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The Great Yuppie Wine Caper

Posted by acdtest on December 13, 2003

The Great Yuppie Wine Caper

ne afternoon, way back when I was an up-and-coming yuppie (yes, I played the yuppie game for about a decade or so) and therefore did the de rigueur wine-expert thing, I walked into a New Jersey liquor store to purchase three bottles of wine for an elegant dinner my then-wife and I were giving that evening. I sauntered over to the French section (natch) looking every inch the knowledgeable wine buyer, or so I imagined, and began scrutinizingly looking through the racks. There was the usual selection of big-name chateaux bottled wines, but I saw nothing particularly interesting in my price range, and was about to settle for three bottles of a middling vintage at $5 per (about $30 per in today’s dollars) when my eye caught the top of a rack that was half-hidden behind what looked like a makeshift partition. On the top row of the rack I struck the mother lode: five bottles of Chateaux Lafite, all the same sterling vintage year, and every one bearing a mis-priced price sticker.

Bottles of this stuff were going for some $60 per ($350 per), and these particular bottles were each marked at $8. Truly, God is good, I thought to myself, ecstatic. Coming back down to earth, however, I didn’t really think I’d get away with it. Playing dumb, I grabbed all five bottles, brought them up to the checkout counter, and nonchalantly, and with straight face, handed them to the clerk. He looked at the stickers with typical hired-help, clerk disinterest, rang up the bottles without a word, and cradling my ill-gotten loot in my larcenous arms, I stole away like a thief in the night, feeling mildly guilty, but otherwise hugely pleased with myself.

Evening arrived, and with it our guests, and while my wife served pre-dinner canapés, I began opening the bottles intending to let the wine breathe for an hour or so. The breath each exhaled on opening was appalling. The wine in every bottle was badly “corked”. Chagrined, I headed back to the liquor store. Behind the counter now, in place of the clerk, there stood the store’s owner. With a faint show of annoyance, I presented him the bottles, and quietly lodged my complaint, at which, without opening a single bottle, and with the beginnings of a Jack-Nicholson-wicked smile playing about his lips, he just as quietly replied, “Do you mean to tell me you actually expected to get a bottle of vintage Lafite for drinking at eight bucks a pop?”

Was I embarrassed? Only about $100 worth ($600) as I sheepishly purchased five bottles of a good vintage Margaux to replace the five bottles of sterling vintage Lafite which, having gone drinking-bad, had been marked down to sell for use as a vinegar base.

A just punishment, I had to admit to myself, to repay attempted larceny, and typically clueless yuppie pretension.


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