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Sep 16, 2013 08:28 AM

Ordering wine at a fancy restaurant [moved from Manhattan board]

Whenever I eat out, I like ordering a bottle of wine. It just makes the whole experience so much better but when I am at a fancier restaurant, I always find myself saying, who orders $3,000 bottle of wine(or $10,000 bottle of wine??)? Of course there are a lot of rich people in the World who doesn't mind dropping that kind of money on a single bottle of wine but I am not one of them. The most expensive bottle I've ordered is $200. The one good thing about ordering a 'cheap' wine from the list is that even though the wine menu might be 20 pages, I can eliminate alot of wines that don't qualify under my budget.
So the question is, how much do you Chowhounders spend on a bottle of wine when you do fine dinings?

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  1. GREAT question Monica, one I think might be better in the Wine forum, but glad I saw it on the list.

    Price is a personal preference, but here's what I've come around to after many years: to me the wine and the food are roughly equal at a great meal. You could say that the food is more important, more complex, more of it... but there's something about an incredibly well-matched glass of wine that just takes the meal to the next level and without it the meal isn't the same...

    SO, I have them roughly equal in my mind, so I'll pay about the same for them. If the meal costs around $40 per person I'd like to pay around 40 for the wine. I'm not fixated at that price, if I can find an awesome bottle of wine for 20 or 25, fine, if I have to go to 50 or 60, well I'll usually do that... but a $120 bottle with a $40 meal? The wine just isn't going to deliver a three-fold improvement in the experience.

    I should also say that whenever possible I do BYOB / corkage as you're just generally going to get better wine selection and pricing that way.

    As for who pays $3,000 or $10,000 for a bottle.... IMO there are two types: 1) special occasions / celebrations of all sorts, a business deal, a milestone in life, etc... because there is NO WAY that the wine is going to be so much better than something far less, or that the wine will add, say 10x the value to the meal. You can get a fully-loaded 10-15+ course extravaganza at some of the world's great restaurants for less than $300. There's just no wine that will improve that meal ten times over, it's strictly a celebration; 2) The second group, frankly, are fools who really think that the wine is worth that price... often you see these people not only grossly overpaying for a wine, but then pairing it with inappropriate food!!

    Thanks for the great question.

    1. Never over $50. Expensive wines are for drinking at home. And with a very simple main dish, such as a roast.

      1. A lot of "nouveau riche" will order an expensive bottle of wine just because they can and want to show off their money.

        Remember that there are a lot of people who are not wine aficionado that will expect that the most expensive wine is the best wine. (or that the best wine is the more expensive one)

        I'm with Tombstone that the price of wine that I will pay will match the price of the meal I will be ordering.

        I've ordered more expensive wine mostly because the price was that at the restaurant I went to; 200e at a french michelin 3 star, which was the most I've ever paid for wine.

        Nowadays, I will spend around maximum $40-$60 in Qu├ębec (province) where there is a alcohol monopoly, and I will be a lot more picky about what I pick, and I am a lot more knowledgeable than I used to be.


        1. I agree with Tombstone Shadow of keeping in line with the food. Though my ratios are a bit different it's roughly $40 pp on food, $40 pp on alcohol. I usually allocate about 1/2 a bottle per person of wine or 3 cocktails for those who are not DD.

          At the very high end, the markups are different and the so does the cost/value proposition so the ratio changes (more like $100 pp on food, $60-75 on wine). Though once we are at the very high end (at the $200 pp for food) we are usually doing a tasting menu with pairings.

          1. House wine usually is adequate for my tastes, as I have not taken the time to educate my palate. Except when I am in a German fine dining restaurant.

            This is where I blow the budget if I spy a Kloster Eberbach, Schloss Vollrad, or Johanisberg Riesling. I am a sucker for any Frankenwein, as well as a Sonnenuhr Moselle. And a gew├╝rztraminer from the Alsace is also on the short list.

            And if I were ever to find something from the Bergstrasse, all caution would be thrown out the window.