Just for fun, what if............
a guest brings over an incredible bottle of wine to a party, do you open it with him/her/friends later on?
On the converse, what if a guest brings over something that you wouldn't normally wash your car with?
The answer is - it depends. If one is hosting a dinner, with which wines will be served, then a “gift,” from a guest is considered as a present, and it is at the host’s desecration, whether that bottle is opened that night, or placed into the cellar. If the event is less formal, and guests are likely to bring wine to it, it should be served, at that event. As to “where” in the event, it is served, I’d say to serve it where appropriate.
It all depends on the nature of the event. When presented with a great bottle of wine at a dinner, that I am hosting, I always try to make sure that I invite the donor to another dinner, and feature their wine. I have made exceptions, and served a wine, that was brought to such an event, because I felt that it would either go better with a dish, than the wine, that I had chosen, or because I wished to do a counter-point, and that particular wine offered that.
When faced with an “inferior wine,” I am very hesitant to serve it, and explain in very quiet terms, that I have worked on the wine list for weeks, and all have been prepared for the dinner. I will write a thank-you note, and try to include that wine, when I do a less formal event, and include that person, serving that wine in the best stemware, that I can provide, at an appropriate point in THAT event. I have had a few, who wanted their wine served, and I gently explain that this is not possible, because of the work that has gone into the dinner and the specific wines. Only once, has someone persisted. and I served it along with the “welcome wine.”
Now, I have “gifted” a fine Bdx. for an informal gathering, and had a host state that he’d save it for some guests coming in a few weeks. That was not what I had hoped for, especially as we were there for a week of wine and dining. Oh well, that’s the way that it is.
So, you see, it depends...
As with ALL things in life, there is rarely a one-size-fits-all answer. This is no exception.
Even WITHIN the wine trade, it depends.
Example #1: I have friends in the wine trade (and/or who are very seriously "into" wine) who have the meal and the wine pairings with each course all figured out. To open the -- let's say people bring one bottle per couple -- 4-5 bottles of wine that are brought would a) result in way too much wine being opened and [not] consumed (such a waste!), and b) ruin the planned menu. We bring wine over, but it's something for the cellar or to be consumed later.
Example #2: I have friends in the wine trade (and/or who are very seriously "into" wine) who will invite us for dinner and tell us the menu. They never ask us to bring wine, or to bring wine with a specific course in mind (see Example #3), but they know me well enough to know that we'll be bringing something . . . and if I know what's for dinner (or dessert), the odds are I'll bring something that will work with the evening's meal.
Example #3: I have friends in the wine trade (and/or who are very seriously "into" wine) who -- rather than "throwing" a pot luck dinner, will do all the cooking, but "assign" various couples the task of bringing wine(s) to go with the various courses.
Example #4: I have friends in the wine trade (and/or who are very seriously "into" wine) who get together for dinner at various restaurants and everyone brings a bottle of wine with us (or buys something off the list). Four couples? We open eight bottles of wine. Six couples? We open twelve bottles of wine. Somehow it nearly always works out, and we have everthing covered -- from Champagne through dessert wine.
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Obviously similar complications/permutations exist with people who are NOT involved in the wine trade or are "serious" wine consumers, yet they can be compounded when you're serving steaks off the grill and someone brings (e.g.) 2BC Chardonnay or Sutter Home White Zin!
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For me, the obvious answer to the OP is "it depends" on all these things, and more . . .
EXAMPLE #5: I have friends who like wine and can afford great bottles of wine, and typically buy them. They like wine, but they don't know all that much about it. But the [great] wines they bring over are way too young to drink! (For example, they bring a 2005 Châteauneuf-du-Pape, and I'm serving a 1994 vintage CdP.) In cases like these, the wine ALWAYS goes into my cellar. (But I make a note of who brought it over, and I make it a point to TRY and open it with them once it has matured.)
EXAMPLE #6: I have friends who like wine, but they don't know all that much about it. Regardless of the price, they always bring over something intersting, and if it's drinkable now -- and works with the dinner -- it's getting opened!
All of the above applies whether the "occasion" is a sit-down dinner or more of a party environment, though most white wines brought to a party are more likely to end up in the cooler for the "popping" than the cellar for aging.
Along the lines of several of your scenarios, I usually greet the guests with a "oh, what a wonderful bottle of XXX. It will find a nice home in my cellar, and we'll do a dinner with it next time." It is at this point, that I look deeply into their eyes, and try to judge their reaction. I've had a few, like your Example #5, where I quickly broke out the decanter, and hoped for the best.
With our wino friends, we usually do variations of Examples #2 - 3. It is a tough question and, as you point out, there is no pat answer - "it depends... "
I usually talk, at length, with my host/hostess to get the full recipes for the dishes, and then offer to provide a wine, or wines, to pair specifically with course, or courses, so that they know what is in store.
Now, I've been on the other end, when a host will state that we will be doing some nice filets during the stay, and I'll bring a "Super 2er Cru" Bdx., only to have it placed in the cellar, and a 2BC pulled out for that dinner! I usually hint that WE really need to pop the cork on the Bdx, during the stay, and have had 2BC every @%&*$$'ing night. Oh well, I hope that the guests at the cork-popping of my wine, will enjoy it.
At far less formal events, I've brought some great wines (primarily to share with the host/hostess, and us), only to have the folk, who brought the Franzia bag-in-a-box, grab my wine and slurp it all down. Stuff happens, and there is not much that we can do to totally control it.
My feeling is that if I have not communicated my wine choice to the host/hostess, then it is most likely for the cellar and do not expect it to be otherwise. Others do not hold this opinion, however. Same for my guests. I have done the wine homework, and, unless there is a major compelling reason to do so, will stick to my plan, though there have been exceptions.
I think either way you should ask the guest what they prefer. Other threads on CH have proven that many people are confused as to the proper etiquette, so asking is best. If the wine is great, all the better. If it sucks, so be it.
If you know for certain its incredible, my sense would be to ask whether they wanted it served and if not, put it away and have that guest back over another time with a menu suited to the bottle and share it with that guest. If they wanted it served and it fits in with your plans for the night, then by all means serve it.
Generally agree with what's been said.
But (and this is - mostly - joking) - is there something to be said for opening it at a larger party where it will hopefully be finished and then you won't have to deal with the horrible bottle?? If there were several bottles open, the know-nothings might take the bad bottle and the in-the-know guests would take the good stuff... works for everyone.
My feeling is that a host should always serve the "best" wines possible, whether the majority of the guests are wine lovers, or not. Now, I do not usually bring out the "heavy hitters" for a Seder with Aunt Louise and Uncle Morty, but for my dinners, it's a labor of love, and I hope to expose all to the best, that I can pair.
Who knows who is likely to be turned on to great wines that night?
When a friend brings a particularly good / rare bottle and it doesn't go with the food, I make sure we drink it with them on another occasion.
I sometimes avoid that by bringing half a dozen wines in a carrier and pulling them out as appropriate.
I don't open wine I don't like unless somebody specifically asks me to. There are always more bottles on the sideboard than we can get to so it's not rude.
re: Robert Lauriston
We brought a magnum of Chateau d'Yquem - decent vintage, not amazing - that we'd held on to for a number of years after receiving it as a gift - to a friend's house for Thanksgiving - knowing ahead of time that at least he would appreciate it. He made sure there was a lovely terrine de foie gras to be served as an hors d'oeuvre with it. At first, it lay dormant - only the three of us (me, husband, host) had a glass (or two). An hour later, "word got around", and next thing I knew, the bottle was empty. But there were lots of half drunken glasses standing about as we went in to dinner - guests who I'm guessing didn't appreciate it. And, the next day, the three of us confessed to one another that we "had taken care of" those half glasses - no point in wasting it. To get back to the point - I'm glad he opened it, it was enjoyed by 7-8 of us, and in a similar situation, I would ask the person who brought the bottle what they intended.
I should add, he's a close enough friend that he knew that we brought it so he could serve it at this meal.
Edit - my prior deliberations about what to do with this bottle:
We drank it in November, 2006.