silence from the importer is dead wrong. They should definitely communicate with the customer. Are they still in business?
    I would actually write to the producer – if anything, out of the curiosity to find out how the 2010 vintage is holding up and if any issues had been reported by others…
    Bottom line – this sucks. A case of spoiled wine – not fun…

    Liked by 2 people

    • Synthetic corks serve absolutely no purpose that Stelvin closures could not handle better and more inexpensively. I assume Cynthia Hurley Imports is still in business as I get emails from them daily. The founder of the company (Cynthia Hurley) died a few years ago and perhaps with her passing went any semblance of customer service.


      • Bob Rossi says:

        Very strange that all of the bottles would have been bad. As far as I know, the Hurley operation is still small, with Bob Hurley (the widower) running the business end and Margo Hurley, their daughter, doing the leg work in France and probably promotional work. I’m surprised you haven’t heard back from anyone.


      • After contacting Couly-Dutheil directly, they sent me a replacement case. The wine is fantastic, but I better drink fast—still the same crappy stopper that starts spinning in the bottle before the corkscrew is even 25% in….


  3. I share your sentiment about capsules.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ryan S says:

    I don’t have much experience with that type of cork. But in my mind I typically assign that specific type/style of cork to an inferior quality wine and/or something that is a consume now type-o-wine.


  5. jeffeckles says:

    Looking around the interwebs, I see other consumers posting similar findings with this wine, even as far back as 2012 where it sounds like it started to fall. From that, we can eliminate your storage and the move. Based on the silence of the importer it almost sounds like they know about it, but haven’t stepped up to acknowledge it, come on importer, you should have gotten in front of this. I lean to agree with you that it’s most likely the cork…. stupid corks.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. A justifiable rant and I feel for you, as there is nothing worse then having a bad wine, and a case of it, is exponentially worse, for you mathematicians. I do hope that you opened something wonderful to help get over this episode.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. merrildsmith says:

    I’m not a wine expert, but I think we are going to need a lot of it for the next four years. I definitely share your view about next Friday–and the future. I can definitely understand your rant, and I hope you find out what or who caused the problem.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. leggypeggy says:

    A well aimed rant at a cavalcade of culprits. I think you can be excused from the line-up.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. You left out one suspect – whoever transported it across the Atlantic. I actually don’t know how these things come over – boat or plane. If plane, that isn’t enough time to mess it up. But boat, maybe.

    If not them, I say producer. As you mention it was poor judgment to use the stoppers and they should be punished for it…

    Or it was that rat bastard Colonel Mustard

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Well pooh, that’s all I can say.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. chef mimi says:

    So, I live in Oklahoma as you know. Don’t know of one wine expert who owns a liquor store. So when this happens to me, which it has recently with a Picpoul and an Albariño, I stick the bottle in my purse, drive to the liquor store (illegal), pull the open bottle out of my purse for the counter person to smell (also illegal) and encourage him/her to pour in to a glass. See that? It looks like a urine sample? It is not right. I want a credit. Thankfully, since I live in a small town and they know me, it usually goes smoothly, although they wouldn’t know a bad wine if it was poured over their heads. I can’t imagine a whole bad case, and no one being accountable. That’s disgusting.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. okiewinegirl2015 says:

    Ouch! Bad football and bad wine on the same night. I probably wouldn’t have gotten out of bed for a week!

    The no.1 suspects in this catastrophe of epic proportions are the coaches and the importer. Both need to stand by their play calling & if it’s a bad call, be a man and own up to it.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. wow that’s tough. And just bloody rude and unprofessional if you ask me, that your note wasn’t even acknowledged.
    PS – if that’s a rant, I can’t wait to see the one you might write on inauguration day. Talk about a bitter taste …..

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Wineteam says:

    The blame belongs on the cork. Most wineries that moved to synthetic corks did so because somewhere in their business they ended up with a batch of natural cork that imparted TCA into their wine. Synthetic cork was introduced to combat the variability that comes with natural cork. There was some attempt to engineer oxygen transmission to allow some semblance of aging. I have seen examples similar to yours whereby the wines are oxidized beyond recognition.
    It would be interesting to see if that same producer still uses synthetic cork. Unfortunately it takes a couple years before the oxidation complaints hit so there is a window of oxidized wine before the producer makes a change back and upgrades the cork quality with more rigorous QC.
    Sorry to hear!

    Liked by 1 person

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