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The question

I'm staying at my brother's house for a few weeks over the holidays, and he said I should make myself at home - mi casa, su casa, and all that. While I was babysitting their kids one night, I thought I'd sample their wine cellar. I figured I could buy a replacement bottle at the liquor store the next day and no one would be the wiser. Problem is, I took the empty bottle down to the store today and found out they don't carry it. I looked online, and I'd have to spend $400 - which I don't have - to replace it. What do I do now?

The answer

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Well, he did say mi casa, su casa. I'm no lawyer and my Latin's a little rusty (people: I kid - I know it's, uh, Spanish), but I believe that when somebody says "my house is your house" in any language, that statement covers all the goods and chattels contained therein, including any expensive foodstuffs and fine wines that happen to be lying around.

But these oenophiles are a rum bunch - a little tetched on the topic of their favourite tipple.

For example, instead of drinking it, sometimes they just swirl it around in their mouths, then spit it out. (Probably some scotch-ophiles and haute beer-ophiles engage in this practice too, but I don't even want to think about that.)

Then, when you say, "Dude, that's a waste of perfectly good wine," they look at you as though you're the one who's crazy, rolling their bloodshot eyes and smiling smiles of purple-toothed superiority.

They will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a bottle of wine, even if they know for a fact that the contents have soured. True story: In 1985, a 1787 Château Lafite sold for $160,000, even though it had almost certainly been vinegar for at least a century, because it once belonged to Thomas Jefferson.

Recently, a six-litre bottle of 1947 Cheval Blanc sold at Christie's auction house in Geneva for more than $300,000. In this case, apparently the wine will probably be not only potable but delicious.

Me, I'm a simple sort. I'd rather buy a $15 bottle and sip it on the deck of the yacht I bought with the rest of the cash, wearing a fur coat, gold Speedo and giant pinkie ring as I sit in my marlin-fishing chair, while bikini-clad girls dance with my butler, laughing and spraying each other with shook-up bottles of Cristal, somewhere off the coast of Cancun.

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But à Cancun son gout, as they say. Which, I think, means to each his/her own.

Four hundred dollars isn't chicken feed - about $80 a glass, according to my calculations, so I hope it was tasty - but in the grand scheme of things a) it's not a huge sum, and b) if he's got it lying around, he can, ipso facto, res ipsa loquitur (hey, my Latin's coming back), afford it.

So buy the best bottle you can afford, with apologies for the fact you unknowingly imbibed his expensive vintage, for his cellar. If you do a little research, he should appreciate the gesture all the more. Then buy a second bottle for the two of you to open, so you can drink a festive toast to eternal, fraternal forgiveness.

Because, really, what's $400 between brothers?

Another true story: In 1989, a wine merchant named William Sokolin took a bottle of 1787 Château Margaux to a restaurant in New York and a passing waiter carrying a coffee tray knocked it over and broke it.

One can only imagine the waiter's mortification. But Mr. Sokolin wound up collecting a $225,000 payout from the insurance company - which he then festively shared with the owner.

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That's the spirit! If he can forgive, and raise a glass to smiling lips, then so can your brother.

David Eddie is the author of Chump Change and Housebroken: Confessions of a Stay-at-Home Dad. Damage Control, the book, was released in March.

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