Frequently Asked Questions

What is your return policy?

There is a 10% restocking fee on all returned items.

Returns must be made within 30 days of purchase and a receipt is required.

A check will be mailed for all cash refunds over $50. If the sale was paid by check, refunds will be mailed after two weeks from the purchase date.

We are unable to accept returns on wines that have been previously chilled or allowed to become overheated.

Beers and sodas must be in their original packaging (no singles).

How do you decide who can purchase the allocated spirits?

What’s this allocated whiskey buzz you keep hearing about? Well, my parched friends, there are a few distilleries that are making some pretty fantastic whiskey, stuff that very few of us actually get to taste – unfortunately! Names like Eagle Rare, George Stagg, Four Roses and Pappy are thrown around like delicate eggs in an egg-throwing contest.

Here’s the skinny: Spec’s receives these luscious libations once a year and our allocation changes each year based on what the distillery makes (which is never enough!). For example, we’ve had over 780 customers on the “I WANT IT” list for one particular type, but only 372 bottles were available.

So how do we allocate a limited number of products to so many interested customers? With Spec’s Key Club points – the more you shop, the more points you get! Simply stop by one of our stores and ask a Spec’s expert to put your name on the “I Want It” list, and we will compile the list in conjunction with how many points you’ve accumulated. Customers with the most points will land at the top of the list, securing their bottle of the hard-to-get, special selection, delicious darlings of the whiskey world. If someone on the list no longer wants their bottle, we will move to the next name on the list until all bottles are claimed and taken to enjoy in their new home.

Interested in getting on our “I Want It” list? Just stop by your nearest Spec’s location and one of our experts will be more than happy to help!

At what temperature should I serve this wine?

White wines, sparkling wines, and rosés all taste better at temperatures somewhat warmer than the average refrigerator (38°) or ice bucket (32°). For lighter-bodied wines such as Rieslings, Loire whites, most Sauvignon Blancs, Chenin Blancs, and real Chablis, 45° is close to ideal. Fuller-bodied whites taste better at slightly warmer temperatures with the richest white Burgundies, Chardonnays, and dessert-styles (Sauternes) showing best near 55°. Red wines show their best between 55° and 60° with lighter-weight reds (Beaujolais) capable of handling a chill down to as cool as 48°-50°. Fuller-bodied reds such (Bordeaux, Rhone red, California Cab, Zinfandel, and Australian Shiraz) are at their best around 60°. Nothing tastes as good at 70° as at 60° and Houston’s typical summer room temperature (75°-80°) is way too warm. The mechanics of this are not that difficult to manage. Forty-five minutes in the refrigerator or two-three minutes in a bucket of ice water will cool most reds to a good serving temperature. Remove white wines from the refrigerator a bit before serving and don’t keep them immersed in ice water at the table. Instead let them sit on top of a bucket of ice (as opposed to in ice water). A good solution for everyday reds is the plastic “ice cube” balls that can be kept in the freezer and used to “ice” a drink without diluting it. They look a little funny but the wine tastes the same. One or two will quickly cool a glass of red to a good serving temperature.

How long will this bottle of wine keep after I've opened it? What can I do to help it last?

A few wines such as Tawny Ports, Sherry, and Madeira will keep almost indefinitely after the bottle is opened. This is because they become oxidized in casks (called oxidative aging) as part of the maturation process before they are bottled and sold. Because they’re intentionally oxidized, exposure to a little more air won’t damage them or cause any deterioration. Most wines are matured in bottles outside of contact with air (called reductive aging) so the chemical development that takes place is reductive in nature. When these bottles are opened, the wine is exposed to air and begins to oxidize. The oxidization that initially takes place is actually helpful in that it helps the wine release its aromas and flavors. At some point, the wine begins to deteriorate. Most young red wines will hold up for a day or two after the bottle is opened, even if all you do is put the cork back in. If you want the wine to last longer, put it in the refrigerator; cold slows the oxidative process. This can add a day or two to the wine’s keeping ability. The best solution is to reduce the amount of air in the bottle. Collectors of sweet German Rieslings sometimes use marbles or river pebbles to displace the wine to raise the level back into the neck and then re-cork the wine. A better solution is to use a product called Private Preserve. Private Preserve is a can of nitrogen blended with carbon dioxide and argon. Because this mixture is heavier than air, you can spray it into an open wine bottle where it not only displaces most of the oxygen-laden air in the bottle but further forms an inert blanket over the wine that protects it from any air left in the bottle. Using Private Preserve along with the refrigerator, I’ve kept partial bottles for as long as three weeks with little or no deterioration.

Can you tell by looking if a bottle of wine is bad?

Not with 100% accuracy but there are some telltale signs to check. The main culprit in damaged wine is heat. A bottle that’s been hot may show marks on the bottle in the form of a sticky residue around the capsule, a cork that looks like it’s trying to push out of the bottle, or a streak of wine running from the capsule. Sometimes this seepage causes corrosion around the edges of the capsule. Any of these signs are a likely indication that a wine has gotten hot. A bottle that was been frozen can show some of the same effects. It’s usually best to avoid these wines but there is one very big “however.” Some very high-quality producers (such as Guigal, Leroy, and J.J. Prum) believe that for their wines to age and develop to their full potential, the bottles must be filled to the cork and that bottling should take place under cold conditions so as to reduce any possibility of oxidation. The problem comes when the wines warm up a bit during shipping and subsequent storage. Great care is taken with these wines in transit to ensure that they are not cooked. Unfortunately, as the wine warms from a bottling temperature in the mid 30s to a shipping temperature in the upper 50s, it expands. This can cause some seepage and the appearance of a wine that has been cooked. One thing to note on these wines is the high quality reputation the producers have and the fact that, even with some seepage, fill levels tend to remain very high. These wines are safe to purchase. If you have any question about a particular bottle, ask. You can cause these symptoms by allowing the wine to get hot after you leave the store. A bottle of wine left in a closed car in Houston in July can push its cork in as little as five minutes. At that point, the only thing to do is cool the wine down and drink it as soon as possible. It is diminished in quality for now and ruined for any further aging.

What about wines that are 'corked?'

“Corked” wines display a chlorine-like smell and lack fruit in the mouth. They’re affected by the compound 2,4,6 TCA or trichloroanisole that is an inadvertent by-product of cork production and cleaning. “Cork taint” may affect as many as 1 in 12 bottles of cork-finished wine, with some so lightly affected, they go unnoticed. Some producers use extruded plastic corks now to avoid the issue. If you purchased a wine from us that smells of chlorine, please bring it back to the store to exchange it for another bottle.

How long should I keep this wine before I drink it?

The amazing but true answer for ninety-nine percent of all wine sold is “at least until you get it home and have it cool enough to drink.” For the other one percent, the answer is “it depends.” What it depends on is whether you have a suitable place to keep wine. For long term storage, wine wants a cool (Below 50° is too cold, 55° is ideal, over 70° is just too warm), dark, vibration-free place. If you don’t have such a place, think about buying and keeping only wines you intend to drink within a year or two at most. Some wines are less finicky than others. Lighter-weight wines often fade quickly in less than ideal conditions. Some robust reds and vintage Ports can shrug off a bit of abuse but even they will succumb to temperatures in excess of 80°.

We're having ______ for dinner tonight. Which wine should I serve with it?

See our pairing suggestions.

Why is this wine so expensive? Don't you have something that tastes like it for less money?

Wine prices are driven by two main forces: production costs and market demand. Production costs are determined by land cost, farming expenses, yield levels, winemaking expense, and packaging. Super-premium quality wines cost more to produce than everyday quality wines. They tend to come from the best, most prestigious vineyard sites so the land costs more. To achieve intensity and concentration, yields are lower. To insure that high-quality fruit reaches the winery, labor costs stay high and few shortcuts can be taken. In the winery, labor-intensive small-batch techniques yield the best results. Expensive new-oak barrels are necessary to season and fill out the wine. All these factors drive up production costs but once a wine has made it and is a success with consumers, another force kicks in. That force is the “pull” through the market. Many wineries gradually raise prices to reflect the value the market places on their wines. This price creep affects the best known high-quality wines from all the best producing areas. In this day of rating system-based purchasing, wines highly-rated by the Wine Spectator or the Wine Advocate see a much more accelerated version of this trend; prices continue to rise until supply comes closer to meeting demand at the new price.

The net effect of all this is that higher-quality wines cost more and the most popular, limited-production wines cost more. If you want “something that tastes like it for less money,” it’s best to look to new properties and emerging areas. Our wine department employees are invaluable sources of information about what’s new, delicious, and cheap. Additionally, the “Twelve-Under-$12.00” and “New & Noteworthy” sections of this publication are good sources for information on high-quality value-oriented wines.

I tasted this great wine when I was in ______, but it is not imported into the US. Can Spec's get it for me?

In order for us to order wines from Europe, the producer has to have a US importer and a Texas wholesaler, each individual wine has to have or get US and Texas label approvals, and the producer has to register to sell his wines in the state of Texas. We can get a Texas wholesaler to clear the wines but it’s not worth (from a cost of doing business standpoint) going through all the mechanics of registration and approvals unless a substantial order can be placed. Your best bet may be to have friends bring back bottles whenever possible. If the winery is interested in doing business in the US or in Texas, we’ll talk with them but we’re not really looking for a bunch of new importer-suppliers as we have pretty good access to all sorts of wines through our existing supplier network. If you’ll give us the chance, we can probably recommend something we carry that is a lot like what you tasted in Europe.

I bought this great wine when I was in ______. They said they could ship it to me but I got a call from US customs saying a licensed importer had to come and clear it. Can Spec's get it for me?

In a word, no. It is illegal for a foreign producer or merchant to ship alcohol directly from their country directly to any consumer’s address in the US. The only places they can legally ship to are licensed importers. Those shipping arrangements must be made in advance and must comply with all state and federal import regulations (including label approvals, taxes, and customs documents). It’s just not worth doing all that for a few bottles of this or that. Working after the fact, it is virtually impossible for us to clear these wines through customs. Most likely, your aborted order will soon grace some customs agent’s holiday table. We hope you paid with a credit card.

Can I change my customer information and email address online?

Yes, go to your account.

Do you accept international payments?

We can only accept payments with US billing addresses at this time.