November 15th, 2008
07:22 AM GMT
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WASHINGTON D.C. – You can tell a lot from the wines people drink. Tonight’s wines at the White House for instance, and those at the G20 get-together in Washington. We are facing the first global recession since World War II. Trillions of dollars are being spent bailing out banks. Jobs are disappearing at a distressing speed.  Christmas parties are being canceled left and right. 

Some might raise an eyebrow at the main wine being offered tonight at the White House dinner of welcome. The Shafer Cabernet Hillside Select 2003 is described as one of the world's most profound Cabernets – and it is not cheap. Costing up to $499 per bottle, this is not a wine for the ordinary palate.

In the spirit of the evening (not harping about the cost), I take the descriptions of tonight’s wines and apply them to the G20 summit. 

The summit meetings, like the Landmark Chardonnay "Damaris Reserve" 2006 being served with the first course, will be full of "nuttiness."

The summit will have moments of "sparkling" discussion between the leaders to go with the Chardonnay Rose toast wine, which will lead to "delicately balancing bold" positions with "subtlety." There will be some leaders who will prove themselves to be "extremely versatile."

Finally, like the extremely expensive Cabernet, whatever happens this weekend we can be sure we will be enjoying the results — "lasting up to 25 years." We are guaranteed a "complex, ripe and long finish."

soundoff (34 Responses)
  1. robert l gray

    summits while the world goes hungery -mexicocan not feed its peoplewast of money for metting with no answers

    November 15, 2008 at 8:33 am |
  2. Stephane MOT

    I guess Moody should downgrade all G20 members to AAA ratings...

    November 15, 2008 at 9:44 am |
  3. wilhelmina

    Horrible, horrible......

    November 15, 2008 at 10:46 am |
  4. Silas Nyambok, Japan

    "Nevery worry about the cabinet for nothing goes on inside there". So goes the quote by a former British leader (Probably Margarett Thatcher). On the same note, never worry about G-20 summit since nothing goes on therein. President Bush has come out during the summit to defend capitalism while in real sense they practice socialism through the so-called bail-outs.

    These bail-outs are not for all citizens of the G-20 nations but for selected businesses owned by a few. The rest can bail themselves in their own households. Of course wine removes certain inhibitions and probably in this summit, it will allow them to clap for one another even if the resolutions are irrelevant to most of their citizens. Let the wine flow freely.

    November 15, 2008 at 12:14 pm |
  5. P.A. Camilleri

    What a shame when the world in such a finacial and dire situation! It is great that Obama saved himself such an ambarrassment.

    November 15, 2008 at 1:22 pm |
  6. earl,florida

    Dear Mr. Quest, You sound like someone with a bout of ,"sour grapes",the have-not,so to say. Please get used to it ,for the world as we know it is transforming before our very eyes,into a, "Wealthy/Peasant Class",as the new world order(demise of democracy) finally takes(visable) shape! Yours truly , Earle

    November 15, 2008 at 3:23 pm |
  7. jaime soldi

    This is a bit exagerated and ill-intended. That may be the price at a 5 star restaurante, but actually that Shafer CabSav you can buy now on the web under $150 (see here ) and am sure the White House bought some cases a few years ago at a discount, maybe under $30 a bottle.

    November 15, 2008 at 4:00 pm |



    November 15, 2008 at 4:10 pm |
  9. Doug


    So, for our next stimulus package, if it happens to be in the form of a rebate, should we Americans all receive each a check for $499, or a bottle of Shafer Cabernet Hillside Select? Maybe this is making a rather "nutty" suggestion!

    November 15, 2008 at 5:37 pm |
  10. Frank C Jones

    True, the cost of the wine was over the top.

    Still, like an artist, you used the lies to portray the truth
    to those who will see it.

    My compliments.

    November 15, 2008 at 5:48 pm |
  11. Uma in Liverpool, UK

    Clever. :-)

    $499 a bottle, eh? I had a pretty spacious two-bedroom flat, in Denver, in the '90s, that cost less than that, a month. There was even a bit of swimming pool, and a nice, big, balcony.

    My ex's new Toyota, cost about that, per month, in 2005.

    The laptop on which I am typing this, cost just about as much as one bottle, in October 2008 - and I bought this in the UK, where consumer-electronics are stupidly expensive.

    What makes a wine worth $499 a bottle? My un-educated (but not leathern, either) palate, can tell the difference, up to about $170. After that, no matter what anyone tries to tell me, the nuances are... too nuanced and escape me completely.

    I suspect good ole' George Bush - who was, I trust, drinking mineral water - would assume a wine was 'good' if it had a cork, rather than a screw-off top. Apart from the French, Italian, and Spanish delegations - if they - how many of the people in that room are such wine connoisseurs, that they would know from a $500 bottle of wine?

    Once upon a long time ago, a stereo-salesman was trying to sell me a 'better' stylus, for my turntable (in those days, we avoided scratches, so a fine stylus was good). He gave me two choices but was pushing the more expensive one, as salespeople do. He said, 'this one picks up frequencies from 8 Hz, to 150,000MHz!' I looked at him, pointed to my ear, and said, 'the human ear picks up frequencies from about 20 Hz, to about 85,000MHz, if you're lucky. Why do I need to spend all that extra money, for frequencies nobody can hear?' He made noises about 'ambience'...


    Taste/smell are not as limited as hearing and vision. However, if you have to go to wine-appreciation school, to know the difference, and understand all the colourful adjectives you used, in the context of wine, the White House could have saved US taxpayers several thousands of dollars, by pouring cheap, crummy $150 bottles, instead!

    Actually, by me, a $75 bottle is enough if one is really laying on a good meal... but I guess the White House has to put on a good show. I do hope President Bush realises that he served the equivalent of the present wealth of several visiting dignitaries' whole countries. That's not very polite! Doesn't he know there's a golbal recession on? Belt-tightening, and all that?

    I suppose serving beans-on-toast, with a decent lager just wasn't an option... It would have been more appropriate!

    November 15, 2008 at 7:32 pm |
  12. Uma in Liverpool, UK

    :-( That would be global , not 'golbal'. Durnit. New laptop. Fingers all clumsy.

    November 15, 2008 at 7:45 pm |
  13. Stephanie Bakal

    If only as a token gesture in acknowledgment of the global economic crisis that is the focus of this summit, these expensive bottles of wine might have been sold with the proceeds going to a food pantry or another worthy cause. Why am I not surprised this did not happen?

    November 15, 2008 at 8:37 pm |
  14. Out of the Box Insight

    Era of Change, Change of Era........the end of 'me, myself and I' is rapidly approaching.

    November 15, 2008 at 8:42 pm |
  15. J

    So silly. Let's report the cost of the world's leaders socks. Profound writing.

    November 15, 2008 at 9:33 pm |
  16. Gabriel

    I find a lot of class resentment by Richard Quest. The reality is that a bottle of $500 wine cost $5 to make and the rest goes to the service, to create jobs, to promote production. It is time to spend not cut back. And by the way, send me a bottle this way.

    November 16, 2008 at 2:02 am |
  17. Silas Nyambok, Japan

    News of companies cutting down on jobs due to the recession have become common. If the bail-outs are genuine then we would be eager to hear the G-20 proposing bail-outs to those who lose their jobs.

    November 16, 2008 at 3:04 am |
  18. Nestor Quixtan

    I don't see why anyone should be surprised about this. After all, isn't the same story all the time? There are people living on less than $2 a day all around the world, people are losing their jobs, can't afford health care, but somehow amid all the bailout cash that's floating around from taxpayers dollars, they can still scare $499 for a bottle of wine... This is the kind of irresponsibiity that ran up such a high tab on the US economy's deficit. Let's hope that the new Prez can show a little more control and spend a little less on wine, and more on beer... for the average joe...

    November 16, 2008 at 4:05 am |
  19. d. griffith

    Dry wines go good with the dry spell of the economy. In these times I drink cheaper cabernet, merlot and chardonnay for my ordinary palate. I hope the G- 20 actions speak louder than the declaration on financial crisis words so we can enjoy the results.

    November 16, 2008 at 8:26 am |
  20. Maged

    Let all the nations stop spending money on Wars, New Weapons.Money spent for political campains which is millions of dollars.Let us consentrate on the worker who is surviving day by day and lend them a hand. Give them more money so they can build, spend and buy to simulate the econmies so new jobs are created, and new hope. If all the countries Temporarily halt spending money on projects such as.. Space Programs, The Big Bang Theory,all different theories and turn that money to the virgin lands in the world such as Africa, People will be better off and no one will starve, new economies will emerge that are based of real investment that last for ever.

    November 16, 2008 at 8:53 am |
  21. vince

    Wine , at 400$ a bottle, while kids starve from lack of water let alone food..... what have we become?....... We are not a just people, but Allah is just!

    November 16, 2008 at 9:50 am |
  22. Paul Landerman

    Richard, last week The Economist looked forward to the G-20 financial summit this weekend in party-town (usually aka Washington, DC) and said the same thing as you, in more understatedly British parlance, and suggested that we are past the time for "grandiose rhetoric". I disagreed, and said we need a little grandiose rhetoric to get the party started, that is way past time for fine tuning and perhaps we need a lot of fire and brimstone to finally get this thing moving in the right direction.

    So perhaps your wine list will add fuel to the fire- if not a fine patina to the dinner guests.

    November 17, 2008 at 2:29 am |
  23. Joey

    The summit was a first step to a long journy of trying to put things right.
    I just could not stand Bush positioning himself still defending an obviosly defective Capitalistis/ Free-Market system. If the system per se is not defective then it's the leadership that must be the problem. Perhaps, Bush should just shut-up & give more space to new ideas & initiatives.
    It's sickening that Bush can still be proud of the Free Market system when it was during his watch that so many innocent lives have be drugged down due to his Administrations profound incompitence.
    Because I think that if those G-20 leaders are serious about making things right Bush is the last leader in these universe who can do anything.

    November 17, 2008 at 6:32 am |
  24. david lulasa

    the only thing left now in this world is to do away with this aspect of putting people in different classes ie middle class,first,third etc.this is just the same as the backwardness seen in indian cast systems...its because of NATOs not so true classifying themselves from others that could bring a big financial crisis in the near future.
    i think bodies of people from the west dont have tens of litres of blood inside.


    November 17, 2008 at 11:00 am |
  25. R. Mayer

    My Question is :
    If all the people are still alive, all the industries in place, cars, ships, planes moving, why the hell, can't they keep moving ?
    After world war II, things were a little bit more difficult – and people in Germany worked 12 hours/day to build up their country.
    The actual probllem is a pure financial mess grewn over years whilst different advertations were made public about the growing bubble.
    Is Mr. Greenspan still playing fool and saying "I am so shocked!" ??
    Every day, looking at his mirror, he (and others too) may repeat the same sentence.

    November 17, 2008 at 9:49 pm |
  26. Denis Brown

    What they eat or drink I am not in the slightest bit interested in, more importantly is the discussions and the proposals that come out from it in resolving the current issues we're facing on a global scale.

    It's more about stepping back from the big picture seeing what needs to be tackled and implement changes swiftly. Talking is only so good up to a point, then it's all down to action that is the deciding factor or whether we remain in this downward spiral.

    Money isn't always the answer. Sometimes its about making brutal decisions which will inevitably affect the lives of many for the short term but in the long term will bring stability and see growth and development, and hopefully people will take onboard the lessons we need to learn from this to ensure we never have a repeat of this.

    One can only hope that the leaders will take the necessary action required in seeing the situation take a u-turn.

    November 20, 2008 at 10:31 pm |
  27. Diana Davidson

    First, the CEO's of Big Three automakers arrive to Washington D.C., via Private Jet(s), hats in hands, asking me(its my tax$$, right?) to bail them out. The husband tells me, "those guys just don't get it."

    Now, the fellow we address as 'Mr. President,' serves $500 dollar a bottle wine to the G20 participants, while we're all eating 'cake.' Again, the husband observes, "Bush just doesn't get it."

    What I want to know, is when did the husband get so darn smart!!?

    November 21, 2008 at 7:58 pm |
  28. Maria

    We can look at it and justify it in many ways but the simple truth is that it's morally wrong. If you wish to spend your cash on an expensive bottle of wine, by all means do so, but would you consider using the money that belongs to your neighbour and which he entrusted to you, specially when you know that he is short of cash and has a big family to support? And more poignantly: would you spend the money in a party or a get-together that you have offered to talk about those cash problems, problems that you were paid to prevent in the first place?

    Any ideas how many mortgages in arrears could have been paid with the money that must have been spent on drinks? Any ideas how many lifesaving vaccines could have been bought with the money spent on just one of those bottles? Should etiquette rule over reason? Do we need, as a collective, to put on a show to cover our own inadequacies? Is it just a matter of "class" or a reflection of the different universes we inhabit? What is more embarrassing for a government: an average bottle of wine on the table and money redirected to tackle a slopping economy, or a superb bottle with a fine bouquet and an astounding price tag while those who have paid for it struggle with unpaid bills?

    Are we to assume that whatever breakthroughs took place (and we are still waiting to see them come to light) would not have materialised if a different choice of drinks had been made? I , for one, would like to think that delegates' brainpower and goodwill are not dependent on the extravagant choice of drinks made on their behalf, and that the respect for a government is not born out of the goods they freely lavish on you but the soundness and fairness of the policies they implement.

    We can laugh it off but, really, a degree of restraint should always be exercised, specially during troubled times. Leaders must lead by example. At present, they are not offering the right one. Admittedly, it must be hard to keep yourself on your toes when you deal with such huge amounts of capital, but they should try to visualize every dollar they spend, as if it was coming out of their wallet. Because it is, from their wallet, yours and mine.

    November 21, 2008 at 11:45 pm |
  29. lauro silva

    the current crisis is not more than a direct consequence of a generalized speculation for many years, perpetrated by everybody all of the world. The only way now is to absorb it and let it pass away and after that restart all again.

    December 7, 2008 at 9:44 pm |
  30. lauro silva

    the present crisis is not more than a direct consequence of especulation for many years perpetrated by everybody all of the world. The only way now is to let it pass away and restart all again.

    December 7, 2008 at 9:48 pm |
  31. lauro silva

    No public financial help as well as any bailout should be provided to any institution when people have not any help at all and besides that may have lost their jobs.

    December 7, 2008 at 10:05 pm |
  32. Cheryl,Flint

    If we are firing CEOs, then lets get rid of the CEOs of Fanny Mae, Fanny Mac, AIG and all the banks we have bailed out.

    December 8, 2008 at 5:31 pm |
  33. kingwho

    Pathetic as usual – let the rest of the peasants go hungry while we the chosen few drink $500 bottles of wine

    December 9, 2008 at 12:39 pm |
  34. sheikman

    Finally found what I needed .
    For three hours looking for the horror and the Internet almost anywhere water is a difficult now to find a site where a normal infoy .

    May 7, 2012 at 7:16 pm |

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