Who pays £5,000 for a bottle of red?

I enjoy a glass of red wine, but I couldn’t if I knew it had cost £5,000, I would be thinking what else I could have spent the money on.

That’s the price charged at The Dochester Grill for a 1964 Petrus Pomerol Bordeaux, while Gordon Ramsey charges less than half for the same wine.

A Dorchester spokesman expressed surprise when told of the price difference:  “He must have bought it a long time ago: you would not now be able to buy one on the open market for that price.?

So it’s hardly surprising that there have been calls for a wine-cap, £10 has been suggested by Superplonk’s Malcolm Gluck, though at the end of the day, consumers are free to make their own choice. Maybe it suits them to be flash because they want to impress. But if they were really astute, they would surely know the correct price to pay. If they had a blindfold test, could they really tell the difference between a cheaper bottle?

What’s the most you’ve ever paid for wine or a drink in a restaurant/bar? Do you think it is fair restaurants can seemingly charge what they like for drinks? Btw, The Dorchester does offer 30 bottle of wine priced under £30.

This is how some big spenders have splashed out:

  •  Six City dealers at Barclays Capital spent £44,000 on a dinner at Gordon Ramsay’s Petrus restaurant in London in October 2001. They ordered a 1982 Montrachet costing £1,400, and three bottles of Petrus Pomerol: the 1945 at £11,600, the 1946 at £9,400, and the 1947 at £12,300. A dessert wine costing £9,200 completed the refreshments. Mr Ramsay let them have their £400 meal for nothing
  • In February the world’s top chefs and wines were flown to Bangkok for a meal described as the most expensive ever. The 30 people, who each paid £15,272 plus tax and service, were served a £5,000-a-bottle claret, a 1995 Krug and a 1961 Chateau Palmer described as “one of the greatest red wines ever?
  • At the Movida basement club off Oxford Street in Central London a “premium customer? spent £89,000 on drinks in one night, including two rare methuselahs of Cristal champagne costing £24,000 each. The unnamed customer gave one to the former England rugby captain Lawrence Dallaglio, who was in the club
  • One night last year at the same venue London’s super-rich Russians and Germans engaged in a battle for drinks supremacy with their English counterparts. Eamonn Mulholland, the bar owner, described it as being “like the World Cup? as the competing nations bought jeroboams of Cristal champagne, costing £4,500 a bottle. Each bottle was brought out accompanied with a ceremonial musical fanfare: Kalinka for the Russians, Rule Britannia for the British and the Star Wars theme for the Germans. Unusually, the Germans lost
  • Last year the Chelsea captain John Terry, left, ran up a £30,000 bar bill at the Elysium nightclub in the West End after hosting a party for teammates.


  1. This really answered my downside, thanks!

  2. Steven_L

    The most I’ve ever spent on a bottle of wine was £39.99 on a bottle of Penfolds Bin 707 that the salesman at Oddbins managed to flog me once. I stored it for 3 1/2 years then drank it once I’d finished uni. I have to say it was very nice, with a lovely deep favour, but I doubt I would buy it again unless I was a lot richer.

    The guy at Oddbins sold me a £5.99 bottle of Rioja to hanve with my roast lamb one inconspicious Sunday, it tasted better than the £18.99 bottle of Bordeaux he had flogged me for Christmas dinner.

    The most expensive wine I ever had was probably when some rich dude in London took me for a drink in one of those little private members clubs in Mayfair. I dunno what it was, or how much it cost, but it was by far the nicest white wine I’d ever had. Whether it would have cost over £40 in an off licence I don’t know, but judging by the club we were in I bet it cost at least a couple of hundred quid.

    Some Kiwi number from 1996 was all I could make out from the label, I didn’t have it in me to ask how much it cost – I’d only brought £40 out with me expecting to go to a pub.

    As for a wine cap, it’s a ridiculous idea. The UK is the best nation in the world to buy wine (in terms of international selection, not cost of course).

  3. electro-kevin

    There are tastes in life that some will never understand and we have to take the word of those who know true worth. I could never hope to possess some of the artifacts I most admire and I’m sure that it would be disappointing to own them anyway – desire and yearning is rather like a journey in that it is often better to travel than to arrive.

    I’m glad that items of superlative quality and beauty exist, but for them to do so there has to be a market – and if money is ‘the root of all evil’ then it can only be fair to summise that it must also be the primary impetus for human creativity at its zenith.

    Would I ever spend £5000 on a bottle of wine ? Never ! Not because I question its worth, but because it would be wasted on me.

  4. The thing is that the “value” of wine is complex. You can only drink one wine at any one time, so comparing a £5000 bottle with 500 £10 bottles is silly.

    I don’t drink much wine, so when I do, I choose quality over volume (but I can’t stretch to ’64 Petrus).

  5. Simon, There’s nothing worse than looking forward to a special drink and it’s turned to vinegar. I’ve twice been given champagne that I know had been given to others who saved it for a special occasion that never came, so they gave it to me for birthday three or four years later and it was like drinking Lucozade.

  6. my father collects grange hermitage. Gets them re corked, and stores them correctly etc… they are a great investment. I have drank a bottle worth about 300 pounds. Nice.

    Howeve, he also forgot he had a couple of dozen grange whites…( about 1500 pounds worth)….. we opened one and had gone to vinegar..:o(

  7. Hi Tom, talking about floating – with boats like houses seems the sky could be the limit
    What’s the most paid for a private yacht to date? and does Bill Gates still have the most expensive home in the US, after the White House?

  8. It’s a shame “refined” and “educated” have to be held at arm’s length with a metaphorical clothes peg on the nose by the sarcastic use of quotation marks. B^)

    I didn’t lay claim to either adjective. I am still learning. All I am saying is that life is too short not to take whatever affordable joys come your way.

    Whatever floats your boat and doesn’t sink mine is fine by me. Enjoy in good health!

  9. Yes, Ellee you did.
    Are we that similar?

    BTW, I think I might have to give up the double life here…

  10. If only because for the road tax on five hundred minis I could have a mid-range sports car
    And for the parking space needed for 500 Minis, I could have a half-decent swimming pool and tennis court to boot, on my back lawn.

    But hey Tom, again that’s just Me. lol!

  11. Kevin, I think I somehow did confuse you with Joe there.
    A sense of occasion is always worth splashing out on – lucky wife!

  12. Hi Tom Paine, I clearly do not possess your ‘refined’ or ‘educated’ taste.
    Personally I have yet to taste a bottle of wine that tastes better because it costs more than £10.00
    Be sure you are not paying for ‘taste’ when you are paying £5000 for a bottle of red, you are paying for something but not taste, not even ‘good taste’

    I like mine ‘bulls blood red’ with the taste of oak – and I don’t mean the saw dust added to give flavour – but the real taste of oak!

    But hey, that’s just me.

    But I agree with you I’d probably rather have a Bentley and an Aston Martin or two, rather than 500 Minis.

  13. electro-kevin

    A beer or even a McDonald’s can be priceless (you didn’t confuse me with Joe did you, Ellee ?)depending on the circumstances. After a week in the Celebrity Jungle I’m sure the first thing I’d want is a Big Mac – I don’t know why because I can’t remember when I last ate one.

    My favourite food ? A Marmite sandwich after scaling Sca Fell Pike. My least favourite ? Probably a Marmite sandwich any other time.

    My own view is that it’s all relative to how wealthy you are. I’ve seen miserable couples in top restaurants; some of the nicest and happiest people I know are immensely successful too.

    I took my wife to The Ivey last year – probably no biggy for some of your readers – but very special to us and it was as though the chef had waved a magic wand over the food – fabulous and worth every over-priced penny of it.

  14. P. J. O’Rourke said (and I paraphrase) that more mischief in history had been caused by the idea that something was worth other than what people were willing to pay for it. If £5000 is the market clearing price (i.e. the price at which supply equals demand and matches willing buyers and sellers) for a 1964 Petrus Pomerol, then that is what it is worth. The word ‘fair’ has no business in this discussion. It’s a category error even to use it.

  15. Kevin, Did the beer give you pleasure, did you feel it was worth it? If so, then I go with Tom’s philosophy, he is a very fine and generous philanthorpist.

    I have never had £5,000 to indulge myself on a luxury item – and there isn’t a single item I want, I would prefer to seek knowledge and new experiences with my spare cash. More importantly, I have my sons’ university fees to start thinking about.

  16. No Ellee, the factors that enhance a pint are mainly external. Heat of day, annoyance factor of work, etc.
    Should I have paid £100 for my post work Guiness yesterday?

  17. electro-kevin

    My GP wears a petrol station watch.

    Personally I’d love an IWC (after I’d paid off my friends’ mortgages) but funds don’t stretch to that, so what’s good enough for my GP …

    Well that’s my excuse for wearing a Timex anyway. 🙁

  18. Kay Tie

    You don’t have to buy the wine if you don’t want to. It is a free market. Pop down to Thresher’s and buy a bottle of French vin de table and spend the rest on a Jimmy Shoe handbag or something.

  19. I don’t believe in a wine cap. I don’t think these things need any regulation. If someone wants to pay that – fine.

  20. Quasar9, a £500 meal is not necessarily “that much,” unless your approach to cuisine is that of Elvis Presley. And who wants a “half way decent” anything? I would rather have one good bottle a year than any amount of plonk if (God forbid) those were my options.

    Does a Patek Philippe tell better time than a petrol station quartz watch? No. But no-one who has the option would go for the latter – unless he was some sort of pseud Warren Buffett type (that guy is so cheap he doesn’t deserve his billions)

    Vainness or shallowness has nothing to do with it. Everyone is imprudent about something (Welshcakes has her shoes, for example – I am sure you all have some personal indulgences when you are not affecting puritanism!)

    Total prudence would involve Cromwellian misery. As long as you can afford your particular imprudence and it hurts no-one else, so what?

    Welshcakes has to let go of that Welsh guilt-complex. There is no less drinking water in poor parts of Africa for the existence of fine wine. And if any of you are interested in doing something about the drinking water, I can put you in touch with a business acquaintance who is spending part of his retirement building wells and clinics in Africa.

    Three bottles of the wine mentioned in Ellee’s post would provide water for a whole village. There’s nothing to say you can’t skip the odd bottle to do something good. Much better than agonising!!

  21. lol Elle, I like good wine
    But I’d have to be ‘blind’ drunk to pay £5000 for a bottle, or have money to burn, or in this case piss away.

    Just think that is five hundred bottles of any half decent wine at an average of £10.00

    Is One so vain or shallow that 1 seek friends who will only visit if 1 is willing to crack a 100 year old bottle from the family cellar – lol!

    PS – How good can food taste?
    Can a £500 meal ‘taste’ any better than a £50 meal, can one eat that much without feeling ill

    Next you’ll be telling us about the most expensive doggy bag ever taking home – and gourmet pet food? what’s that all about – uhhh?

  22. I just wish i had £5000 to spend..:-)

  23. Tom, P.S. Deathbed memories? You are planning a long time ahead, though I do agree with the principle of your philosophy. I am sure you will have some special memories when that long-distant moment arrives. 😉
    Joe, True to a point, except does beer improve with age and become vintage?

  24. I wouldn’t, Ellee, But I don’t drink wine.
    But I find this wine snobbery very pseud.
    A bottle of OK wine costs £10-15.
    An OK pint costs £2.70.

    No matter how good the pint was, would you pay £100 for it?
    Same logic, surely?

  25. electro-kevin

    Good points Tom Paine, my wife and I sometimes spend frivolously for those very reasons.

    I had no issue with the 6 city dealers spending £44k at a Ramsey restaurant, but I always feel that to enjoy company a bill should be split evenly without quibble (I often end up subsidising). If I recall, these people asked for a breakdown – what a crap way to end a nice meal.

  26. Tom, Yes, certainly each to his own, and if you can afford to buy it, I hope it’s really wonderful. I have no objection to personal choice on this and free markets, but If I had a spare £5,000, I would use it for travelling and exploring beautiful parts of the world I have never visited.

  27. Ellee, what is your point? This is entirely a matter between a consumer and his/her supplier. Why give these examples of honest extravagance with peoples’ own money, rather than focus, for example, on billions of other peoples’ money spent to prove that Gordon Brown is “caring,” or that Labour cares about sport? These amounts are entirely trivial by comparison.

    I have not ever (yet) spent that much on a single bottle of wine, but if you come across something truly superb you should not ask yourself what else you can buy for the money but how you will feel on your deathbed if you don’t try it. Better to die having drunk deep from the cup of life, than to have spent everything servicing a mortgage.

  28. If I had £5000 I wouldn’t spend it on a bottle of wine and my first reaction is that to do so would be pretty obscene when so many in the world don’t even have access to safe drinking water. But it’s all subjective: others might think it’s wrong to spend on clothes, make-up and shoes.


  1. Tim Worstall - Restaurant Mark Ups... I'm sure there's been a report out or something on the mrak ups that restaurants charge…

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