There was an interesting article in the Washington Post recently (December 26) about "shelf talkers" those little tags that are posted on the shelves of wine shops touting a wine and giving a score from Robert Parker, Wine Spectator, etc. The article noted that a spot check of 100 shelf talkers (10 each in 10 reputable wine shops in Washington, Maryland and Virginia) turned up 25 percent that did not truthfully represent the wines they advertised. Accuracy varied from shop to shop, but overall, 6 percent of the signs either advertised a score that was higher than the one the wine actually had received or invented a score for an unrated wine. Nineteen percent referred to a different vintage from that of the wine for sale Some highly rated shops like Calvert-Woodley had all of them correct, others were really bad.
This has always been a pet peeve of mine. I don't shop for wine in wine stores much anymore, but when I did, I noticed that it was fairly common to read a shelf talker and then find that the wine discussed was not the wine for sale. Different vintage dates was a big problem(the Post used the 2005 Big House Red for sale with the talker from the 2004 as an example, 90 pts from WA for the '04, 81 for the '05) but often the talker would be about one wine from a producer, but the wine on the shelf would be another from the same producer. i.e., the talker would be about the 2002 Beringer Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley (WS 92 pts.) but the wine on the shelf would be the 2002 Beringer Alluvium Red Knights Valley (WS 84 pts.)
I used to pull the talker and take it to the clerk and tell him that what they were doing was a fraud (didn't make me a lot of friends, but who wants to be friends with the Montgomery County MD Liquor Control folks?). But to be fair, the talkers are often put there by the wine distributors, not the shops, but still, the shop has an obligation to make sure that this kind of misrepresentation does not go on in their establishment.
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