We acquire our unparalleled stock of fine and rare wine from well-maintained private cellars and reputable wholesalers, but only when provenance can be verified by our team of acquisitions professionals. Before purchasing a private collection, a Benchmark/Brentwood representative will often travel to the site of a cellar to meet the collector and inspect storage conditions to verify provenance. As a result, we guarantee the provenance of all wines that we sell. If you open a wine purchased from us within six months of the purchase date and the wine reveals signs of damage due to improper storage, we ask that you re-cork the bottle with the remaining wine inside and contact us immediately.
Each bottle of rare and back-vintage wine is unique. When a new collection arrives, we inspect each bottle by hand to assure the overall condition of the cellar meets our strict standards. When an individual bottle has a cosmetic blemish or other condition, our cellar team provides that notation. If no condition is cataloged, that bottle is deemed to be in excellent condition for its age.
Our staff collectively draws on decades of experience when inspecting the rare bottles we procure. When we cannot authenticate an especially rare and valuable wine, that bottle is immediately returned to the source from which it was acquired.
Following are the terms and abbreviations we often use when describing bottle conditions:
Labels (especially ones that were originally packaged in wood cases) frequently get dingy, dusty, or have markings from their surroundings
Portions of wax capsule have broken off, very common with some wines closed with brittle wax.
White markings and/or dusty capsule. The term tarnished capsule may also be used to indicate slight oxidation of the exterior of the capsule. Very common with some wines
Portion of the capsule is damaged, cut, or torn.
Flaking, peeling, or disintegration of the capsule.
Very common with some wines closed with brittle wax, especially as they age.
Bottom half of capsule is cut with a razor to inspect cork through glass – often to ensure authenticity. This is a standard practice with older bottles during the authentication process.
Water markings resulting in gray outlines, often the result of high humidity in the cellar.
Top of cork is visible, due to hole in capsule or chipped wax cellar.
Signs of mold on label, often associated with a humid cellar.
Small notch out of the capsule, usually on the top rim of the bottle.
Small notches on label, usually circular.
Vintage may become obscured due to label tears, staining, or the neck label falling off. However, vintage has been confirmed.
Signature on glass or label, often from winemaker or owner.
Through the label to the glass.
A combination of label scuffs, tears, nicks and staining.
Some wineries wrap their bottles with colored tissue, which can stain label underneath.
Labels can peel or wrinkle, often the result of storage in a humid cellar.
Capsule is bunched and sometimes loose on bottle neck.
Cannot be identified as a winemaker/owner signature.
(VTS) Very Top Shoulder – Common for wine 10+ years old. Excellent for bottles 20+ years old.
(TS) Top Shoulder – Normal level for wines 15+ years of age. Excellent for bottles 30+ years old.
(HS) – High Shoulder – Acceptable level for wines 20+ years of age.
(MS) – Mid Shoulder – Not abnormal for wines 40+ years of age.
(LS) – Low Shoulder – Rarely brought to market, exceptional situations.
3cm – Good fill for wines 15+ years of age. Excellent for wines 25+ years of age.
4cm – Acceptable for wines 25+ years of age, cause for concern for wines less than 15 years old.
5cm – Not abnormal for wines over 50 years of age.
6cm-7cm – Rarely brought to market, exceptional situations.
Collectible wood box issued by winery with bottles.
Level of the cork is excessively below the top rim of bottle.
Level of the cork is above the top rim of the bottle.
When wine has escaped through the cork and out from under the capsule.
Refers two situations; first a bottle has seepage that ran down the neck and over the label, second a bottle broke and splashed nearby bottles.
no significant visible fault can be found. Only generally used when this represents far better condition than would be considered excellent for the age. Often indicates a recorked or reconditioned bottle when found in older vintages.
the bottle looks generally excellent for its age. Small nicks or mars may occur, especially for older bottles. This is the standard condition for most wines we offer.
occasionally used to indicate a bottle that has one or two modest flaws below what we would generally consider excellent. This is most frequently used in brokered auctions where we have not seen the bottles prior to sale but have confidence in the base line condition from the source.
occasionally used to indicate multiple significant flaws, which, when taken together, indicate either a quite poor cosmetic specimen or one with a significant chance of contents damage.
indicates that the bottle shows clear or suspected signs of having been recorked, recapsuled, relabeled and/or topped off. Unless otherwise stated, indications are that this process was done at or by the original producer. Common for bottles over 40 years of age, especially top Bordeaux, Yquem and Penfolds Grange. Viewed by many as an asset.
Tasting Notes & Scores
The wine descriptions and scores used at Brentwood Wine Company come from a variety of sources as indicated below. Per the conditions of copyright under which we use them, we can only provide partial descriptions in most cases and will edit them for space, clarity, and to highlight positive aspects of the aromas and flavors of the wine. This means we generally edit out descriptions of appearance, body, comparative notes, and technical information about the vinification and producer, among other things. For the full description, we strongly encourage our customers to go directly to the sources. While we always use the most up-to-date description and score from the quoted source, we do not have a fool-proof method for keeping this up to date. If you discover a more recent description from the named reviewer or a review for a wine for which we do not have one posted, please let us know!
Key to the sources:
AL: Alex Liddell – Madeira
BH: Allen Meadows – burghound.com
BTI: Beverage Tasting Institute – tastings.com
CC: Clive Coates – Grands Vins and Cote D’Or
CT: Cellar Tracker – average community scores
DP: David Parker – proprietary Brentwood Wine Company reviews
GR: Gambero Rosso – gamberorosso.it
FWR: Fine Wine Review
IWL: Insider’s Wine Line (no longer published)
MB: Michael Broadbent – The Great Vintage Wine Book, Vintage Wine and Wine Vintages
RP: Robert Parker and Pierre Rovani – The Wine Advocate, Parker’s Wine Buyer’s Guideand erobertparker.com
RR: Riesling Report magazine – rieslingreport.com
ST: Stephen Tanzer – International Wine Cellar and internationalwinecellar.com
UWJ: Underground Wine Journal (no longer published)
WE: Wine Enthusiast magazine and winemag.com
WS: Wine Spectator magazine and winespectator.com
W&S: Wine and Spirits magazine
We provide these reviews and scores as a courtesy to bidders, and while we do our best to make sure they correctly match the wine offered, they are solely the opinions of the writers, and we can make no representation about the accuracy of the information. We never recommend making a purchase decision purely on a score or a review, but if this is a major factor in your bidding decision, we highly recommend that you go directly to the source. We cannot provide a refund on opened bottles of wine because of erroneous tasting notes or score information.
For wine scored by David Parker (marked DP): if after tasting a bottle from a multi-bottle purchase, you believe the quality to be substantially below that stated, you may return the remaining unopened bottles to us for a no-questions-asked credit on those unopened bottles.