November 14th, 2008
10:53 PM ET
10 years ago

World leaders dine in style as they discuss financial crisis

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Shafer Cabernet “Hillside Select” 2003 can go for as much as $500 a bottle."]

(CNN) - The global economy may be undergoing a significant downturn, but the White House's dinner budget still appears flush with cash.

After all, world leaders who are in town to discuss the economic crisis are set to dine in style Friday night while sipping wine listed at nearly $500 a bottle.

According to the White House, tonight's dinner to kick off the G-20 summit includes such dishes as "Fruitwood-smoked Quail," "Thyme-roasted Rack of Lamb," and "Tomato, Fennel and Eggplant Fondue Chanterelle Jus."

To wash it all down, world leaders will be served Shafer Cabernet “Hillside Select” 2003, a wine that sells at $499 on

The exceedingly pricey wine may seem a bit peculiar given leaders are in Washington to discuss a possible world financial meltdown, but Sally McDonough, a spokeswoman for Laura Bush, said it "was the most appropriate wine that we had in the White House wine cellar for such a gathering.

McDonough also said the White House purchased the wine at a "significantly lower price" than what it is listed at.

"Of course the White House gets its wine at wholesale prices," she said. "Given the intimate size of the group, it was an appropriate time for The White House to use this stock."

The leaders of the U.K., France, Russia, China, India, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey and 11 developing economies have all come to Washington at the behest of President Bush in an effort to express confidence in the fundamental underpinnings of the world's economy.

- CNN's Becky Brittain contributed to this report

Filed under: White House
soundoff (541 Responses)
  1. Anonymous

    Would you complainers have been more pleased if they served some cheap jug wine? Get off your high horse. If the summit were in France, they would have served great Bordeaux. In Italy, some great Barolo. Etc., etc.

    November 14, 2008 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  2. John, Florida

    This is very appropriate as we should always put our best foot forward in hosting foreign dignitaries. It's called PROTOCOL folks so chill out.

    November 14, 2008 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  3. Frank

    I'm sure this is the cheap stuff given the economy and all since it would have been in extremely poor taste to serve the expensive wine. And also remember, this would cost a LOT more if the Europeans had to buy it since the dollar is so highly valued right now!

    November 14, 2008 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  4. American Tax Payer

    Yet another outrage from the George W. Bush administration and an insult to the American taxpayer. What happened to Republicans advocating less government and cutting government spending ?
    Guess Republicans only want to cut government spending when it does not benefit them or their cronies.

    November 14, 2008 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  5. VA Guy

    This is a non-issue, The wine was there already, it is the Whithouse, and there are standards that apply at these types of events.

    November 14, 2008 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  6. pusher

    As stated in the article the Whitehouse buys wholesale. That most likely means that they buy when wine is being released at a volume discount price. When this wine was released in 2006 it retailed for about $200-$210 a bottle. Not cheap, but consider that then there is a further discount for wholesale purchasing and I wouldn't be surprised if they purchased the wine for as little as $100-$150 a bottle. Again, not cheap, but consider the guests and expectations for White House dining and it isn't all that unreasonable. Last thought on this is that the White House exclusively serves American made wines and has done so since at least the Nixon administration. That means that when the White House buys cases of wine they are infusing the American economy (in a small way) with money.

    Oh yeah did I mention that this wine was most likely purchased 2 years ago not last week...

    November 14, 2008 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  7. daisy

    It's ridiculous to complain about the cost of a dinner like this. In the scheme of things, it's an insignificant amount, and the President of the United States has to provide an elegant meal for world leaders. Do you think the White House should be serving Hamburger Helper and Bud Lite?

    I am one of the many Americans who can't wait for the Bush administration to vacate the White House, but I don't have a problem at all with this type of state dinner. Government heads going back centuries have provided elaborate meals for their peers; its protocol, and it's a way of honoring guests and showing them respect.

    November 14, 2008 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  8. TonyQ

    You expect world leaders to eat hot dogs and tater tots washed down with diet coke? Who cares. The White House can have all the fine wine it wants, just cut the Pentagon budget by a zillionth of a percent...

    November 14, 2008 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  9. Patrick Elmore

    This is stupid. We were entertaining world leaders. Of course you serve them nice wine. I am against wasteful spending as much as anyone, but this is not and example of wasteful spending. I think everyone needs to calm down a little bit.

    November 14, 2008 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  10. Jellis

    I'm sure if it was Obama serving that to his guests, everyone would be totally fine with it. It's just because it's Bush and the Haters are running out of time to criticize every move he makes. I know I'll have 4 years to do my share of criticizing.....

    November 14, 2008 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  11. Jewel

    @ David .C

    I concur... with your comment and value your understanding.

    It appears ..Everyother ..person personally just wants to pick anything up from a News for an comment without even a rationalize thought..

    Governments would always be Blamed for ' something ' which does not sometimes warrant Discussions..
    It is as usually the MEDIA ... which makes a NEWS and Breaks the Careers.

    November 14, 2008 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  12. Drew

    So let's see, a $500 bottle of wine bought at wholesale is what, $250?

    I'm glad that I worked about two weeks to give the federal government enough to buy wine for a bunch of rich men. WAIT! I'm looking into this too much... Let them continue to spend MY money on themselves.

    November 14, 2008 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  13. Duop in Great State of Colorado

    World leaders should do nothing but hiring Chief Executive and Chief Strategic Thinkers to deal with this global economy crisis.

    November 14, 2008 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  14. Patrick A. Barnett

    I am wondering where this information comes from. I am a wine collector. The highest price I can find in the country for this wine is $259.99. That is a dream price for suckers. Auction reserves range from $135-170, which would be tough to get in this economy. Bought wholesale when issued thes bottles probably cost about $60-75. I am presuming that the "bottles" in question are magnums, a double size bottle, or the else the pricing information is fictitious.

    This is too much for anyone to be paying for a wine on the taxpayers dime, they should be drinking water, but the story is a gross exaggeration.

    November 14, 2008 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  15. Rob B

    Maybe they should have served Boonesfarm Strawberry, or maybe some Champipple, a mix of Alittle Chapmpaigne and Ripple....Lmao

    November 14, 2008 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  16. Ben Loeb

    This story is ridiculous. We're talking about heads of state. Would it be better to take them through a drive-thru restaurant? The contributor of this story need to be asked what the motivation for this investigation is. I'm a liberal, but I agree that heads of state should be treated with the best our countries hospitality can provide.

    November 14, 2008 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  17. jim

    It's comforting to know that world leaders will be drunk while discussing solutions to the global financial crisis.

    This is exactly why government is the problem and not the solution.

    November 14, 2008 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  18. heimo

    is there nothing better to worry about.
    we are facing trillion dollar deficits, incredible bankrupcy possibilities and a severe reduction and adjustment in our livestyle and then worry about Bush's fare well party? give me a break.

    November 14, 2008 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  19. Bernie

    I would not expect the writer of this article to name all twenty countries involved in the G20 but you would think that the United States largest trading partner and the country currently with the most secure financial system in the world would be mentioned. CANADA!

    November 14, 2008 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  20. astute accountant

    Wow, if they had 1,000,000,000 of those bottles they could pay for the bailout, almost. It is ludicous to think that you would serve world leaders anything less than $500 a bottle.

    November 14, 2008 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  21. Polly

    What's for dessert? I don't know why this is news.

    November 14, 2008 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  22. Scam

    ok ok david c.......i just had two friends laid off

    How can stuff turn upside down like warning at all over the past 8 years.....

    No "whoa" "slow down"

    it feels like you cant even trust the National Reserve or these "Brainiacs" over at the treasury not to eventually rob you ......and tell you its for your own good.....
    every day i can empathize with the American Indian a little more.

    Truth be told

    "Heads need to roll for this, Heads must roll" metphorically speaking

    November 14, 2008 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  23. Finally!

    I hate government waste as much as anybody else, but this is totally appropriate. Most of these folks travelled half way around the world.

    Bush is already perceived as a goat roper. His staff NEEDS to break out the good stuff.

    November 14, 2008 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  24. Full of Bush

    so much the "40" and a "corn dog" from the local Town Pump.

    November 14, 2008 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  25. Michael

    Thomas Jefferson was the first president to be a great devotee of wine, but at the time it was French wine. His comments are still often cited in wine circles. He spent a small fortune on the stuff. A more recent fan has been Clinton (no big surprise). Bush is not a tea totaller, but is apparently not an oenophile. A wine like the one they are having – a very, very good US wine, but not the top of the heap – seems to me completely appropriate. What did they pay for it? Well, that wine was about $100 on release, at retail. I suspect the White House kitchen paid under $50.

    November 14, 2008 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
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