By James Atkinson
A recent tasting of parallel-imported Champagne sold by Coles' Vintage Cellars chain sounds a warning for liquor retailers, according to the brand's licensed Australian wholesaler.
Wine critic Huon Hooke tasted a parallel-imported bottle of Laurent-Perrier Cuvee Rose non-vintage, supplied by Vintage Cellars, compared with a bottle of the same wine imported by official wholesaler Winestock.
In his column for the Sydney Morning Herald, Hooke said the parallel import tasted "stale and poor" in comparison and rated it at 87 out of 100 compared with 94 for the Winestock bottle.
Winestock Wholesale director Paul Stenmark told TheShout the tasting highlights the questionable provenance of parallel stock.
"If someone's just putting a whole lot of champagne in an unrefrigerated container, the quality of the goods can be suspect – Huon's tasting showed that not only with Laurent-Perrier Rose but also Bollinger," he said.
"The reputable importers will always import champagne in refrigerated containers. As we know, champagne is more susceptible to changes in temperature and light than any other wine."
"Stock that's brought in by other importers can be moved around a couple of times in Europe – it can go anywhere. It wouldn't be brought in refrigerated containers."
A Coles Liquor spokesman said the company concurred with Huon Hooke's comment that "no conclusions can be drawn from just two tastings".
"There are a range of factors which can affect the taste characteristics of individual bottles," he said.
"Coles Liquor's direct imported wines are transported under the same strict conditions as other wine imports, represent outstanding quality and value for money."
But Winestock's Stenmark said the Laurent-Perrier bottle in question was not imported directly by Vintage Cellars.
"They bought that stock that Huon tasted from another importer."
Stenmark added that only retailers that are buying from a brand's licensed importer can represent its copyright or image photographically or electronically.
"Winestock and Nelson Wine Company are the only companies who have the permission from the copyright owners of Lauren Perrier, for example, to represent that image and/or copyright.
"That is the way that we stop people from advertising something like Laurent Perrier at stupid prices," he said.