Red, Red Wine – Week 19 : 2019

May 20, 2019

Matt Gray

(Matt is an occasional contributor. Based in busy North London he pines for the wide open prairies of Northamptonshire and coffee infused with the type of stuff ordinarily found in a Christmas Selection Box. From the home of the ‘Champagne Supernova’ he writes of alcohol abuse and alliteration problems with not a little of his tongue in his cheek!)

On the evening of Thursday 16th May, in Manchester City Centre, a crime took place. 

A couple sat down to enjoy a fine steak dinner at Hawksmoor. Upon ordering their bottle of ‘reasonably’ priced £250 bottle of Chateau Pichon Longueville, they were instead presented with a bottle of 2001 Le Pin Pomerol. We’ve all been there, right? I mean, the bottles look very similar and sometimes we order something and the staff makes a mistake. For instance, I once ordered a latte with a shot of caramel syrup and ended up with a latte with a shot of hazelnut, and I didn’t complain. Wine is wine. 

The issue here is that the 2001 Le Pin Pomerol is the most luxurious bottle of wine that Hawksmoor has to offer. Essentially it’s the swill that they claim the three little pigs were drinking when the wolf came to the woods to wreak havoc on their homes of varying tensile strength. Adding this wine consciously to your bill will set you back a mere £4,500. Now, in my opinion, while Hawksmoor has its merits, I would say its menu sits somewhere comfortably middle class, so those who would actually order such an extravagant bottle of wine are likely to frequent rather more luxurious establishments, the sort where they serve half a truffle perched tentatively upon a gold leaf and call it an appetiser. 

While I know for a fact I would tell the difference between the £250 bottle of red wine and let’s say a bottle picked up from Tesco for a fiver, I very much doubt I would be able to justify wasting over four thousand pounds for what I imagine is a marginal improvement. I’m not convinced in a blind taste test I would tell you that one wine is seventeen times better than the other. 

So this couple, I am sure, received their wine having not even fully committed to memory the name of the wine they had ordered. They were likely celebrating an anniversary and thought they would ‘push the boat out’ and order the third most expensive wine on the menu. ‘Let’s go crazy!’ one most likely declared, and the other perused the wine list, scanned the Le Pin Pomerol and with wide eyes quickly erased it from their short term memory. 

I am intrigued to know at exactly what moment, and far into this farce the staff waiting upon this innocent couple realised the sin they had committed. Was it early on? Was it post-corking, post-pouring, and post-ingestion? Or was it as the bottle was perched at its angle, pre-pour, but already beyond the point of no return? Did the staff watch through their nail-bitten fingers as the couple enjoyed their wine, which unbeknownst to them cost the same as a second hand Fiat Panda, laughing while inside the person who served them was mentally searching Indeed for jobs? I would like to think it was when the final drop had been consumed, and the bottle was being taken away, and on its way into the recycling bin, Ernie the Helpful Busboy spotted it and proclaimed ‘Are we hosting the Beckham’s or something?’

But the crime alluded to has not yet happened. No, the sin of giving out the wrong bottle of wine is but, in the big picture of the universe, a footnote, really. The true crime was how Hawksmoor then proceeded to take control of the incident and add a ‘Positive PR’ spin on it.  The crime here is a tweet that went out shortly after the incident came to light, from the restaurant itself and ran as thus: ‘To the customer who accidentally got given a bottle of Chateau Le Pin Pomerol 2001, which is priced at £4,500 on our menu, last night – hope you enjoyed your evening! To the member of staff who accidentally gave it away, chin up! One-off mistakes happen and we love you anyway.’

Oh boy. You can smell the malice lacing each syllable. From the double use of ‘accidentally’ to the sarcastic exclamation of ‘Hope you enjoyed your evening!’. All they missed from that was an all caps ‘YOU’RE TOAST’ and a Béarnaise-stained middle finger as a tasty side. 

 ‘Chin up!’ Yes, chin up indeed you poor bastard, for it helps the axe achieve a clean cut. 

The tweet, of course, went viral. 

People saw below the surface instantly and were already quietly mourning the staff member whose ‘one-off’ mistake almost certainly sent them straight to the abattoir to be served up as part of the next day’s Express Menu. Even Specsavers chimed in, offering their services. Maybe the staff member in question will go, but I think it will be a trip to the Job Centre for them first…

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