Dear Lynne,

Can I return a bottle of wine to the liquor store if it tastes terrible (like spoiled)? It would be opened. Will the people at the store believe me?

-Amy in Green Bay

Dear Amy,

A good shop should accept the return as long as the bottle isn't empty (which begs the question how bad could the wine have been?). Several stores in my area say they pass on the cost of spoiled wine to its source, the distributor, and have no problem with returns.

The difference between a wine that is simply unappealing and one that is spoiled is pretty obvious. It all comes down to scent and taste. If the wine smells musty, like wet newspaper, cardboard or suspiciously like a litter box, it is spoiled. Wine that tastes dull, flat or just plain bad is spoiled as well.

Heat is one culprit that is often difficult to control in shipping. More often corks are the problem. One saturated with wine from top to bottom is a dead giveaway that oxygen (a prime enemy of sealed wine) has gotten into the bottle. Chemicals in the cork itself can ruin the wine. They aren't dangerous, but they taste lousy. No wonder screwtops are the new darlings of wine purveyors.

Trust what you smell and taste, and don't hesitate to return a bottle.


Lynne Rossetto Kasper
Lynne Rossetto Kasper has won numerous awards as host of The Splendid Table, including two James Beard Foundation Awards (1998, 2008) for Best National Radio Show on Food, five Clarion Awards (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2014) from Women in Communication, and a Gracie Allen Award in 2000 for Best Syndicated Talk Show.