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The question

Can you tell me about the policy at the LCBO governing returns of corked wine? Their receipts say that returns must be made within 30 days, but what happens when I cellar a wine for two years and it turns out to be defective? Many of us would appreciate your take on this.

The answer

The Liquor Control Board of Ontario, the provincial government retailer, will indeed accept returns of corked or otherwise defective products beyond the standard 30-day deadline. The shorter time frame applies chiefly to returns of unopened, “saleable” products that are being returned for other reasons (maybe you overpurchased for a party and were left with more alcohol than you need).

The LCBO, and certain other provincial liquor boards, as well as some of the better private retailers, basically take responsibility for defective products that they sell. Cork taint is a technical fault in a wine, produced by smelly but non-toxic pollutants that should be the winery’s responsibility to guard against. Similar faults that frequently afflict wine include hydrogen sulfide and an excess of vinegar-like volatile acidity. Wine is a magnet for many chemical and biological assaults, so it’s only natural that a retailer should have a strong policy guaranteeing the quality of what they sell.

While the LCBO may warn about a 30-day returns policy on its receipts, you’ll find the full disclaimer and more elaborate details about its policy in fine print online. Take note: No receipt is necessary for a defective product, and thus there can be no request to prove you purchased it less than 30 days ago. Just don’t try to return a bottle you purchased outside the province; the LCBO has ways of telling based on codes printed on the label.

Should you come across a cashier who for some reason attempts to block your corked-wine return, advise them to go to the main LCBO website and click on “About LCBO,” then “About Our Business,” then on the “complete details” area of the passage labelled Returns Policy. (Yes, it’s not easy to arrive at vital information on websites sometimes.) This is the relevant passage:

“If you feel you have purchased a defective product from the LCBO, you may return the product to any LCBO store for a full refund. No receipt is necessary in this situation.… Return of a faulty product must indicate immediate discovery. Defective returns will not be accepted when the majority of product is absent from packaging.”

That last point is critical. It means you can’t return a wine after you’ve consumed most of the bottle. Duh! As you should always do with wine, smell and taste a small sample before pouring out most of the bottle.

E-mail your wine and spirits questions to Beppi Crosariol. Look for answers to select questions to appear in the Wine & Spirits newsletter and on The Globe and Mail website.

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