When a winery lets you down (Vintage and sanity)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Right before this last snowstorm, I procured me a couple bottles of wine to help ride out the storm.† Two choices where a Sauvignon Blanc and a Chardonnay by Fair Valley, a wonderful concept in post-apartheid South Africa.† I fell in love with their Chenin Blanc years ago, but didnít like their Sauvignon Blanc back then when I mistakenly picked up a bottle.

Unfortunately, they let me down badly, with both wines.† The chardonnay was so bad that I threw it out before reviewing it.† The sauv blanc I kept around just as a reference to write from.

In the world of wine, there is such a thing as a bad vintage, and most good winemakers would rather not put out a wine that is up to their standards, rather than put something out that would turns off its loyal consumers.

And then, there are also those people that just produce wines, think that they taste good, and release them.† Not saying that we all can agree on what tastes good (Lord knows that I hate the taste and smell of mangoes, canít take most cheeses and stay away from a lot of creams), but there are times when you really ask whether or not the winemaker was on crack.

I gave Fair Valley a chance, sending them this email:

Subject:† Just had the Sauv Blanc and the Chardonnay

And my question is, "what the hell happened?"

I came to fall in love with your Chenin Blanc at least four years ago, and I told everyone else about it.† However, one day I picked up some bottles of Sauv Blanc by mistake and couldn't stand that.† I don't know if I wasn't just used to drinking Sauv Blancs then, but as I opened a 2009 bottle and tasted it, I get the same bad taste.

The taste seems to be very oily (petrol) and with tons of minerality, which is totally against what a Sauv Blanc is about.† It actually taste like a lot of Gruner Veltliner is in it.† I am actually wondering if the bottle itself has been badly affected by heat and will exchange the bottle to see if that is the case.

The Chardonnay is equally oily and devoid of any fruit flavors which are typically associated with that varietal.

I live in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (US), and the lot it comes from is A125.† You can reach me at XX-XXX-XXX-XXXX if you care to explain either the taste, whether you agree it's heat damaged, or whatever.

While I have loved your Chenin Blanc and your story, I am hesitant to try anything else by your label.† By the way, I have had some of the Goats Do Roam wines.


Zachary Harris
wine vivant

That was sent on February 10th and I have still not gotten a response from them.† I am wondering if I will ever hear something from them at all.† In this, they have let me down. †

Customer service is still a very important thing to have in business; itís almost as important as the product/service itself.† Smaller operations are easy to talk to, but some larger operations equally have a level of communication transparency; I once spoke to Fred Franzia on a Saturday afternoon, and that man has one of the largest operations in the world.

In this case, not only did the wine taste totally bad, but I couldnít believe that the winery allowed it out.† I could see that they might have been counting on the money to support their total operations and keep it afloat, but a better decision should have been made to not release the wine at all, converting it to ethanol for use as fuel. †

It's much better to have one bad year than to turn off a customer, if not a whole ton of them, for life.† At this point, I have no inclination to try anything ever again by this producer.† The only way is if I am at a wine tasting and it's complimentary, otherwise, I have no faith in their ability to produce palatable fare.† And that in itself, is a tragedy.

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