Invino: A Tale of Customer Service

Octavia Pinot NoirSome years ago my brother-in-law and I took something of a deep dive into the world of wine. It started with a monthly club membership that got us trying new things as a matter of routine.  The came some classes. Then some more classes. Then a test. He took still more classes. You get the picture.

We have both purchased wine from various online sources. I tried He tried Lot18. Last year Lot18 stopped shipping to Texas. This influenced my initial move to try I’ve placed a few ordered with them in the last 6 months. I’ve been pretty happy with the profile of their offering. It’s well matched to my tastes and budget.

Having earned my confidence earlier,  on January 3rd I rather impulsively ordered a case of 2009 Octavia Pinot Noir (Wine Searcher Listing) that was offered at a rather  modest $99/case, including shipping. That’s seriously inexpensive, a fact that would certainly temper my expectations.

In about two weeks the wine arrived. I put most of it into wine storage, taking two bottles to the wine fridge in the house. That first evening I tried it, and to my dismay it was terrible. I could not even finish a glass. As is my habit, I gassed the open bottle with Private Preserve and put it away, content to try it again the next day.

The next day Fred Salumunek came over for a visit. Fred and I took the WSET Level 2 class together. He’s since gone on to take the level 3 course, so he’s getting into a lot more of the technical details of wine. I thought that we should again try the Octavia Pinot Noir. He might be able to help characterize what I was tasting.

He too thought that the wine tasted bad. However, we could not identify a technical fault in the wine. There wasn’t a overt problem with Brettanomyces. It wasn’t corked. It didn’t need to breath. Nor was it vinegary or suffering an acid imbalance. It was very simply wine that tasted bad to our palates.

Thinking that perhaps there was just a bad bottle, we opened a second bottle. While it tasted a little fresher than the first, it was similarly undrinkable.

For both of us this was the first time that we’d ever had a wine that was utterly undrinkable, and not suffering some kind of technical fault.

Since it was a bargain case I was pretty much resigned to pouring it out and taking the loss. However, I decided to email customer service at Invino and advise them of my distaste for that wine.

I must admit that I was truly surprised when they offered to both refund purchase price and take back the case. They would send me a prepaid return shipping waybill and even credit me for the two bottles that we had opened. I hadn’t even considered that they might take such a course of action.

A couple of days later I received another email, this time with a Fedex shipping label attached. The case was subsequently repackaged and returned.

The course of action that Invino took in addressing my initial email certainly raises my opinion of the company, which was already quite positive. That sort of concern for the customer experience, backed with decisive action, is certainly worth mentioning.