Hoodwinking diners into buying pricey wines puts Don Kavanagh's hackles right up.

I came across a rather shabby practice recently. I went out for dinner with friends and, while perusing the wine list, noticed some wines that would suit our intended meals nicely, so I ordered two and sat back to wait.

Shortly afterwards the waiter informed us both wines were out of stock. This was upsetting, as both were ideal for our meals and they were also impressively non-expensive, at $39 and $44.

I asked him to suggest replacements, and he raved enthusiastically about wines that cost $66 and $70, on special. So I asked to see the wine list again and inquired about wines that were closer in price to those I'd ordered. They, too, were out of stock, meaning we had to fork out more than we wanted to.

The reason I bring this up is that it's not the first time this has happened and I get the feeling that such coincidental stock shortages will become more common during the Rugby World Cup.


Basically, it's cheating: advertising wines at $39 but having only bottles that cost $55 available is, at the very least, underhand and, at worst, fraud. It's like those huge ads that promise 3m-wide televisions for 20 cents and when you turn up they are "all sold out, sorry, would you like to buy this tiny one here for $10,000 instead?".

It's also something that will come back and bite the operators on the behind, because, if it happens again, I won't go back there and neither will anyone with any sense. I won't name the establishment in case it was a genuine error, but if I find out it happens regularly then, perhaps, I will, in an effort to shame the buggers into honesty.

Going out for a meal can be expensive without any additional clipping of the ticket by the hosts. A fair price for a fair experience is absolutely acceptable, but overcharging in such an underhand way is beyond the pale.

To make matters worse, one of the wines he recommended had been available until recently in a supermarket for $15.95. Although it was a bargain at that price, it's a tough pill to swallow paying outrageous mark-ups for supermarket wines.

If you see a supermarket wine on a wine list, it's a good sign you may be in the wrong place. Certainly, there are many fine wines on supermarket shelves, but there are plenty of wines out there to choose from that aren't on special at Countdown for half of nothing, so the sooner operators realise that, the better.

* Don Kavanagh has been involved in the hospitality trade for more than 25 years and is the editor of Hospitality magazine.