The wine world and the celebrity Twitter world are agog this week over the following Tweet from Chrissy Teigen:
one time john and I were at a restaurant and the waiter recommended a nice Cabernet. We got the bill and it was 13,000 dollars. HOW DO U CASUALLY RECOMMEND THAT WINE. we didn’t even finish it and it had been cleared!!!
— chrissy teigen (@chrissyteigen) February 3, 2021
Discourse following the Tweet can be neatly summarized into one of three camps:
- People tackily dunking on Chrissy Teigen for being rich and unrelatable on Twitter. I consider this tacky because how do you expect celebrities to act on the internet? What do you think this is? Also she gives away more money than celebrities and industrialist types that 100x as wealthy as she is, doing a ton of laudable charitable work both privately and publicly. Everyone needs to calm down.
- People defending Chrissy Teigen but then going all in on attacking the anonymous waiter for daring to rip her off. This is also tacky, because we are in the middle of a pandemic, and hospitality workers put up with so much awful shit you just wouldn’t believe it.
- People openly wondering—as I have—which ghastly young first-growth Bordeaux or Screaming Eagle allocation was in question, and how oaky and garish it was, and isn’t rich people wine funny. (This is the only correct take).
But the tweet has prompted an in-my-opinion reasonable discourse about how to avoid this sort of thing as a wine consumer. A lot of people have had a similar, though much smaller scale, version of this same thing happen to them. I am one such person; once I was implored, at perhaps the two-hour mark of really enjoying the offerings at a much-loved London wine bistro, that I simply must try this lovely glass of Givry that had just been opened and was now on limited special. The bill came and it was 80 quid for that single cheeky glass and I am still flummoxed by it.
So, how do you avoid this as a wine consumer? How do you make sure what happened to Chrissy Teigen—and what happened to me!—never happens to you? Here are five handy tips.
- Don’t be too cool to ask the price. It’s fine to want to impress the service staff, and it’s fine to want to impress your dinner company, but it’s also fine to ask how much something costs. We live in the real world and money is a real thing. You won’t be made fun of for asking. It’s okay to ask.
- Feel free to Google a price comparison. A bottle of wine in a restaurant is going to cost considerably more than the same bottle would cost retail. This is fine; indeed, it is a longstanding devil’s bargain that funds the entire restaurant industry, more or less. But if the wine on the list cost four or five or six times as much as it would cost in a shop down the street, you are being ripped off like Chrissy and John. 3x retail is common, 2x retail is generous, and anything less you should be tipping lavishly and visiting weekly. You are carrying around a boundless supercomputer in your pocket and cross-reference the going rate for anything, including wine.
- Be just a touch more intentional about your order. I am not blaming Chrissy for what happened in her tweet and I think a lot of the clapback about it is rooted in plain, ugly sexism. That said, if Chrissy had been even a scooch more intentional about this particular order—if she had said, you know, “Can you give me a nice Cab in such-a-such price range” or like, “Can you give me a nice Cab but not, you know, the most expensive one,” all this could have been avoided.
- Maybe don’t order the wines synonymous with wealth. I’m just saying! “A nice Cab” is second only to “your best Champagne” for a restaurant wine order that sets you up as someone who wants expensive wine. If you ask for a “a nice Cab” you can be served Opus One or Silver Oak or Lafitte Rothschild or so and so and such and such, and the waiter will technically be delivering you what you asked. If Chrissy had asked for “a nice Riesling” or “a nice Mondeuse” it would have been 1/10th the price (at most!) and likely far more interesting.
- Actually look at the wine list. I’m not saying you need to pore over it like it’s the damn I Ching, but wine professionals write wine lists for a reason, and put a lot of thought into them, and they contain wondrous multitudes, so if you’re somewhere drinking wine it’s respectful to actually glance at the damn thing instead of being like “Garcon! Your finest such-and-such!” Just look at the wine list first. It will give you a sense of price scope for what they’re selling, show you what you might want to ask about (or steer clear from!), and give you a sense of the wine program’s style. It will also guarantee you never wind up like Chrissy and John with a $13,000 bottle you didn’t mean to order and don’t particularly like.
All that to say, Chrissy, if you’re reading this, what happened to you at the restaurant sucks and what happened to you today on Twitter really sucks. I am 100% on Team Chrissy, and moreover, if you ever need help picking a bottle of nice wine, or finishing said bottle of nice wine, call me. I am here to help, and also to help you drink.
Jordan Michelman (@suitcasewine) is a co-founder and editor at Sprudge Media Network.