Take a look at all the wine bottles on the shelves, the next time you are in a grocery store, at Costco, or even Target. The vast majority of the bottles are impeccable, with rarely a splotch, splash or nick on any of the labels. I cannot help but be a little bit jealous: as a result of one unfortunate incident at a winery, I was forced to tie-dye a white t-shirt with red wine after someone backed into my glass. Surely, an unscathed façade cannot be the fate of every wine bottle out there?
When you think about the sheer volume of wine that is transported around the world each year, there have to be some accidents, right? So, case closed: wine bottles break and labels get stained. But then what? What happens to those sad bottles of wine that are tarnished by another’s juice, or whose labels are scratched, torn, or crooked? And what if a winery changes the design of their label, or goes out of business altogether? Where do those wine bottles end up?
Companies are popping up on the internet, taking wine bottles that are otherwise unworthy of a retail shelf, and selling them to buyers online who are willing to turn a blind eye to the state of the packaging. The whole concept is quite genius. I mean, it is the insides we are all after anyway. For those not so wrapped up in the beauty of a wine label or the look of the bottle, there are great deals to be had. Lots of varietals, ripe for the taking at a fraction of the cost.
If you love a great deal, are in need of wine for an upcoming party, or have some holes in your cellar you would like to fill, check out these companies . They can have phenomenal deals, sometimes on highly sought-after (although aesthetically blemished) wines. After swallowing the contents, you will be dancing that damaged bottle all the way to the recycling bin, and your savings all the way to the bank.
Based in Los Angeles, California, The Accidental Wine Company sells wines for up to 40% off retail pricing. Wines are grouped by product—red, white, or mixed—and are named after those who work at the company—David, Janice, Micah, Petunia, and so on. You tell them what you like, and they send you what they have. You might end up with a Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley, a Gewürztraminer from Germany, and a rosé from France. The surprises are half the fun.
Order via the company’s online store, or can call or email them to discuss specific preferences. They will do their best to accommodate you. They also offer “subscriptions,” their version of a monthly wine club, that can also be offered as a gift. Subscribers get an extra 5% savings on top of the existing discounts. Wines are generally delivered in 5-10 business days, although there are approximately 22 states that they do not ship to. Check the “shipping” portion of their website for more information. Someone 21 years of age or older must be home to accept delivery of the shipment.
Bordeaux-specialized company Chateau Classic dedicates a portion of their website to imperfect bottles. At press time, more than 240 bottles were available with defects such as stained labels, oxidized caps, or lower fill levels. Wines range in price on this site, but can be quite expensive, such as the € 1,495 bottle of 2000 Chateau Ausone premier grand cru classé with a slightly damaged label. Located in France, Chateau Classic prices their wines in Euros, but customers can switch between different currencies on their website and pay via PayPal. The only hang-up here is that Chateau Classic is limited to professional importers in the United States, as far as delivery is concerned. If you are interested in ordering from them, your best bet is to contact your local wine merchant or an importer, and ask them if they would be willing to accept your delivery. US Customs is the hurdle here, so having friends in another country intercept your delivery as your middleman normally will not work either.
If you have a favorite wine merchant that is local, stop by and ask what they do when their wines are categorized as damaged. Many are willing to sell them at a discount, especially if they are unable to return them to the winery. If you are able to forge that kind of relationship with the shopkeeper, chances are they will put you on speed dial and let you know when they have a rogue bottle they need to get rid of. There is certainly no harm in asking!
Kyle McNichols graduated from UC Santa Barbara with a degree in English and Art History. Her studies also include time at Cambridge University, but short of picking up phrases like “cheers” and an affinity for “a good curry,” the experience was more social than academic. She loves food and cooking though, so after working as a corporate copywriter and college counselor, Kyle initiated a cooking project called “Culinary Hopscotch” in 2010. She traveled Europe with a carry-on suitcase and couchsurfed while taking cooking classes in various cities. Kyle continues to take cooking classes when her travels take her to interesting places, and blogs about them. She recently relocated to Portland, Oregon from Southern California and is enjoying all of the food and wine related activities the city has to offer with her boyfriend—and her Newfoundland, Henri.