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Aug 8, 2008 07:28 AM

How to deal with a wine snob?

We are happily looking forward to a special occasion meal at an upscale restaurant with an extensive wine list. At the moment, two couples are scheduled to go, and we want to invite another couple, but the husband always insists on picking the wine.
Unfortunately, he usually insists on picking spectacular wine that costs way more than we want to spend (IMO, the four of us tend to be more into quantity rather than quality, especially after the first glass/cocktail is consumed). In the past, he dealt with this by asking the waiter to place all the wine on a separate check and paid for it himself, but that is not the case anymore. What's worse, is some of these wines are $200+ or more. Now, I love wine as much as the next gal, but I'm also a reasonable person. Or just call me stingy. I don't want that kind of wine (or to foot the bill for wine I would have never chosen).
The couple really enjoy dining out with us (this restaurant is a special favorite among us all), but we worry about insulting them with, "Please moderate your wine choices, Barry." type comments....
What would you do in this spot?

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  1. We have a similar issue with a couple we are good friends with (Dh has been friends with them 30 years) and honestly, we just add it to a cost of having them as friends (dh is more gracious about it than I am, but he's paying for it, I'm not). Our friend likes big, bold reds and I'm more of a Pinot Noir gal (and am driving so one or two glasses is generally it for me) so it's even more of a waste. They also order the most expensive entrees generally and lots of appetizers. We know when we go to dinner with them it's going to be pricey and we're going to be paying far more than our share.

    Adding....since it bothers you (which is perfectly reasonable) I would take it upon myself to ask the waiter to put the wine on separate checks. I wish we'd do separate checks for the entire meal, but Dh disagrees.

    1. Initially what I'd do is invite the couple and explain that someone else in the group is really excited about getting to pick out a wine from the extensive wine list. Just find some tactful way of telling Barry that he's not going to be the one picking out the wine this time or that he'll have to pick out his own wine and pay for it.

      1. If you were not looking forward to the wine list I would say just tell him you were going to drink cocktails instead.

        You could ask the sommelier to pick a moderate wine instead and just say you wanted him to pick so it would be something that matched well with all the dinners.

        Or when he made a too pricey suggestion tell him you are sure it would be divine but was a bit beyond what you were thinking and ask the sommelier for something with a similar style of flavor in a more moderate price?

        Another thing to do is to say well I am sure that will be divine with the entree you have picked for your meals. May I see the wine list so I can pick out a wine for _________ and I to enjoy?

        Or yes ask for wine on a separate check.

        1. Wow. I think that is very rude to order a bottle of wine at that price level and not check with the rest of the table first.

          At the risk of insulting Barry, I would call him before the dinner and suggest an agreed upon budget for the wine ahead of time. If all the couples aren't intimate friends, you could come at it from the angle that, though Barry has fab taste in wine, you are worried that some of the other guests will not be prepared to spend that much.

          I think trying to broach the subject at the table during the dinner in front of the other guests (however it is done) might be more insulting to Barry.

          1. If the restaurant has a sommelier, mention to Barry that this is the route you'd like to go. Someone intimately familiar with the food will provide levels of enjoyment and possibly new experiences not known prior.

            With this in mind, if it were me, I'd then make the reservations and ask to speak to the sommelier about my price limits, otherwise sky's the limit. The sommelier will know when you honor your reservations how to handle Barry's over-the-top suggestions. :)

            If there isn't a sommelier then handling it as KTMooMau suggested.

            Eiher approach allows everyone to win and no one goes bankrupt.

            4 Replies
            1. re: The Ranger

              Ranger, it doesn't sound like Barry makes suggestions. By the way the OP wrote her query, it sounds like Barry just orders the wine - without consulting with anyone else at the table. IMO, completely rude that he does so.

              To the OP - you don't want to "insult" Barry, but on the other hand, don't you think he's doing the same to you and the other couple by ordering without asking you if his choice is OK with everyone? Especially if the cost of the expensive wine is split between the three couples.

              I agree with either asking for separate wine checks so you can choose what you want to have *or* having a sommelier pick a more moderately priced wine. If Barry asks why - just be honest with him and say you either can't afford it or just do not want to spend that kind of money on a bottle of wine. Perhaps when he sees the other two couples always getting their own wine and he has to pay for the most expensive one, he'll stop ordering the most expensive one for just himself and his wife, as he's going to have to pay for the entire bottle rather than splitting it 3 ways between the 3 couples.

              1. re: LindaWhit

                D'oh. I missed that part of him auto-ordering. I just figured he perused the price listings, suggested the two priciest burgundies and then flimflammed his way into convincing everyone that ordering one of them was best. After all, any wine costs $200+ has gotta be good! (said tongue-in-cheek).

                I'd be a little more direct with Barry, then, and head the issue off prior to the meal. "We're going to have the sommelier suggest the wine flight at dinner." If he balks, you have your answer and any wines he orders go immediately on his portion of the bill.

                1. re: The Ranger

                  After all, any wine costs $200+ has gotta be good! (said tongue-in-cheek).
                  LOL! I *do* wonder if Barry does think that, which is why he always goes for the most expensive bottle?

                  maddogg, any idea? Or does Barry just have excellent taste in wine (and deep pockets to pay for it on a regular basis as well?)

                2. re: LindaWhit

                  I agree its very rude - must be a treat for him to get his top end wine that he wants and for the other couples to pick up 2/3 of the tab when they would be just as happy with a mid-range bottle.

                  I agree with pp - what about sticking with cocktails? If he would still just split the check down the middle than he is downright rude. I am not one to nickel and dime when going out to eat with others ($40 entree vs. 50, etc), but if someone is getting a prime dry aged porterhouse and I am eating chicken, they would be a pretty big ahole to suggest splitting it.