May 24, 2016

Wines being sold with misleading ratings

PHOTO | Truth in Advertising
PHOTO | Truth in Advertising
A survey of 30 liquor stores in Connecticut found 90 percent were mislabeling wine ratings.

An investigation of 30 liquor stores throughout Connecticut found that nearly 90 percent are misrepresenting the ratings of the wines they sell.

Madison-based Truth in Advertising ( said most liquor stores selling wine, including independent neighborhood stores and major chains, displayed wine ratings for bottles or vintages other than those for sale. The organization said it found numerous instances where wines were rated lower than what the sign posted near it indicated and many that were not rated at all.

In letters to each of the 26 stores where a misrepresentation was found, said that the marketing was deceptive and "lures consumers into buying a wine that is different from what they believe they are purchasing." The letters urged owners to correct the problem immediately. Yesterday, also alerted the state Department of Consumer Protection about its findings.

A Consumer Protection spokesperson said DCP had received the complaint and is reviewing the information. She said consumers should read information, ratings and labels carefully while shopping. Any questions about ratings should be directed to store staff before making a purchase.

"The deceptive signage found in the sampling of stores may be indicative of a widespread issue," said Executive Director Bonnie Patten in a statement. "Liquor stores need to review their in-store marketing practices to make sure that shoppers are getting accurate information about the actual wine bottles on their shelves."

A wine's rating can vary from year to year depending on shifting climate and the philosophy of the winemaker, said Cheryl Stanley, a Cornell University professor who teaches a course on wine appreciation. "Hail at harvest or wet moldy conditions within the vines will cause a year to be different than another," said Stanley in a release provided by "That is why vintages on labels mean something."

Meiomi's Pinot Noir, the group said, is a good example of how a wine's rating can fluctuate in the span of a single year. From 2013 to 2014, the wine dropped four points on Wine Spectator's 100-point scale, from 92 ("Outstanding: a wine of superior character and style") to 88 ("Very good: a wine with special qualities"). Nevertheless, found the 2014 vintage in a package store in Fairfield accompanied by a wine ratings sign touting the 2013 vintage.

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