Wine Talk

Snooth User: Richard Foxall

How bad is the behavio(u)r of Schild Estate?

Posted by Richard Foxall, Mar 16, 2011.

They cracked the WS Top 100 with the Shiraz, reallocated the remaining stock to the US to take advantage of the increased demand, and bottled a second blend to sell in Australia, from different batches of wine than they used for the original.  (They are not shipping it to North America:  The second blend is available in Australia only.)  http://www.winespectator.com/webfea... (hope that link works...)

If this was an estate bottling of Chateau Montelena, e.g., or a first growth, we know it would be illegal, wrong, despicable.  But Schild, which I bought at a discounter for $5 before the WS scores, seems to me more akin to a Clos du Bois (but better wine), or even a Woodbridge.  Not from estate grapes, kind of a commodity.  If they hadn't gotten the WS100 score and you weren't expecting that very wine, you would expect the sources might vary and the consistency would be controlled in the blending.  That's one source of bottle variability in commodity wine. 

My own sense is that they should have put "2nd blend" on the label to begin with, which they are now doing, but is this illegal?  Immoral?    Snoothers, here's a real wine world controversy.

Certainly points out that the wine world is not just a bunch of independent vignerons hand-crafting product.  Not even close.  But we care about vintages, and will reject a wine from one year because it's not as good as the wine from a previous year, even in the commodity category.

SH, your input is especially sought.

Replies

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Reply by Stephen Harvey, Mar 17, 2011.

I don't know the Schild guys, I will go and find an example of the "2nd Blend" to see whether their description of the labelling is as they say.

But I agree with your main tenet and you can see from the WS commentary they have potentially done more brand damage then they gained margin from the "2nd Blend" strategy.

Whether it turns out to be misleading or plain stupid the facts will settle that debate, but importantly to me what this demonstrates is the power of on-line information sharing and its ability to alert us consumers to potential issues and scams.

If they did clearly label it as 2nd Blend from the beginning they should have shared the story with their consumers and let us judge if the wine is a s good.

Sadly dishonesty and/or brand stupidity exists as much down here as in all parts of the world.  I fully expect they will get a please explain letter from the AWBC which is the government body who looks after label integrity and may well be subject to an integrity audit.

I will point this out to the CEO of the AWBC to ensure they are aware.

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Reply by GregT, Mar 17, 2011.

It's not uncommon. 

And if people are buying by points, it's understandable.  It's why you should never buy multiple bottles of anything you don't know.  And it explains why you may not see certain vintages of some wines.  If the prior got high scores there's sometimes a temptation to relabel. 

That's a little worse IMO, but I can't say I don't know of anyone who's ever done it.

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Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Mar 17, 2011.

I just received this clarification. Without tasting the wines side by side I think it's difficult to say if anyone's been truly impacted by the whole to do.

 

 

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Reply by Richard Foxall, Mar 17, 2011.

That's an interesting point, GdP.  Lots of people drink, say, Stags Leap Artemis who couldn't tell it from Fess Parker Frontier Red.  Could one ethically sell them the latter labeled as the former?  You would know the difference, and, even if you didn't, a gas chromatograph could tell Schild 1 from Schild 2.  What is the customer entitled to?  Something close?  SH could tell us more, but I think that Schild was not "estate grown" to begin with, so perhaps the rules are different legally.  But what should be the cost to their brand, since that's a perception/moral issue?

To me, it points out some of the futility of these lists and ratings systems.  You hope that there's not a ton of bottle variation in better wine, but how does a winery achieve consistency if they sell tons of wine sourced from many places?  I like the Cameron Hughes model--we call it by lot number and it's done, but that doesn't satisfy the Clos du Bois merlot buyer who wants the same bottle everytime. 

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Reply by Stephen Harvey, Mar 17, 2011.

Foxall

Re Schild, I would need to revert to their label and check

My view is that providing we are told the truth on labelling them we as consumers should have a responsibility to learn what the labellign rules are [particularly for discretionary spend like wine].  If the label is a lie them the company derserves to be punished.

Consistency is something that is delivered in the blending process and if the entire batch of barrels is blended into tank and bottled in one run then you should get consistency, particularly if stelvin is used instead of cork.

Vintage to Vintage consistency is difficult for single vineyard and nearly as so for single estate.  Multi regional blends can achieve more consistency because they can be more selective in relation to the fruit and make the wine to a "house" style, and off course this lends support to GregT views on Terrior

Staged bottling from Barrels will result in lots of variation.

It is an interesting debate

 

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Reply by Richard Foxall, Mar 18, 2011.

I think there's a whole topic here, maybe more about the wine business than wine itself, but the business of wine has a lot to do with what we get when we open a bottle.  Other threads have talked about Enologix and manipulating wine by picking time, how it's treated in the winery, and so on.  But this is different:  Should there be different rules for "commodity" wine--non-estate grown--and does the wine need to make the distinction?  Probably the average buyer of box wine, Yellow Tail and Two Buck Chuck doesn't care and probably doesn't know that there are wines that are made from estate-grown grapes and wines that are not.  Should a wine that is made from grapes from a large growing area, but different parts, and blended solely to meet a consistency standard, carry an appellation like "Napa Valley" or "Sierra Foothills?"  Both those AVAs include far too much variety and area to really claim that there is a "terroir" meaning to them, and the point in the blending of commodity wine is to make it consistent, not to highlight the vagaries of vintage, microclimate, soil, etc. Don't even mention "North Coast" or "Central Coast" as AVAs--meaningless, except to tell you it's NOT from the Central Valley of CA or from a meaningfully designated AVA. (Napa Valley is not big, by even the standards of French AOCs, but the differences from place to place are, and there are some areas entitled to use "Napa Valley" that aren't actually in the valley itself, like Pope's Valley.)

Some wineries make estate wines, but use the same brand to sell a lot of non-estate wine, too, and some transition from a brand with a relationship/identification with an estate to making commodity wine--Inglenook at the very early end, Mirassou later, there are others, and some brands were bought up and used ONLY for commodity wines after establishing themselves as "estate" brands but failing financially.  Mondavi added labels--Coastal Selection, Woodbridge, to differentiate, but others did not.  If Clos du Bois wants to make a second batch of merlot with different grapes/juice but to their house style, I don't really care, because I don't buy the product, and, if I did, I wouldn't expect them, at their volume, to be doing differently.  But if I had been told that the 2008 vintage of Mondavi Napa Valley Cab (not the reserve or a vineyard-designate, mind you) was great, and bought a bottle on the recommendation of a friend or wine shop owner, and found out that the bottle they bought came from a different blending and different grapes from different vineyards, I would be pretty unhappy.  Regular Mondavi can be had for under $20 if you shop around, Clos du Bois runs $9-15, so where do I draw the line?  Don't know. 

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Reply by Stephen Harvey, Mar 20, 2011.

Foxall

To me the debate can take lots of different positions, and it can be linked into the terrior debate.

Ultimately it should be about truth in the labelling.

Penfolds which is Australia's most famous brand, has a multi-regional focus and has virtually no estate wines in its brand portfolio.  Even Grange at $500+ a bottle is made fom the best Shiraz parcels that the company can source, both its own vineyard and from contract growers.

Henschke on the other hand are almost exclusively estate wines and for the top of their range eg Hill of Grace are single vineyard wines.

I think if you are going to invest more than say $20 on a bottle of wine you should perhaps research the wine online - no shortage of places to get information.

Ultimately the quality of the wine comes down to two major factors, the quality of the grapes and the skill of the winemaker(s). [ignoring the closures debate]

If I like a wine then I expect the label and the makers website to accurately reflect the wines composition and its source.

To me as consumers and as knowledgable consumers is that we do not get sidetracked by marketing spin about regions, terrior, handpicking, oak, alcohol, ratings and so on, but to focus on whether the wine is made to a style that we enjoy.

Personally, just because a wine can be desribed as a carefully handcrafted wine from a Grand Cru vineyard on stoney limestone soil does not mean anything if the vintage was poor and/or the wine was poorly made in a less than sanitary environment.  If it tastes like crap it is crap and I do not care for it.

In the main I focus on the quality of the wine and whether I enjoy drinking it.  A good example is some of the wines made by Herve Souhaut.  I have tasted a number with a group at tastings and I just do not like the style, yet many of the others tasting the wine rave about it. Some of these are people whose opinions I respect and we have some animated debate about the wines, particularly his Syrah [Shiraz].  But at the end of the day as much as I try them I am not warming to the style.

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Reply by Stephen Harvey, Mar 21, 2011.

Funny, the Schild story only hit the local press today, pretty much as described in the WS article.

It appears they probably did not breach the law here but the AWBC labelling people are asking a few questions.

I wonder who tipped WS off on this?

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Reply by fklassen, Mar 27, 2011.

While Schild’s behaviour is probably bad form, I’m drinking the 2008 vintage (first batch) right now and it’s fantastic. I love all things Schild I just wish more would come to Canada!!!!

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Reply by Stephen Harvey, Mar 27, 2011.

I checked some local bottles of 08 Schild and no mention of the re-bottling which leaves me wondering which batch?

fkl - it is great wine at the price but they should not screw around with our heads on labelling, we consumers trust wine companies to have some level of ethics [at least we should be able to do so]


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