Who owns the wine in Premier Cru's warehouse?

What a mess.

Would it be anything less?

I didn’t expect the trustee to decide that wine in storage labeled with a single customer’s name isn’t the property of that customer.

None of it surprises me in the least, Robert. Since the late 1960s, when I entered the wine trade, it’s been widely accepted that, in California at least¹, the wine is yours when it changes possession. Normally that does happen at the time of purchase: you walk in, you grab a bottle, you pay for it, and you walk out the door. That wine is yours.

It has long been illegal to return wine² to a retailer. The ABC considers returning perfectly sound wine as “buying on consignment” and illegal. For example, you’re throwing a wedding party and decide to buy the wine yourself, rather than have the caterer supply it. You cannot (legally) buy 10 cases of Cache Phloe Chardonnay and then return 6 cases and 3 bottles because that’s all the guests consumed.

Now we all know that many, if not most, retailers would take at least the 6 full cases back, because they would rather keep you as a future customer and not have a fight with you. Besides, the chances of the ABC finding out are – to be honest – pretty slim. But that doesn’t change the fact it’s actually illegal to do.

But with Premier Cru, and every other retailer selling futures, the wine is legally not yours until you pick it up/it is shipped from the retailer’s warehouse. Orders can be cancelled and that’s legal. You aren’t returning the wine; you never owned it in the first place . . . yet.

As for what the courts will decide in this matter, who knows? Alcohol has always been treated differently under the law than other products, but – knowing Premier Cru and knowing John Fox, nothing is going to surprise me . . .

Âą Unless otherwise noted, all facts herein apply to California and are based on California state laws and regulations.

² Unless of course it is spoiled, corked, etc.

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