Tuesday, August 2, 2016

When Your Dinner Guest Orders a $700 Bottle of Wine: An Etiquette Guide

[ed. I have this problem all the time. You can't enjoy a nice dinner for under $3000 these days.]

A high priced restaurant experience, complete with a wine hijacking, wasn’t a topic I expected to discuss during a routine dental checkup and cleaning last month. But that’s exactly what my dentist, David Silverstrom, wanted to talk about when I sat down in his chair.

Dr. Silverstrom and a colleague had recently invited a third dentist to dinner, and it quickly turned into a pretty pricey affair. Their guest, a self-declared wine expert, ordered three bottles of Napa Cabernet for a total of over $1,000—and let them pick up the check. Had I ever heard of such a thing? Dr. Silverstrom wanted to know. I most certainly had.

A few weeks earlier, some friends told a similar tale. The couple, who prefer to remain nameless, had been invited to spend the weekend with friends who own a beach house, and on the last night, as a thank you, they took their hosts to dinner. At the restaurant, the hosts’ 20-something son ordered some very expensive wine, turning my friends’ little sojourn into anything but a “free” weekend at the beach.

Although most wine drinkers comport themselves with a certain degree of decorum, shameless business associates or greedy “friends” holding their hosts fiscal hostage by ordering a pricey Burgundy or Bordeaux is nothing new. I’ve never experienced it myself—my being a wine journalist probably keeps people from trying to pull such tricks—but I’ve often been on the receiving end of other less costly but no less disgraceful examples of bad wine etiquette.

Take, for instance, the person who brings a particular bottle to a party or orders a special wine at dinner, only to repeatedly fill up his or her glass without pouring it for, or offering it to, anyone else. Witnessing such antics, I sometimes find myself having to almost wrest the bottle away from the sticky-fingered offender. This sort of behavior is the opposite of a gracious host or true wine lover, who always serves others first. Wine is for sharing, not hoarding, after all.

A slightly more passive version of the example above is the act of maximizing the amount of wine in one’s glass. When the waiter approaches the table to refill the wine glasses, a certain sort of drinker will immediately down the contents of his glass, thereby ensuring that he will get the largest share of the wine.

My friend Paul Sullivan, author of “The Thin Green Line: The Money Secrets of the Super Wealthy,” admits that he has done a bit of speedy wine swallowing himself. But he insists that he only does so when a guest orders an expensive wine on his tab, as a way of getting a little something back.

Paul has an even more effective bait-and-switch strategy for dealing with piggish guests: If they pick an absurdly expensive wine from the restaurant wine list, Paul says something like, “That’s a fascinating choice, but I don’t know if it will go with what we’re having” and promptly summons the sommelier. After telling the sommelier the name of the wine his guests have chosen, he points to a more moderately priced selection on the list, making sure his guests can’t see what he’s doing, and asks if there is “something over here that’s more interesting.” A good sommelier always catches on, said Paul, and “suggests” the new wine in his preferred price point.

by Lettie Teague, WSJ |  Read more:
Image: Rafa Alverez