How can you legally own wine before you know how much wine you need?
October 10, 2018 3:47 PM   Subscribe

For a wine walk: when you are legally required to own the wine you will need before you start, but cannot risk extra unsold bottles, how do you legally draw up the purchase agreement with the winery? Some sort of blanket purchase order or is there a better way? How do you do it if so? Is this even possible?

Essentially, I need to do this by tonight and am seeing some conflicting information. I'm sure this is a solved problem because these things are super popular, but I just can't find the answer.
posted by corb to Work & Money (13 answers total)
Best answer: I am not a lawyer, but there doesn't seem to be any logical bar to them agreeing in a contract to sell you more bottles than can possibly be sold during the wine walk and also to be obligated to buy back any number of them (or any number over a reserve amount) at a pre-set price?
posted by sindark at 4:14 PM on October 10, 2018 [3 favorites]

This is tough (maybe impossible) to answer without knowing the local laws (and if they're enforced).

Probably the way to do it is to have a sponsor/partner with a liquor license or similar so that they can make a typical consignment-type arrangement with a distributor who agrees to take back unsold wine.

Alternatively, you could make people pre-purchase tickets (one per taste) and then only purchase the wine that the pre-purchased tickets afford them. No refunds, no exchanges. You'd have to make sure no one poured too generously or you would risk pissing off ticket-holders.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 4:19 PM on October 10, 2018

I mean, "legally own" can mean a lot of things and it makes a pretty big difference in what would work and what wouldn't.

You can also see if a winery does this a lot and ask what they do.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 4:20 PM on October 10, 2018

Around here (Winnipeg, Canada) people host events where drinks are sold all the time. The local liquor and beer vendors will take back any sealed bottles and unopened cases for a full refund. It's in their own interest to do this, since if you underbuy and run out at your event, they're missing out on the sales. Plus an unopened bottle of wine goes right back on the shelf.

Of course, you have to float the full amount up front, and any breakage/loss/etc comes out of your pocket. Is it possible your local wine supplier offers this option?
posted by pocams at 4:59 PM on October 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

This is governed by state law. Is the winery you’re buying it from in your state? They will have someone who knows the law on this. Your state might also have the laws available online for you to peruse - mine does.
posted by something something at 5:02 PM on October 10, 2018

Response by poster: Essentially, the real problem is that this is somewhat of a clusterfsck and I'm coming into it very late. The person it is for needs to present the image that they do this all the time and have standard business protocols, which means I haven't even been provided the info for the wineries and can't just do the direct step of calling the wineries, asking if they've done this before and have standard methods. And wineries that I am not buying wine in have absolutely zero interest in sending me the traditional forms they use for purchase contracts when I can't even tell them the business I am calling from and potentially offer later business.

In terms of the state law, I've called up the local liquor control board and checked their FAQ/such. They say only that the nonprofit which holds the special event license must purchase the alcohol from the vendor prior to the event.
posted by corb at 5:13 PM on October 10, 2018

Estimate how much you need, pad that number and open all of the bottles.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 5:22 PM on October 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

Call the winery you’re dealing with and say that you’re calling to confirm a few details, like by which date do unopened bottles have to be returned for a full refund (and any other details you have hanging around.) If they express shock and dismay just say you must have gotten the details wrong from [knowledgeable person].
posted by warriorqueen at 5:38 PM on October 10, 2018

Best answer: In my experience this is done with a catering purchase order. They'll ask you how many people and how long and recommend a number of bottles (or cases). They will buy back sealed bottles for the same price they sold them. You may or may not need to make a 100% deposit up front, but they will have some way of refunding you for the excess. Where is the wine going to be consumed? Are you selling glasses of wine for cash as a fundraiser?

Will there be a caterer? One thing to look out for if you're expecting to get money back is that people who want to be helpful will just start opening MORE WINE because it's MORE WINE and who doesn't want MORE WINE, and it's good to be PREPARED, and every bottle they open (or even just remove the foil from) is a bottle you're not going to get a refund on (been there, done that, brought home unnecessarily opened bottles from a memorial service, of all things). To that end, keep an eye on when things are slowing down, remove unopened bottles from sight before things get too messy, and keep an eye on the "helpful" people who are only going to cost you money. If you're using a caterer they'd be waving off the "helpful" people from the start and they generally know how the refund thing works so they won't put extra bottles out unless you tell them to.
posted by fedward at 5:39 PM on October 10, 2018

If unsold bottles are truly an unacceptable risk, you simply have to buy fewer bottles than you think you will need, and plan on running out. Otherwise, the person whose fuckup you have inherited is asking you to accurately predict exactly how many bottles of wine are going to be needed, and that's just not realistic. You're not a magician, you can't see the future.

They need to accept that they are going to have some unsold bottles.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:39 PM on October 10, 2018 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Okay, folks, you are saints and I love you. It looks like buying more than needed and accepting back sealed bottles is the way to go. Apparently the wineries have agreed to invoice later so this is totally doable. Is there any traditional language for this, or does something like "All unopened bottles may be returned without penalty on-site within 24 hours; invoice will be adjusted before sending." work?
posted by corb at 6:11 PM on October 10, 2018

I feel like that sort of buy-and-return is standard practice and you shouldn't have to spell it out at all, but I also live in the relatively deregulated District of Columbia (we have really friendly liquor laws here). I think if you're worried about it it's best to ask each vendor what their terms are, and what (if any) language they want you to put in (or leave out). They may well have similar language in their event orders already, but I'd pick up the phone and ask, and I hate picking up the phone. For example there may be something weird about how they'll only accept unopened cases and not individual bottles, and you won't know that unless you call. Best to ask, take notes, and have somebody whose job it is to be aware of any vendor-specific rules the day of the event. Maybe tape or staple rules to individual cases, or something, if you have to. ("You open it, you bought it.")
posted by fedward at 6:35 PM on October 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

If you need language, here are the terms for returning products to the Ontario provincial liquor store.
posted by grouse at 7:11 PM on October 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

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