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How to deal with a wine snob?

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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.

              2. I too love great wines and don't care too much about the price. If I am with wine drinkers, what I do is choose 3 wines and then pass the list around and point out the three and see if anyone has a preference. They see the prices and they can speak up. I'll even say, 'it's a little pricey, are you OK with that? I can choose something else.'

                If you don't want to drink great, expensive wine when you go out, that is cool. But on the same token, why should i have to drink crappy wine?

                Just say, 'That sounds amazing, but really, we won't appreciate that wine the way you do. So we'll order a different bottle; we can keep separate wine checks." OR
                "Yipes, that is over our wine budget. Get it for you and DW, we'll get this delicious Yellowtail."

                4 Replies
                1. re: chow_gal

                  "If you don't want to drink great, expensive wine when you go out, that is cool. But on the same token, why should i have to drink crappy wine?"

                  But there's a difference between a $200 bottle and, say, a $75 bottle in terms of the "hit " to the bill - sure the $200 one may be much better, but that doesn't mean the $75 one contains crappy wine, no? Actually makes me curious to know what price range most posters aim for when they order wine (depending on restaurant, occasion, etc. as well, I'm sure). The only time I have a $200 bottle of wine in a restaurant is when I have clearly been invited as someone's guest and they order the wine. Doesn't mean I'm drinking Yellowtail the rest of the time!

                  My thought is that it would just be easier to deal with this ahead of time and say "We'd love to have you come to dinner with us ... nice chit chat ... then lead to "I have a favor to ask you - we know you have such great taste in wines, and really appreciate wine, but often your the wines you order are just outside our budget these days. Perhaps we could just ask for separate checks for the wine ... etc."

                  1. re: MMRuth

                    That's exactly what I would do. Definitely best not to wait till you're at the dinner table to deal with the issue, if possible. Plus, you have the other couple to consider.

                    Just be light and friendly about it, but speak to him beforehand. You could also butter Barry up by saying "Since you know so much about wine, maybe you could recommend a $XX wine we'd really like?" I'd probably add something like "You know, that expensive wine is just wasted on me. After the first two sips it all tastes the same!..."

                  2. re: chow_gal

                    "If you don't want to drink great, expensive wine when you go out, that is cool. But on the same token, why should i have to drink crappy wine?"

                    Noone is asking you to drink crappy wine, just they do not feel the need to pay for it. You want to spend $XXX on a bottle merely state, "I have always wanted to drink this wine with this meal. I will order and pay for it and if anyone wants a taste, I will gladly share. Please go ahead and order a bottle to your liking and I would love to taste that one, if you do not mind."

                    BTW - maybe the other people will order 4 lobsters dinner to go at $50 per plate to take home to the kids or for the next night. That is about as unfair as the $xxx wine deal.

                    1. re: chow_gal

                      I haven't read the rest of this thread yet but I think this is a GREAT way to handle it. It's direct. No one should feel embarassed or offended. chow_gal, you should write an etiquette column :)

                    2. This is so easy. Don't invite him! he sounds like an ass.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: southernitalian

                        my thoughts exactly. and also apparently one of those types that equate wine quality with cost.

                      2. The wine snob kind of sounds socially clueless. DH has pretty expensive taste in wine. When it's just the two of us, he'll get what he wants. When he goes out with other people that are into the same types of wine he is and is willing to spend the money, it is split equally. When he goes out with people that aren't comfortable spending that type of money (irrespective of whether or not the person is loaded) on wines or isn't sure what their views are about wine, his pick is a lot more moderate. And when there is a mixed bunch, expensive wine is generally ordered, but the bill is not split evenly. The wine people end up throwing more money into the pot.

                        It's difficult to deal with this tactfully. I don't envy the situation you're in. You probably know best what your relationship with this person is, and what would be appropriate. Perhaps you can order something by the glass and ask for separate checks. Or try a joking approach -- eg. "We love the wines you pick. But at this rate, I think we're going to have to send our kids to community college." Perhaps he'll get the hint. And if subtley is lost on him, you're just going to have to be direct.

                        1. Well, a *good* wine snob should be challenged to find a reasonable bottle of wine from an extensive wine list priced under $50-60. Any fool with a memory can pick an expensive good wine. It takes talent to pick a moderately priced good wine.

                          Therefore, what this guy is doing is not about the quality of the wine but about control. And his continued control of the wine is anti-social behavior. I think the best way to deal with this is to inform him that, for this and future group gatherings where wine is going to be enjoyed and shared by the table generally, his advice on choosing a wine priced less than $[N] would be very much appreciated (if he resists, you can welcome him to enjoy whatever wine he wants on his wallet rather than the table's).

                          You don't need to be offensive, but you do need to be much more direct and set clear $ limits. Being indirect is a formula for something nastier than what will happen if you are politely direct. If he doesn't want to socialize without losing control of the wine, it means he's not really fit for socialization in restaurant situations (have him over for home dinners instead).

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Karl S

                            I think Karl nailed it.

                            I'm the kind of wine snob that is thrilled to announce my new $20.00 find! Maybe you need to turn your friend onto Josh Wesson. http://splendidtable.publicradio.org/...

                            1. re: Karl S

                              I don't think this is about wine either -- it could be any high-priced foodstuff that is ordered for the table that is out-of-range of the other diners' budgets. Barry strikes me as being insensitive with this behavior, especially if he orders the wines without first checking in with you.

                              I like the idea of being friendly but setting limits. Check in with Barry before the evening and say something like: "Barry, we look forward to dining with you next Saturday, We need to let you know, though, we're watching our budget these days and won't be able to share those wonderful bottles of wine with you and Nancy."

                              Order your own wine at the restaurant, saying to Barry, "SO and I are going to share a bottle of wine. Please feel free to order something for you and Nancy."

                              Separate checks will help, of course. If that isn’t possible, add up your total and tax, and offer the amount and your credit card to the server.

                              If Barry, even after your pre-dinner conversation, again tries to railroad the wine selections, you will have to be firm and again say, “Barry, please order wine for just you and Nancy. SO and I are getting our own bottle.”

                            2. The clue here that some posters seem to be missing is where you say "we want to invite another couple." Obviously you like their company and want to dine with them so I assume they aren't jerks or offensive.

                              Best plan, IMHO, is to speak to the husband when you make the invitation and explain that he always makes wonderful wine choices, but that they sometimes tend to be out of everyone else's budget. Say you appreciate his palate, but need to put a ceiling on the bottle price so everyone else is comfortable with the final bill. If he truly knows his wines, he will be able to find something wonderful at a lower price. Do not broach this at the table....that would be rude and remember he is a friend so it should be a reasonable request and perhaps he is not aware of the cost issue for you and the other couples, but just wanting to share wonderful wine with wonderful friends.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: Le Den

                                Le Den, I love your approach. I agree this would be the best way to resolve this situation without stepping on too many toes. If the husband takes offense, then the OP will just have to re-evaluate the relationship with this couple.

                                I also agree that being direct and setting clear financial limits, as Karl S suggests, is key. Pleasant but direct.

                                1. re: moh

                                  I, too, favor Le Den's direct but tactful approach. By complimenting his palate while redirecting his choices, you give him a pleasant part of the conversation to focus on so that feelings are less likely hurt. Perhaps giving Barry the challenge ahead of time will allow him to research better quality wines at lower prices so that he is still comfortable in making an educated choice...?

                                  I have a friend/co-worker that loves $50 lunches - yikes! - and after having a frank conversation with him where I said that, although I loved the past experiences it just isn't in my budget as a regular thing, he explained that the drinks, apps, and fancy extras were part of creating an enjoyable experience for him. No one in his family is really into food, so to go out with someone that appreciates a fantastic meal gets him excited. (Maybe Barry is just excited to share with others who like wine?) Now my friend and I occasionally go out for something special, but we also have a challenge to find the best cheap eats in the area around our office. The tough conversation turned into yet another fun food thing to do together.

                              2. If Barry is going to "insist" on picking the wine, then I think you should "insist" he pay for the wine as well.

                                Problem solved.

                                1. Tell your friends in advance that as a special treat you'd like to bring one of your new favorite discoveries with him and ceremoniously unwrap a bottle of 2 Buck Chuck or Thunderbird or Manachewitz....

                                  1. Could you order wines by the glass?

                                    Failing that, I like Karl's suggestion. Be upfront and say something like "ok, wine guru -- can your wine prowess find us a wine under xx dollars?" (Inspect the wine menu prior to make sure that your asking price is not completely unreasonable.)

                                    1. We used to have the same issue with the husband of a couple we dearly love, though his thing was ordering multiple cocktails, appetizers and extra sides, plus the highest priced entree, then suggesting that the check be split equally. He is really a very caring, nice person and we just couldn't ever figure it out. But it got to the point where couples would decline to join us for that reason.

                                      As with your wine snob, I have to think that the only way to solve the problem is to confront it head on (in the most delicate way you can think of - whatever that may be). There's no easy way. All the cute techniques will likely either go unnoticed, dismissed, or misinterpreted. A simple "We all love you but not everyone in the group is comfortable with the cost of your love of wine, and we'd hope you'd be OK with understanding that" is all it should take unless the guy is really a pompous ass. Unfortunately there's no guaranteed win/win in these situations. You have to be ready for whatever happens when the cage door opens.

                                      In our situation, the person in the group who was closest to him just let him know how people were feeling and it's never happened again, nor has there been any major blowback.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: Midlife

                                        That's why I think it's best to turn the negative into a positive: invite him to demonstrate his skill but to effect of choosing the best lower-priced wines. That shows his skills are valued, but puts them into a use that benefits the group. I think that is better than simply saying, no thanks.

                                        1. re: Karl S

                                          I think that cimui and Karl S have it right. He considers himself an expert, so the least offensive way out of this bind is to redirect his expertise. Asking him to find an excellent wine at a lower price asks him to demonstrate his greater knowledge of wine and still feel good about himself. Clearly he is first and foremost a friend, so you don't want to hurt him. However, his behaviour is endangering the friendship and you really don't want it to fail, so it is worth taking a risk. So flatter his knowledge and you can preface it by saying that you *really* need to tighten your belt a bit, so this will be a wonderful challenge for him, and set the upper limit so he knows what he is aiming for. How horrid for you, but I think that 'not' sorting things out is more likely to end in sorrow.

                                      2. If you are uncomfortable with someone, who picks wines beyond your means, do not invite them.

                                        Hunt

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Bill Hunt

                                          You hit the nail on the head, Bill Hunt.

                                        2. I have to say I'm a little surprised by the people who suggest you have him pay for the wine or order a separate bottle for different people at the table. That seems so unconvival or even hostile. So does shoehorning the sommelier between him and his beloved wine list. He gets pleasure out of choosing the wine; maybe in his excitement, he has no idea everyone else is slightly alarmed at the price. Much better to have a direct, friendly talk beforehand about your preferred wine price range, as others have said. It's nothing to be ashamed of or angry about.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: sjb7501

                                            I am with you on this. When I detect that I might be in the same situation as the OP's friend, I always instruct the sommelier, or server, to present me with a separate bill for the wine and comp it to the others in my party. It happens all of the time. At my age, I don't that many good years of fine wine drinking ahead of me, and resent having to consume wines, that are not on my "list," so I handle it by purchasing the wines that I want and treating the group to my wine choice. It happens. I also try to determine the level of fine wine appreciation and the depth of the pocketbooks at the table. I never wish to impose my tastes on anyone, except if I am paying.

                                            Hunt

                                          2. Find out if the restaurant has a corkage policy. If so, have you considered bringing your own wines? You would probably have to pay a corkage fee, but in the long run, it would likely be less expensive that what the restaurant charges......

                                            For corkage etiquette:
                                            http://www.foodandwine.com/articles/c...

                                            1. thats pretty rude, i think it would bother me quite a bit if someone just took it upon himself to assume that I want to spend $200/bottle(unless he's paying of course) without even asking. i would speak to him privately beforehand, since you guys enjoy their company, or speak to his wife, either way, just the principle of it would make me talk to him, but i am also of the quantity vs quality variety after a couple of glasses

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: Fromageball

                                                Agree. He should be made aware, that all do not share his appreciation of fine wines, and do not feel comfortable paying for such wines. As stated above, when I'm that guy, then I pay for the wine. If others get to enjoy it - well, that is what fine wine is for - sharing with good people. Luckily, I normally dine with winos, so there is seldom an issue. However, it can happen, and one must be sensitive to that possibility.

                                                Hunt

                                                Hunt

                                              2. Make sure someone else grabs the wine list first. Better yet, get a copy in advance, pick a bottle or two and be prepared to mention that or just order when you sit down. Say something like" I heard about this great Pinot Noir and have really looking forward to it". If mr. Winesnob interjects, hold your ground. It shouldn't be that big of a deal.

                                                Ordering a $200 + bottle of wine without consulting the rest of the party is obnoxious to say the least.

                                                1. I'm with Fromageball, I think it's rude on his part to be picking expensive wines and expecting everyone to pitch in. I really wouldn't beat around the bush. A straight forward "I know you love wine but we don't want to spend more than $xx on it with dinner" should work. Then the ball is in his court and he can decide how to handle it from there. Maybe he'll offer to pay, maybe he'll order his own bottle, maybe he'll pick the best of the less expensive wines. Maybe he'll turn into a big cry baby and refuse to go to dinner. No matter the outcome, I feel he's being quite inconsiderate pushing his expensive hobby's cost onto you.

                                                  1. I'd just say, "feel free to choose the wine on your own if you are buying". Simple.

                                                    1. <<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.>>

                                                      So, he knows that he's imposing his expensive tastes on the group, or he thinks you all got a big pay raise.... Either way, I'd just not invite him, but that's just me. If I were inclined to be more social, I'd take the excellent suggestions you've received and just nicely tell him - the wines that you pick are too pricey for us so you're on your own.

                                                      1. Any chance the restaurant would let you bring a special bottle or two and charge you corkage fee?

                                                        5 Replies
                                                        1. re: ginnyhw

                                                          BYO is all well and good, but it doesn't really deal with the problem. Not every restaurant allows corkage, so the problem will inevitable arise again.

                                                          I like Rick's suggestion of asking the man in question to recommend/pick a bottle in the $XX range. Problm solved, no drama.

                                                          1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                            So how did you resolve it OP? I personally can't stand "wine snobs" and agree that the ability to find a diamond in the rough type wine in the $30 range would demonstrate a much better knowledge of wines than simply looking at the prices and choosing the most pricey one..

                                                            1. re: cherrylime

                                                              We did not invite them to that occasion. Ironically, they called us to join us for dinner the following weekend, and again, he chose the wine, asking for it to be placed on a separate check. Good thing because he chose a $200 bottle of champagne, followed by an approx $80 bottle of red wine (which he mistook as a large format bottle because of it's name, but indeed just the regular sized bottle- making him look a bit foolish when the bottle was presented, only furthering our image of him as a wine snob who really does not know much about wine!) We were a party of 5 that night. After the restaurant we went home, drank 'cheap' wine and they left without a sip. Clearly beneath them. I think we may just stick to inviting them to dine in our home from now on.

                                                              1. re: maddogg280

                                                                "which he mistook as a large format bottle because of it's name"

                                                                -------------
                                                                you pegged him spot on as a phony, maddog!

                                                                1. re: maddogg280

                                                                  Betcha a million it was Shafer 1.5, the name of which stems from family working together, etc., not bottle size.

                                                          2. I would call ahead and talk to the sommelier or manager and ask for a couple of recommendations. As one who enjoys wine, I find part of the fun in finding the bottles that are $50 or under.

                                                            The night of the dinner, I would arrange for the sommelier to bring over a list and hand to snob with the following on it: WINE LIST #1 Red #2 White Please order by number.....then explain that the wine has already been picked by the sommelier

                                                            1. IMO if you're friendly enough with Barry to include him in on such a special occasion, all bets are off to hold back on telling him to cool it on the pricey wine. In my world, if I'm sharing a special day with a friend, I know them well enough to speak my mind and say "Hey Joe, unless you're footing the bill for the fancy stuff, sorry, we can't afford it, so either let someone else pick, or you pick something more reasonably priced."

                                                              1. Do they sell many wines by the glass? If he suggests an expensive bottle, maybe you could just tell him that you were wanting to try a couple different types of wine this time around, so you'll be ordering glasses.

                                                                You might also try getting a copy of the wine list ahead of time. You and the second couple can agree on one or two wines that you'd be interested in trying ahead of time. If you choose to invite the third couple, the rest of you can mention beforehand how you're really looking forward to trying those specific wines. That might be a good way to discourage him from picking out a wine on his own since he presumably won't want to rain on your parade.

                                                                If you're close enough friends that you feel comfortable discussing money, you might want to just come out and say that you're trying to choose a more moderately priced wine. Blame it on the economy - say you're trying to compensate for the higher gas prices, or lie and say you're trying to save up for a vacation, a new TV, or whatever. Just tell him that although you'd love to splurge on a fantastic bottle of wine, it will have to wait until next time.

                                                                For the future though, if this is really a couple you enjoy going to dinner with, you might just want to accept that dinner with them will probably be pricey. It doesn't sound like this is a weekly occurance, so you could put aside some extra cash, little by little, so that when you do finally get together with them, footing the bill doesn't hurt so badly.

                                                                2 Replies
                                                                1. re: Al_Pal

                                                                  He's ordering $200 bottles or wine and you're worried about insulting HIM? Girlfriend, either channel your inner Bette Midler and speak with him OR go with other more considerate people, don't be financially intimidated. If it were me, I'd conspire with his wife (and the waitstaff) to have them bring a special "Boxed Wine" to the table...it cd be like your own little "Seinfeld" episode!

                                                                  1. re: chocolatebirthdaycake

                                                                    Never saw that Seinfeld... do they trick a winesnob into thinking they are drinking an expensive bottle?

                                                                    Friends and I did this to a former coworker wine snob. Told him he was drinking a $200 bottle when it was a $30 bottle. He did say it tasted a bit off, but that didnt stop him from extolling the rich cherry notes and great legs. I could hardly contain my laughter.

                                                                2. Honesty is the best policy. Personally, I would confront him--not in a confrontational manner of course, but just be frank with him. Tell him that you and your husband really enjoy the company of him and his wife--dining with them is always a great experience...blah, blah.. After you compliment him just tell him that although his wine choices are always spectacular, you are just having a heck of a time justifying the pricing when there are great wines out there for a lot less. I'm sure he will get the message. I would think it is different when "Barry" and his wife are out by themselves--for a special ocassion, it would be fitting for him to spend that much. However, when you are with another couple or a group of people, I really think that being courteous and thinking of the others should be first priority. Perhaps this man just is ignorant to the needs of others.