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           Sydney Time



   Copyright © Ric Einstein 2009






False Advertising (15 June)


In the past I have been critical about Get Wines Direct marketing practices. The criticism is mainly revolves around misleading advertising and taking reviewers write-ups out of context.


As far as taking reviews out of context is concerned, these guys have been pushing the envelope on that one for years. I have had a go at them for taking my notes out of context, and I know for fact that James Halliday is not happy with the way GWD have used some of his notes in a way that is not a true reflection about what they are advertising.


A good example of misleading advertising by Get Wines Direct was published some time ago on TORBWine.


“This example (thanks to Brian's research) shows just how much rubbish and how misleading advertising can be! Get Wines Direct is advertising a "Possums Shiraz 2003."


It states, "Absolute stunner of a wine this wine was made for the US market where it was retailing for $US27.95 a bottle and has a link to a US site (not the cheapest one for this wine mind you,) but the US site is actually specialling it for $23.99 USD. (It's also available in Australia from another merchant for $19.95AUD.) More importantly, the 2004 vintage is selling in the US for half the price of the 2003. Having said all of that, the Get Wines Direct Price of $9.95 may be a good price, it's just disingenuous advertising as the US market prices have no relationship to those in Australia. It's typical of "creative advertising" and designed to make it look like consumers are getting a huge bargain (which is not always the case.)”


Now these instances are travelling close to the wind, but GWD have not been caught out crossing it completely. Its probably not the first time they have crossed it, but it is certainly a bloody obvious case of false advertising – and they have been caught red handed by an astute retailer.


In this advert (which was pulled) GWD had lifted the advertising commentary from the producer’s website for the clean skin wine. Well what the problem with that you ask? Nothing if it’s honest. But in this case its not!  It states, “Heathcote Shiraz Cleanskin 2006



Amongst other things, it goes on to say this cleanskin was a Gold Medal National Wine Show Of Australia and won a Silver Medal in the Jimmy Watson Class at the Royal Melbourne Wine Show” Only that's wrong. It didn't!


The copy was lifted from the Tyrrell’s site for the Rufus Stone 2006 Heathcote Shiraz. According to an email from Tyrrell’s, The 2006 Heathcote Shiraz that is available on Get Wines Direct website is from the Rufus Stone Heathcote vineyard however it is not exactly the same blend as the branded Rufus Stone wine. As you may appreciate our vineyard has different sections that produce slightly differing parcels of wine. These are kept separate until the final blending so you will get slight variations. The wine available from get Wines direct is close to the final Rufus Stone blend but not the exact same wine.”


So, we have two wines; not one. Also, based on what I have experienced from many barrel tastings, there can be a marked difference in the quality of fruit parcels across a whole vineyard. So how close is close? I don’t know because I have not tried the two wines involved, but they are two different wines, not one. The wine that GWD is selling did not win a gold medal at the National Wine Show and advertising it as such is blatantly false advertising. The ACCC needs to have a look at GWD.


And consumers should be aware of their misleading and now false advertising.


Feel free to submit your comments!

From Ann Page: Monday 16 June

Albert E
Take a break. The ACCC won't go near it. Vide Tyrrells' waffle about 'not the same blend?' What does that mean: "we're up to our knees in wine so we're letting the Rufus flow in skins?".

Anyway, thanks for the good work in 'outing' this outfit. My first buy was good-ish, second very shabby. No third strike.

From this to that, the locals tell me that '06 is year to remember in SA, top to bottom, maybe above '04 and 'even 02. Suspishus, methinks. Time for another diary tour.


TORB Responds:

Anne, you are right the ACCC won't go near anything unless it's "bigger than Ben Hurr" but that does not mean that they should not investigate this mob.


In regard to your comments about the wine, it is more likely to be a case of the fruit in the cleanskin was not up to scratch so it was declassified and bottled as a lower grade (different) wine. 


Agree with your comments on 06, they are "suspishus" (love the spelling). As far as a Tour Diary is concerned, fear not, there is one on the way. Later this week will see Chapter One go up. 

From Bruce Routley: Thursday 19 June

I just read your comments about Get Wines Direct.

I complained to them a few months ago over what I considered false advertising. What annoyed me, was a very large heading on a wine for sale "Parker 95 point winery".

The usual punter would see this particular wine as a Parker 95 pointer, not some other wine from the same winery that got 95 points. Really misleading, in my opinion.

I sent them an email, telling them of my concerns, and got a reply, saying that they did not agree with me.

I did notice also, that they removed me from their email list. I haven't bothered to get back on it.


From Chris Pellegrinetti: Thursday 19 June

Rufus Stone isn’t Grange, but it’s a decent drop established reasonably priced around the $16 point – why on earth would Tyrrells trash whatever value the brand has by flogging it off as a cleanskin? Did they become part of McGuigan while we weren’t looking?

From Bruce Clugston: Thursday 19 June
Just read the article. I feel it is a little simplistic.

I think you could say the same thing of every advertiser in the retail industry. The RRP then slashed to “Special” price is often rubbish.. Whether it is Coles Woolworths Cellarmasters, Kemeny’s or just the corner liquor store... Normally $?? Now Super Special is another very misleading practise.

In the end we are over scrutinised and over regulated. Caveat emptor does apply to all purchases, and I know having just returned from USA that many wines like Possum are now dead and it is not surprising that the wine is being discounted down from $27.95. $9.95 was in the end an outrageously good deal and what the price in other places may well be academic, but the underlying message for me was Possum was a bargain and I agree at $9.95 it was and is a price never seen before.

GWD would have taken on the Rufus stone and advertised it with Tyrrell’s knowledge. Different blend ?? phoey. Tyrrell’s would have consented to the advert to move excess stock so it is a little tough on GWD that Tyrrell’s now say .. not the same wine. They are no doubt happy to get paid and get rid of surplus stock, and claims now that it was a different wine is in my opinion a very convenient denial by Tyrrell’s.

The market is very tough and GWD are one of the few retailers who manage to sell stock, pay on time and are keeping a lot of the industry happy.


TORB Responds:
Firstly, it should be noted that Bruce has a long history in the wine trade, much of it in retail.


I doubt most consumers would think we are over regulated. You also say that Tyrrell's would have consented to the advert, do you know this to be a fact or are you now guessing? You also make intimate the clean skin is not the same wine as the bottled Rufus. Do you know that for a fact or is that another guess on your part? Do you think that Tyrell's would deliberately lie about this situation?   


From Mark Cohen: Thursday 19 June

(Mark is in the wholesale business)


Let me be the first to say, that as a supplier to GWD, they are a very ethical bunch. They buy well, sell at tremendous value prices to the consumer, and have been a very good out-let for those with excess inventories.

Everyone stretches the advertising line from time to time, and everyone has some poetic licence to be creative.

They are very careful in what they say and are pretty pedantic and ensuring what we provide is accurate information on the wines, wine maker and suggested retail.

If you have a crack at them only for offering good value, you are doing yourself a disservice, as I am sure there are some shonky ones out there that may deserve your attention.


From Tony Sells at GWD: Thursday 19 June


In relation to your swipe at Get Wines Direct misleading customers and false advertising.
Firstly next time you put up such slander I would appreciate a right of reply before you put up such defamatory information.

Get Wines Direct purchased this wine from a reputable wine broker in South Australia who sold it to us as Tyrrell’s Mt Rufus Shiraz and that it was a gold medal winner from the National Wine Show.

We received a phone call from Tyrrell’s head office earlier this week and they had stated that this wine was in fact not the same wine that we had been lead to believe. Upon receiving this information I immediately took it off the website and contacted our broker who informed me that his Tyrrell’s agent in South Australia sold it to him as this wine and had the accolades (Gold Medal). I am still awaiting an answer from all parties involved and I will be taking what relevant action needs to be taken.

Please note we would not have purchased this wine if it had not had won gold at Canberra!!

Once again I take offence to your accusations of Get Wines Direct misleading our customers and your slanderous manner.

If this is not taken down by close of business today I will be taking legal action.

Please find attached tasting note that we were sent from broker.


TORB Responds: Thursday 19 June 


Your comments are noted and as you can see, have been posted for all to see.  If you wish to sue me, go right ahead, please take a ticket and please join the queue. I posted the facts. You even confirm this in your own correspondence. However, if you really want to sue someone, then I respectfully suggest that you sue the agent for the misleading information which lead to this situation.  It's ironic that this still shows what happens when "the truth is stretched " when selling goods, at any level. 


From Bruce Clugston: Thursday 19 June
In regard to Mark Cohen’s comment....
I too have supplied GWD. And I can confirm that with over 250 customers in Australia there is not one single customer big or small that goes to such lengths as GWD to get the facts correct.

To be sure in the vast majority of time, GWD are providing the best value for money wine in the market. It is unfortunate that the focus of this thread has been on the great value they deliver consumers.


From Chris Maul: Friday 20 June

A storm in a teacup. Finally, it seems that GWD has been taken for a ride.

However, the thinly disguised "cleanskins" of GWD are just cleanskins.

No consumer should take them for a Rufus Stone where the winery just forgot to glue the label on. At least I do not. Retailers such as GWD usually have a mixture of wines that rightfully stayed on the shelf interspersed with others made by wineries that just did not have the market access, the marketing skills or quantity for the big retailers.

It is the nature of this business that you may get the short end of the stick if you use GWD. There are plenty of highly rated duds around.

That said, if you bother to go to Richmond and try the wines you will find some wonderful wines you like. To the credit of GWD, everything is there to try, even the more expensive wines.

On a different note GWD is a difficult business for wineries. It is a gravedigger. I consider 'Marinda Park' from Mornington Peninsula such a case. I tried their wines at Federation Square and was impressed, I thought 'yeah, very good, a bit pricey', but bought a few bottles. An export order fell through and their wines ended up at GWD. In short, I bought a case of their beautiful - and what is rare, ageworthy - Pinot and after that never got the wine directly from the winery. Now they no longer exist. As a consumer you say why should I pay $30 if I can get it for $9.95, however, my interest as a consumer is also that good wineries stay around. Nevertheless, I feel a bit guilty and I do not consider GWD at fault here. GWD is in it for the money, they are there to sell and do not care whether they sell oil, wine or underwear, and the threat to sue reveals that.

From Brian: Friday 20 June
Tony didn’t mention whether he contacted the people who bought it thinking it was a wine with a medal winning streak and offered them their money back. I note their site just said it was sold out.


From Gilbert Labour: Saturday 21 June

Good to hear your views on Get Wine Direct... I got stung by their hype and had to financially wear the cost of a case which I had purchased for one of my friends, as I was too embarassed to charge him after tasting the wine. I have since deregistered from their site.


From Len May: Saturday 21 June

I have just read your latest article re GWD & related emails.

I have a question re cleanskins you may be able to answer ?

It is my understanding that Aust health regs state that ALL food items must be labelled, i.e. what are contents etc, re wine - variety, alc strength, preservatives used if applicable.

Is this correct ? because in the past I have bought some cleanskins from GWD which the bottles were completely bare, the carton had a label which described the wine.

My point is, if there is no label on the bottle how do you know if you are getting the wine, albeit cheap, that you ordered.

Conversely I suppose anyone can put any label on a product but what is the legal liability of the merchant ?


TORB Responds:

Interesting question, I will see what I can dig up.


From Brian: Monday 23 June

Gilbert, you should have just sent the wine back. You have to give GWD credit for having a good “no questions” return for refund policy if you don’t like the wine, I’ve used it a couple of times.

For Len May, as long as the label on the full case has all the required details, the bottles can be bare. If the wine is sold in less than full packs, the bottles must have a basic label with the required details, GWD does this for cleanskin wines that you can order by the bottle and so do many other retailers of “cleanskins”.


From Ryan M: Monday 23 June

AFAIK, Individual bottles do not have to be labelled if they're being sold as a complete, sealed case. All of the relevant information by law has to be on the outside of any case sold. This information must contain Grape Variety or Style, ABV% (possibly also std drinks) things that make people have allergic reactions.. ie 220, and producer details. Those 3 are rock solid-definates, others i'm 95% on are volume, country/region of origin. So if it's a straight doz sold with that information on the outside of a sealed box, individual bottles don't get to wear a sticker. Single bottles are illegal if not labelled as above.


From MIchael Gill: Tuesday 24 June
I am a sucker for a bargain - yeah I know if it sounds to good to be true it usually isn't. I bought the GWD Heathcote shiraz thinking how bad could it be, different maybe but how bad? Well it's bad. Words fail me. It is nothing like the Tyrrells labeled bottles, which I have as an everyday quaffer. GWD have said they will take it back no problem. I am awake to the hype that this mob publish and have never taken their tasting notes for granted. If it is from a recognisable and reputable source (such as your fine site) I will check it out if not I ignore it.


When will they wake up that this is a very poor way to promote yourself in the market, but I guess there are plenty of folk out there who are willing to believe either through ignorance or stupidity - I prefer to give others the benefit of doubt and call it uninformed ignorance. I reckon that GWD have just lost me as a customer. I'm over the cow manure, especially as there are so many other reputable sites on the web.


Saturday 28 June
I have been a loyal customer of GWD for over 3 years and have found their service to be impeccable and the advertising to be rather fair and very clever at times.

Having worked in retail myself, I know how advertising works and there is a big difference between misleading advertising and false advertising. How many times do you walk past a store that has a huge sign saying “50% OFF STOREWIDE” only to find out when you get to the counter that it actually says “(up to) 50% OFF STOREWIDE.” Well it’s there in writing no matter how small…it can’t be false advertising! Just about every company will use little tricks to get people’s attention and it’s up to the consumer to be on the ball and read the fine print or read properly. Unlike Bruce Routley and his comment made on the Parker 95 Point Winery. He stated “The usual punter would see this particular wine as a Parker 95 pointer, not some other wine from the same winery that got 95 points.” Well I disagree. The usual punter (myself included) can read and would know the difference between the word winery and wine when it is written in a heading. No wonder they replied to your email and disagreed with you!

TORP, I have the James Halliday Wine Companions and get them each year. I refer to them quite often and read his comments on the wine before I buy them. Most of the quotes GWD use seems to be cut and pasted straight from the book so I don’t know why James Halliday is complaining they used some of his notes in a way that is not a true reflection about what they are advertising.

Like Michael Gill, I also bought the Heathcote Shiraz Cleanskin 2006 because the write up in the advertising was so good! However, unlike Michael, I quite like the Shiraz, but then again I haven’t tried the Tyrrell’s labelled product to compare it to. For Brian’s reference, I was phoned by a GWD staff member and advised of the “incorrect information provided by the Tyrrell’s agent” and that it was not in fact the same product. Alarm bells sounded in my head at first but they were very honest and forthcoming and I was offered a full refund on the spot. I was impressed by the admittance, but chose to keep the product (as I had already had 4 bottles by this time). Had I not been phoned by GWD first and heard about this “mistake” somewhere else, it probably would have had tarnished my opinion of them resulting in me asking more questions.

I believe this “false advertising” claim from you TORP to dismissive given the circumstances stated in Tony Sells reply. It was in no way intentional and I wouldn’t blame him in wanting to sue you for slandering his business. I also noticed that you omitted the tasting notes sent to him by the broker that he willingly provided you with. I would have like to have seen that! Interesting…very interesting! If I didn’t know better, I’d think you were trying to hide the real fault here because you appear to have a beef with GWD??? Does this mean you won’t post my comments too?

It’s the outstanding customer service they have provided me over the last 3yrs that has kept my business and I would still recommend them to anyone wanting to buy wine.

TORB Responds:

I am glad you are a satisfied customer of GWD, they must have plenty of them, or they would not remain in business.


Now to address the points you raised. I too have worked in retail; 15 years of it. Prior to that I spent many years in marketing; some of it at an international management level and was responsible for advertising budgets in the millions of dollars, so I do know just a little about this subject.


In regard to your comment when you say there is a huge difference between misleading advertising and false advertising, in some ways you are correct and in some ways you are not correct. Let me explain. False advertising is illegal. No ifs, no buts and no may be. But did you know that a number of corporations have been prosecuted by the ACCC for misleading advertising? They have been forced to print retractions, apologies and even make refunds to consumers. It all depends on how misleading the statement is perceived to be, and that will determine if prosecution is warranted or not.

In the example you quote, “50% off storewide” I must admit that when ever I have seen signs outside a store like the one you mention; they normally state “up to 50%” off. I don’t remember ever seeing a sign that says “50% off storewide”. If it did, and it was “up to 50%,” it is not misleading advertising, it’s false and subject to prosecution.


In regard to your comment about the “average punter” I disagree with your comment about their savvy. The average punter normally does not read fine print and normally just scans publicity, if they look at it at all.


You then ask/state I don’t know why James Halliday is complaining they used some of his notes in a way that is not a true reflection about what they are advertising.” How about because it’s true? Do you think I would use Halliday’s name without knowing that the statement was completely factual? For the record, I have it in writing and Tony Sells is aware of this comment ,as we discussed it via email some time ago.


You say, “I wouldn’t blame him in wanting to sue you for slandering his business.” I agree with you, there is no doubt he may like to, but before you sue someone for slander and go to all that trouble and expense, it would help if you had a remote chance of winning. Slander means, “malicious, false, and defamatory statement or report.” There was nothing false in what I reported. You can’t win a case against someone when they have told the truth. Also, my comments were not malicious. Here is part of what I wrote in an email exchange with Tony a few days ago. “Now to set this straight. So please take a deep breath and read this with an open mind.


I have nothing against you or GWD and am not out on a crusade to get you. I just hate the bullshit that surrounds much of this industry and the over-hype that many ITB carry on with, because in the long run, it cheapens the credibility of the industry. And that was what this whole thing was about.

I have, and will continue to slam anyone and everyone that steps over the mark, moral or legal.


What gives me this right? Nothing, just a love of wine and a platform that allows me to do it, and a readership that appreciates it.

As you have probably seen, if I get it wrong or even if my readers' think I have, they let me know very quickly and in no uncertain terms. All their comments are posted without exception and without editing.”


You go on to state that I was “dismissive of Tony’s comments.” They were posted on the site and I acknowledged the content. You may have noticed that I don’t respond to every one of the readers comments on this site. What did you expect me to say?


You say “I also noticed that you omitted the tasting notes sent to him by the broker that he willingly provided you with. I would have like to have seen that! Interesting! If I didn’t know better, I’d think you were trying to hide the real fault here because you appear to have a beef with GWD??? Does this mean you won’t post my comments too?"


You use some interesting phraseology and nuances here. On one hand it seems as though you are suggesting I am trying to hide something, and on the other you state that you know better. Not sure what you are getting at, as one contradicts the other.  There was nothing interesting about that tasting note at all. It was the tasting note for the award winning wine. There was no conspiracy on my part to hide anything. As already stated, I have no beef with GWD as such.  


I guess from reading your lengthily response, for which I thank you, that you are not a regular reader of this site. The reason I say that is that is for a number of reasons. Firstly, I am TORB, not TORP. Secondly, you would know that all responses, no matter how much they disagree with my point of view are posted (provided they are not profane etc.) Not only have I put it up, your name is in flashing lights.   Finally, welcome to TORBWine, where all wine lovers are welcome; even those who drink c-though, cleanskins, and especially those who disagree with me.


From Brian: Sunday 29 June

For Simon McDonald: What date were you phoned? I think you’ll find it was only after mention here and on my site followed by return requests that the action was taken. GWD may well have been conned on this one, another merchant was offered the same wine, without the “same wine” explicit claims and simply checked with Tyrrells to get the correct story. I guess Tony won’t trust this particular wholesaler so much any more. It’s the old story- if it looks too good to be true, it probably isn’t. It was also disingenuous to claim anonymity for the producer and to publish details that were readily identifiable on a cursory search.

Regarding quoting of tasting notes, Halliday's and others, it is the instances of partial quoting (invariably leaving out some negative aspects) and quoting against a different vintage that is the issue. There have been more instances than a competent careful merchant should have and GWD have had to withdraw the quotes on several occasions after complaints by the author or others.

I buy occasionally from GWD, have had some bargains and returned some wines that didn’t match the hyperbole, have just ordered some of the Viking 2006 reds and I agree the service is good and the refund policy unbeatable. But the advertising does often offend me. I think there are many instances where it is misleading in many different ways. Sure, I’m experienced enough to see through the b/s, but why is it served up if not to entice those who don’t know that (for example) the high “Don’t Pay” price sometimes refers to the wine 5 vintages and/or three winery owners ago? GWD isn’t alone in this sort of thing, but they are the current class leader by a long margin.

From Steve Burman: Wednesday 9 July

Funny all the spurious stuff Tony Sells threw up, at the end of the day he is responsible for what is written on the website, we as consumers have no relationship with the middleman or wine company.

Funnily enough it appears to me that in the end he really did the right thing in admitting his error and ringing customers, a bit surprised he didn't just do that and shut up.

As for the perpetual manner of his misleading comments, well I have and continue to buy from GWD, but I must admit I feel that I must check all of the claims as just too many are misleading. As for the 5 star winery claims for what may be (hypothetically in some cases a much lower rated individual wine) well yes, clearly I have learned to take this with a grain of salt. I can't see any other reason to do this other than trying to mislead customers. For me, that is clearly an attempt to mislead the customer into thinking this particular wine is of high quality.


From Roy Nixon: Monday 14 July

Ric, you are to be congratulated on the very robust exchange of views on this issue which we know is very important to red wine lovers everywhere. You have also presented the for and against in a balanced way. It is basically up to us as customers to come to our own view about the various claims made.


My experience with GWD like many of your readers has been very good. I indulged myself on both the Viking 2005 and 2006 offers which were amazing. Their delivery time was very good so no complaints there. It is very easy to get worked up about these things but I was comforted by the comments about the no questions asked refund policy of GWD and the after sales service when they discovered the error on the Rufus cleanskin. I grant you that the possible bad press may have had something to do with that but at least they did it. The totally unscrupulous retailer would not have. I am still keeping an open mind on them and will certainly not be "cutting off my own nose to spite my face" if other good offers come along from them - which they will!


From Chuck Haberman: Monday 23 February

Good exchange of views. I’ve bought from GWD many time but only after carefully reading the hype. The wording can be a little tricky- some friends confused Grampians for Gramps - but on the whole I have been happy with what I’ve got. In a few cases very happy. Some of the cabernets have been excellent; I generally steer clear of the shiraz as I’ve never had a good one. Compared to most $10.00 wines they stand head and shoulders above. They are my midweek wines; something to wash down a hard day’s work. Uncomplicated and generally well made.


Copyright © Ric Einstein 2008