It was a quiet Sunday night in late January, not a big night even for this well-known restaurant. I got a reservation with no problem. Not long after we were seated a couple swept into the room with a bottle in tow. He was grey haired and elegantly, but casually dressed. She was quite a bit younger and beautiful – just like the bottle of wine he was carrying. It seems he had decided to bring two trophies to dinner.
The wine was 2006 Chateau Margaux and it goes for well over $500 a bottle these days. Probably cheap compared to his date. The sommelier did his duty and was suitable attentive as he pulled the cork and poured the wine. Graciously they offered him a taste. Then they ordered. He took a bowl of clam chowder, she a dozen pristine, fresh oysters – and that was it. Now I’m as open minded as they come when it comes to serving red wine with almost anything, but one thing I know for sure is that a young, tannic red Bordeaux is disgusting with fresh oysters and not much better with chowder. Yet the fact that the Margaux was nowhere ready to drink and that it was terrible with the food made not a difference to this couple. It only mattered that they could afford it. That’s why it costs $550 a bottle because people that don’t have a clue about what they’re eating or drinking buy it because it costs $550. A living example of the which came first the chicken or the egg dilemma. They didn’t buy the wine because it was great, but because it was expensive.
There is a range where wines are expensive because of their excellence, but that dollar point is passed at a much lower level than today’s trophy wines. It’s hard to say where that line is, but $550 is way over the top. Such prices are achieved only when people who have no idea what they’re drinking must have a wine to prove they know what they’re drinking.
Much to the pleasure of the staff, when they left the bottle was still a third full and she left almost a full glass. It mattered not because the wine had fulfilled their wants before the cork was pulled. They got their money’s worth.
Note: Fred Thompson was not in attendence that evening. Photo used for humor value alone.