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Dinner Party Wine Etiquette

Perhaps some people here can give me guidance on an issue that has become a bit of a pet peeve.

Scenario: I get invited to dinner at the home of friends. It is usually as part of a holiday, birthday event, etc., so it is a "special" dinner.

I like nice wine. My friends do too, but are less picky. Typically I find they serve stuff like Lindeman's Cawarra or Yellow Tail at dinner. Invariably, therefore, I will bring a bottle of something better, a nice Bordeaux or something a bit unique at a higher price point than what you'd find in their house.

The problem: sometimes the wine I bring doesn't get opened, but just ends up in their wine rack. Presumably they drink it themselves at a later time.

I get irritated with this. Maybe I shouldn't, but I do. It seems to me that if I bring wine to dinner, it's intended to be opened. Am I missing something? Or is there a way to say, without offending them, that I bring the wine because I want to drink it with them at dinner, and not donate it to their collection?

Any advice appreciated. Thanks.

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  1. When I bring wine to a party or dinner, I intend it to be a gift for the host/ess to enjoy at a later date, and I usually say something to that effect. I suppose if I wanted it to be served that evening, I might try a comment in the other direction, such as "I thought this would go well with what you're serving tonight", or "I've heard great things about this wine and thought you'd like to try it with me". How would something more direct, like heading into the kitchen, opening the wine, and pouring a glass for yourself go over? I might find this pushy, but not too offensive...

    1. actually, proper etiquette is to not expect to drink your bottle with dinner. it's more like a hostess gift.

      depending on how close you are to these people, perhaps call beforehand and say "i'd like to bring a bottle to share over dinner." that way, you set up the parameters.

      my heart bleeds that you have to drink yellowtail. oh, well, drink up and be polite, be happy they like you enough to invite you to share dinner. you could always have them over to your house, ya know...

      1. A gift is a gift. You can't demand how it is used. Once that wine leaves your hands, it is up to your hosts to do with what they will.

        1. OK, this is making me LOL. I suggest insisting on contributing to the dinner by "bringing the wine", ask what they will be serving and choose based on this. also, I normally do what spyturtle suggests and walk straight to the kitchen and open the wine myself!
          Only in uptight circumstances (where we clearly don't know the people yet and they seem like they might be offended) would I hesitate...and drink the yellowtail...but at least yellowtail is considered a drinkable cheap wine..better than charles shaw. just the sight of the shaw makes me feel ill.

          4 Replies
          1. re: Amanda Enclade

            technically, your hosts are being polite by putting your wine away and drinking what they've ahem *selected* for the meal. I like hot's suggestion- say you brought it to go with the meal. Otherwise, drink the swill and stock up on Advil. ;)

            1. re: Amanda Enclade

              I really hope you're joking about walking into someone's kitchen and opening a bottle of wine you've given them!

              .... just the thought of it makes me feel ill.

              1. re: Amanda Enclade

                this is so rude. hoe dare you treat your host with such lack of respect. you should be ashamed of your ill manners

                1. re: Amanda Enclade

                  Wow. I can't agree with your decision just walk into the kitchen and open the wine yourself. This isn't your kitchen and even if it is Yellowtail, decline any wine if you don't like it or enjoy it for what it is.

                  But to barge into the kitchen and more or less demand a particular wine be served is just rude.

                2. I agree, it's an annoying situation. When I have people over, I try to open the wine that they bring when appropriate (sometimes it's yellowtail - regift!). When I bring wine to a party, I don't expect it to be opened - but if I'm comfortable with the hosts (which is usually the case) and I've selected something interesting, then I'll make sure it gets opened through the course of the evening. It's easy to notice that the bottle is almost empty and offer to open yours next...

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: tochipotle

                    "It's easy to notice that the bottle is almost empty and offer to open yours next..." - not to be pedantic, but at that point, isn't the bottle "theirs" - to open or not as they choose? Trust me, I understand the OP's suffering, but a gift is a gift. Fortunately, it's mostly my family members who drink cheap wine, and we're always more than welcome to bring ours and they are happy to serve it. Also though, I'm sure there are circumstances with friends where it is perfectly comfortable to open the bottle one brought, and others where it is not.

                    Also, for me, if someone has brought something interesting - I'd rather wait and serve it with food that I've chosen specifically for the wine - and try to invite the person who gave it to me to that dinner. And - if I'm invited somewhere where they invariably serve cheap wine - I might just not bring wine but another gift that they might appreciate more.

                    1. re: MMRuth

                      True - it is their bottle, my mistake. I guess I'm just looking at this question far more casually than others. Maybe it's a generational thing? I haven't been to a lot of very formal dinner parties. For me a dinner party usually includes very close friends - I'm usually hosting, and I'm pretty easy going. Also, our wine and food pairing experience is still rather on the naive side...so trying different wines helps with our wine education. If one of us does happen to splurge and bring something interesting, then we're all excited to try it.

                      1. re: tochipotle

                        I understand what you mean ... I'm (almost) 40, and when I have people over, I've usually planned things very carefully etc. - it's not that I wouldn't open the wine if say I ran out (v. unlikely as I always buy too much) or if I think the wine brought would be better with what I'm serving than the wine I'd bought - in which case I'd say "Wow - I think this would be wonderful with the xyz dish - do you mind if I serve it this evening?'. I think generally the issue here boils down to "expecting" the wine gift to be served, and as the OP seemed to indicate, bringing a "good" bottle b/c the hosts serve something akin to swill and expecting it to be served. Beyond that there is a huge array of possibilities, but it's the host's choice. Now, the opposite issue would be if someone volunteered to bring the wine to serve with dinner, the host accepted, the guest brought swill - then I think you'd be stuck serving it!