Staff at Balthazar poured the two wines into identical decanters, but the one containing Mouton Rothschild 1989 was accidentally sent to the young couple’s table, said the New York restaurant’s owner, Keith McNally.
Four Wall Street businessmen at another table had ordered the Bordeaux First Growth – the most expensive wine on the restaurant’s list at $2,000 (£1,528) – but were served the $18 Pinot, the restaurant’s cheapest, said McNally on his Instagram account.
A spokesperson for McNally clarified that the incident happened back in 2002.
None of the diners appeared to initially spot the error, McNally said, reporting that Balthazar’s manager on the night said the host of the business dinner praised the cheaper wine’s purity.
The young couple ‘jokingly pretended to be drinking an expensive wine’, he said.
Mouton Rothschild 1989 was rated 97 points by Decanter’s Jane Anson at a tasting in 2018, and it ranks among the Pauillac estate’s top vintages.
Balthazar’s manager realised the error after five minutes, said McNally, who was previously named the ‘restaurateur who invented downtown’ by the New York Times.
He said he rushed down to the restaurant and decided to come clean, despite both tables enjoying their evening with the wines they’d been served. He said it was ‘unthinkable’ to take the Mouton away from the couple.
He said the businessman replied that he had thought the wine wasn’t a Mouton, while ‘the young couple were ecstatic by the restaurant’s mistake, and told me it was like the bank making an error in their favour’.
McNally added, ‘The trouble was, it was me who was down $2,000, not the bank.’ Both parties left the restaurant happy, however.
It isn’t the only example of a restaurant making a mistake over the wine served.
Last year, a diner at Hawksmoor steak restaurant in Manchester, UK, was accidentally served a bottle of Pomerol’s Château Le Pin 2001, which was £4,500 on its wine list.
Updated 27/10/2020 to include extra comment on when the events described by McNally took place.