Service of Wine Swine Who Take Advantage of a Host or Hostess

August 17th, 2016

Categories: Etiquette, Manners, Restaurant, Wine




Another Lettie Teague Wall Street Journal wine column caught my attention: “When Your Dinner Guest Orders a $700 Bottle of Wine: An Etiquette Guide.” I’ve covered her refreshingly no-nonsense column before. The subhead for this article was: “Learn how to deal with wine hogs, shameless business associates and more with these top etiquette tips for oenophiles behaving badly.”

I object to people who take advantage of others. It goes far beyond instances of rude guests making selections of inappropriately pricey wine which is the reason the topic especially appealed to me.

Some of her examples:  

  • Three dentists went out to dinner, one claiming to be a wine expert. The so-called authority ordered three bottles of Napa Cabernet which cost $1,000+ and let the others pick up the tab. [Teague’s dentist was one of the patsies.]
  • Guests who bring an expensive wine to a dinner and hog it allWine as gift or people who down what’s in their glass as the waiter approaches to refill to ensure they get more than their fair share.

If her friend, author Paul Sullivan, is hosting a dinner and his guests pick a ridiculously  extravagant wine his strategy is to say: “That’s a fascinating choice, but I don’t know if it will go with what we’re having.” He calls over the sommelier, names the extravagant wine and asks for “something over here that’s more interesting,” while pointing in the direction of more reasonably priced choices. Teague writes that a good sommelier will catch on.

Removing cork from wine bottleAnother of the reporter’s friends, an ad exec, calls ahead and selects the wine to be served to avoid a preposterous dent in her expense account when entertaining some clients who take advantage of her agency because they know it picks up the tab. However, she told Teague: “I’ve never had a client who had a sophisticated palate take advantage of a business dinner.”

While infrequently, and not recently, I’ve also been hijacked by guests—clients or friends–whose pricey or excessive choices in the alcoholic beverage category have landed heavily on my credit card. Have you? Do you have successful techniques that parry greedy tendencies of others involving wine or any other thing?

Pouring wine

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6 Responses to “Service of Wine Swine Who Take Advantage of a Host or Hostess”

  1. David Reich Said:

    I have a very simple answer to this… Speak up!

    If I’m hosting a dinner, even for business, and someone orders a crazy expensive bottle of wine, I’d say something like, “Whoa, wait a minute, that’s way over my budget.” Pride be damned; I don’t want to be stuck with a bill that will be on my credit card for a couple of months till I pay it off.

    It’s crazy to let yourself be taken advantage of like that by a thoughtless guest or friend. If you don’t say something, then it’s on you and you get no sympathy from me.

  2. jmbyington Said:

    David–good for you! I prefer a direct approach to hoping the wine steward understands that you are trying to finesse your way out of a tricky bind.

    At a several day annual meeting of a client that was an industry association years ago a trade editor/friend, member of the association and I went out together with the understanding we would split the bill three ways. The member asked for a special wine menu and ordered from it. The food bill was moderate but the wine bill outrageous. Neither I nor the trade editor could put such a sum on our T and E. We thought very poorly of the judgment of this person that’s for sure. All three had imbibed. We should have said what our budget ceiling was but we both thought that since he was a successful owner of a then healthy business and since he asked for a special menu that he would pick up the wine part of the tab. Live and learn.

  3. ASK Said:

    Agree with Mr. Reich entirely…As someone who frequently picked up checks, I would just say to someone who figured they were spending my company’s dime that I couldn’t possibly put that kind of charge on my expense account. It was simply too rich for my budget. End of story….

  4. hb Said:

    A couple of thoughts:

    I happen to enjoy fine wines and have been lucky enough to have enjoyed a few of them over the years, although fewer each decade as prices continue to rise astronomically. A $10.00 bottle in 1950, now costs retail, $300.00, and in a restaurant, $1,000.00. Why did this happen?

    I think wine stopped being something to enjoy and became a fad, something to show off with, collect, or, alternatively, as a vehicle for speculation. (In 2012, I sold four cases of Bordeaux I had put down in 1988 and 2003 for a 200% return on my investment. Not bad.) Supply and demand realities just plain knocked the socks off prices.

    I have my own wine etiquette. If I have been invited to share a fine bottle, I send it over a few days before a planned meal to let it settle; conversely, if someone brings me fine bottle, I put it down to settle a few days before drinking it.

    If I expect enjoy a fine meal in top restaurant with people who know wines, I order a good bottle generally priced at, or preferably below, the menu cost of the food to be consumed.

    If I’m stuck with an idiot who is showing off by ordering an $800.00 bottle, and I’m a guest, I shrug and enjoy it. However, if I think he intends to split the check at the end of the meal, I pointedly, up front, insist on separate checks, decline to share in his bottle, and pay only for what I order and consume. (That has never happened to me.)

    If the wine selection is dictated by business considerations, that is an entirely different matter, and common sense and what is best for the business relationship should dictate how one acts.

  5. Lucrezia Said:

    Teetotalers are usually the victims of wine guzzling leeches. It’s mostly their fault, since they don’t speak up. It’s not bad manners to insist that someone pay his share, and dreadfully wrong to attempt forcing others to absorb such costs.

    Friends who have been taken in by the “let’s split” when one or more people expect others share the cost of their vast consumption, have done everything from pointedly refusing to subsidize, to declining to dine with such persons again. While it’s true that a number of friendships have suffered, a true friend never takes advantage. Sponging is an indication of character, so beware such a client. Having a leech drink down the profits is best sent packing. Let him impoverish someone else. (This assumes said leech doesn’t make up for his indiscretions in other ways)

  6. JBS Said:

    Easy solution. You order the wine! No reason since you are treating your clients that they should be able to take advantage of you. I know that when I was a client, agencies often ordered the wine and I was happy to drink it!

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