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Expensive Glass Of Crap
Okay, so Wine Is Classy. The classiest of wine drinkers can tell you the difference between the wine of 1993 and 1995 from their favorite vineyard. And then this jokester shows up. He presents a bottle of bum wine from the corner store as a fancy wine much more expensive than it actually is. And the drinkers never catch on, enjoying the cheap wine (and probably exercising their powers of Sommelier Speak). In subversions, the drinker catches on, or in extreme cases is harmed by the substitute.

This can effect any commodity that is perceived to be mainly appreciated by snobs, not just wine. The object has to be presented as a quality brand, but doesn't have to be a real brand.

(Note: This does not cover blind taste tests. Differences [or lack thereof] between brands goes in Brand Names Are Better.)


  • In the Lupin III (Red Jacket) episode, "The Sleight Before Christmas", the gang steals a bottle of wine being given as a gift from France to the US President, that was originally supposed to be a gift from Napoleon to Empress Josephine. They swapped it out for a cheap bottle of wine. After the heist, Lupin and his crew watch the president enjoy the fake bottle of wine on TV, and laugh mockingly at his palate's inability to distinguish "quality". Then they open the real bottle, and realize that they've stolen a 200 year-old bottle of vinegar.
    Dub!Fujiko: Is this one of those Gift of the Magi things? Because I always hated that book.

  • In the Serenity comic "Wash Out", fancy-ish champagne is switched for cheap rotgut at Wash's eulogy. Justified in that Wash liked the rotgut better.

  • Horse Feathers has a scene that takes place at a speakeasy, and uses this trope to parody the quality of product one can expect from such an establishment. Chico gets an order for a quart of rye and a quart of rum, and fills two different bottles from the same jug.

  • The Roald Dahl short story The Butler told of a homeowner who developed a taste in wine, sought to amass a large wine collection and lectured his guests extensively on the subject. The story's end reveals that his butler, who guided him on his journey, had been fooling him and had always served him the same cheap blend.
  • In a Discworld footnote in Hogfather, it's mentioned that some aristocrats operate under the delusion that labelling the types of expensive alcohol in their bottles backwards will fool servants into not drinking it. It dryly notes that the servants are rarely fooled, and assume with rather more justification that their masters won't notice if the bottles are then topped up with "eniru".

Live-Action TV
  • Penn & Teller: Bullshit!:
    • In the episode "The Best" they pass off items ranging from a TV-dinner to canned tomatoes as the best ingredients to diners. They also use a real review for an expensive wine to describe a cheap wine. Most of the diners enjoy their dinner.
    • In another episode, they have a guy go into a restaurant and offer dinners specialty bottled waters with different descriptions. They were all filled with tap water from the same hose.
    • In the "Organic Food" episode, they have people taste-test two banana halves, one organic and one regular. The majority prefer the "organic". Both are actually regular and from the same banana.
  • Played With on All in the Family. An old friend of Archie's is coming over, he likes an expensive scotch. Archie gets an empty bottle of the expensive stuff and fills it with a cheap scotch instead, saying his buddy won't know the difference. When the friend comes over, he mentions that he's been having money trouble and is forced to drink substandard scotch; his taste buds have gotten so used to it that even the fine scotch Archie is serving him tastes like the cheap stuff now.
  • Bones: The Victim of the Week is a wine critic; he's killed by a man who was bootlegging expensive wine, filling knockoff bottles with his cheaper wine. Played With in that most people couldn't taste the difference, something explicitly mentioned by the bootlegger. The wine critic, however, could, which was why he had to go.
  • CSI: NY had an episode where cheap wine was being passed off as expensive, though that wasn't ultimately why the vic was killed-it involved the killer trying to squash the guy's jewelled cockroach.
  • In Black Books, Manny and Bernard housesit for a friend and accidentally drink a ridiculously expensive and rare bottle of wine he was going to present as a gift to the pope. They concoct their own (mixing cheap wine with a rather Literal-Minded assortment of the things a guidebook says it should taste like) and put it in the bottle, reasoning that "all wine tastes the same". Their brew kills the pope and the friend is arrested for it.
  • A variation in Northern Exposure, where Maurice, in one of his Jerk Ass moves, donates oxidised fine wine to a local charity auction. It turns around on him when Holling innocently buys the wine and invites Maurice to dinner, forcing him to drink it and pretend that it's good.

  • Angry at a passenger for being rude to her, Cabin Pressure's Carolyn Shappey swaps out the expensive wine that he requests she serve him with the same boxed crap that they serve everyone on the airline, justifying herself with the excuse that everyone's palate is shot at their altitude (Truth in Television; this is, in fact, "the deal with airline food").

  • Referred to in The Bible, the story of the wedding at Cana; It was the custom to switch out the good wine for inferior stuff once the guests were buzzed, but Jesus turns water into the good stuff and people can tell the difference.

Western Animation
  • In the episode of The Jetsons where Rosie first appears, George invites Mr. Spacely over for dinner at the last minute, and Rosie is able to turn leftovers into what looks like a very nice pot roast.

Real Life
  • During the Nazi occupation of France, many wine merchants would run a scam against Nazi officers by sprinkling dust on bottles of cheap plonk to pass it off as old and valuable, or swap labels from terrible vintage years with good ones. This was a dangerous game to run, since many top Nazi officials (especially Goering) were avid wine connoisseurs and could taste the difference.
  • Pepsi, to compete with Coca-Cola, decided at one point to sell their product in bottles that were not only larger than Coke's, but also cheaper at a nickel, as opposed to 10 cents for a Coke. Often, people would buy the Pepsi, but then pour it into empty Coke bottles for their guests to make it seem like they were willing to pay for the more expensive pop. (Also, at the time, Pepsi was one of the few brands that actively targeted minority consumers—especially in the South, good Southern folks didn't want to be seen drinking a "nigger drink.")
  • Many bootleggers during Prohibition sold colored and diluted industrial alcohol in bottles with counterfeit labels. As Daniel Okrent summed up the state of speakeasy booze:
    There were exceptions, of course, but in too many places, if you ordered Brand X, you got Brand X; if you ordered Dewar's or Gordon's, you paid twice as much — and got Brand X.
  • In 2013, the State of New Jersey ran a sting operation called "Operation Swill" that revealed no less than 29 establishments statewide (of which 13 were TGI Friday's locations) passing off cheaper brands as premium liquor.
  • It's not uncommon for wine enthusiasts to be fooled by wines based solely on the bottle or description by the maitre d'. However, there are still individuals with a discerning enough palate to discern a cheap wine passed off as superior through deception.
  • The ideal Vodka consists of just two chemicals (ethanol and water) and a well made Vodka should be effectively flavorless. While all brands of vodka have trace impurities, the difference in taste between the most and least expensive brands is, for the most part, almost nonexistent. If an unflavored Vodka brand has any readily noticeable flavor, that's a sign of poor quality regardless of the pricetag.
  • Israeli Minister of the Treasury Yair Lapid, notorious for being a Know-Nothing Know-It-All, announced relatively shortly after being appointed in 2013 that he was raising the taxes on cheap alcoholic beverages and reducing them for expensive ones. Naturally, this move, supposedly taken not only to fight Israelís fairly large debt, but also to combat underage consumption of alcohol, was met with very great ire. Dror Nobleman, a well-known Israeli comedian and screenplay writer, responded by sharing a story on Facebook about how back when he worked as a bartender for a catering company, which had the habit of filling bottles of expensive brands with cheap alcohol of shady quality, he had worked in an event Lapid attended. During the event, Lapid sat on the bar and asked for a glass of a particular brand of high quality whiskey, explaining the process used to produce it and extolling its virtues in great detail. Nobleman, knowing full well the bottle they had with that label certainly did not contain the whiskey Lapid was apparently so acquainted with, served him a glass of its contents, trembling in fear of detection by this great connoisseur... who praised the glass he tasted, unaware of its real contents.

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