A container of Italian premium wine with a retail value of about $375,000 was destroyed by poor handling en route to Los Angeles, the wholesale house that markets the wine said last week.
Don Schliff, president of Los Angeles-based Wine Warehouse, said that the container filled with premium Italian wine was mishandled at least three times en route to Los Angeles and that when it arrived the company found it was unsound and will not sell the wine.
"The wine was supposed to be put into a reefer (a refrigerated container used for shipping wine), and one of the freight forwarders messed up by using a regular container," Schliff said.
"Then things got really goofed up. The ship left Livorna, Italy, for Spain, where the shipment was supposed to be put on board a Los Angeles-bound ship. But the container was never transferred and wound up on a dock in Houston."
From there, a shipping agent realized that the container had to go to Los Angeles and, without contacting Wine Warehouse, loaded the container on a non-insulated rail car, which traveled through the desert at temperatures well above 100 degrees, Schliff said.
"When it got here, the wine was cooked," said Schliff, who did a random tasting of various bottles and found the maderized flavors far from the classic fruit he expected.
The heat had forced some corks part way out of their bottles and many bottles had leaked, he said.
Among the wine lost was Monte Vertine Chianti Classico Riserva from the excellent 1985 vintage; a large quantity of the very rare 1985 Monte Vertine Le Pergole Torte, and the last remaining 60 bottles of 1978 Barbaresco from Angelo Gaja (which has a retail value of about $120 a bottle). Also lost were wines from Dessilani, Venegazzu and Jermann, as well as wine from Chianti.
Schliff said Wine Warehouse has filed a claim to recoup its losses.