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Oct 6, 2008 09:30 AM

To Serve or Not To Serve?

Hi. My husband and I recently had dinner guests who graciously presented us with a nice bottle of wine upon arrival. Is a host/hostess supposed to open that wine and serve it with dinner, even if said host has a bottle or two already open? What if you have multiple guests and they all bring wine?

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  1. No, you are not supposed to, unless you want to - it's a gift for you to open whenever you like. The only caveat I would make is, that, when we have close friends to dinner, and they offer to bring wine for the meal and ask what we're serving, etc., I do serve it. But that is usually for an impromptu meal etc. - usually I have the wine planned ahead of time.

    1 Reply
    1. re: MMRuth

      I agree, depends on the # of people. Don't feel obligated to open it if you already have enough wine selected, but if there's room or you move on from what you originally opened and are opening a new bottle, I open the gift bottle.

    2. personally, If you have no other wine at the dinner, and the wine is appropriate for the food, then yes open it.
      If there is plenty of other wine, then you shouldnt feel obligated to open it. It was a gift and is yours to do what you want with it

      1 Reply
      1. re: nkeane

        Because I am in the wine business most people let me bring the wine to go with dinner but I always bring an extra bottle or two for the host to enjoy at another time....that being said, when in doubt just ask, "Should we open this now?" that lets the guest tell you if they brought it as a gift or for dinner.

      2. Agree with the posters who say that you are not required to open the wine. But what a lovely genteel dilemma to post about. Was just reading the decline in home cooking thread, which makes me so depressed. This is like a breath of fresh air knowing that somewhere people are still having dinner partys and obeying my grandfather's old rule: "never come to someone's house with one arm as long as the other."

        2 Replies
        1. re: givemecarbs

          Givemecarbs: what a great way of putting it your grandfather had! thank you for sharing that...I agree this is a much more pleasant topic.

          1. re: givemecarbs

            Nice. My father, Mr OhioInCalifornia, has said "don't show up with your arms swinging."

          2. When jfood has friends over for dinner he wants everyone to have the best time possible. And if people are kind enough to bring wine then he places those bottles next to the ones he has provided. As the bottles go to empty he asks which people would prefer. If it is one he provided, fine; if it is one someone else has provided, fine. At last month's gathering one of the new couples brought a bottle and it was opened. Everyone fell in love with it, and people all wrote the name down. Likewise a few months ago jfood provided one (pure dumb luck since he does not drink) and many couples wrote down the name. Jfood went to the wine shop the next day and bought four more to keep for future parties.

            So the benefit was not only people enjoyed during the jfood dinner party, but because the wines brought were really good, his dinner guests had the added benefit of another good bottle to be purchased for their future enjoyment. A win-win for many.

            11 Replies
            1. re: jfood

              Excuse me jfood, shouldn't that have been a "vin-vin" for many?
              By the way, what were the 2 wines that were adored?

              1. re: jnk

                will look when he gets home and rewert, oops revert.

                1. re: jfood

                  Did you ever look to see what those two wines were?

                  1. re: iluvtennis

                    oh crap, jfood is sorry. he is out of town til november. he'll put it on his calendar for when he gets home.


                1. re: jfood


                  I had this one backfire on me once. New VP and wife were joining us for a big wine dinner. I had chosen the wines, after much effort. When he arrived, he handed me a Merlot, that he'd just picked up at the local grocery, because he'd heard that we liked wine. As we ushered them in, he said, "I expect you to serve this one tonight, as we picked it out just for you."

                  Normally, no problem, but this night we were serving a verital of Petrus with our mains. His Merlot was, let's just say, way, way down the scale. It would have been a good picnic wine, but little more.

                  I tried to accept, but graciously decline his offer. He'd hear nothing of it and made a big deal of serving his wine. OK, I can do that, if that is what he really wants.

                  I started the mains with his wine, and then went directly to the youngest Petrus. We worked up through a broken vertial of six wines, all Merlot.

                  When he left, he pulled me aside and apologized for forcing me to serve his wine. He also acknowledged that he'd not been aware of how "into wines," we really were.

                  He and I were both embarrassed, but I'm not sure what I could have done, other than to refuse his repeated requests.


                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                    you did the right thing bill. and one can only try to keep others within the yellow lines.

                    What jfood has learned about wines and grown men are there are those that know wines and those that think they know. Sometimes jfood thinks it's a testosterone thing. Jfood just does not have the wine-DNA and he is not in a position at this point of his life to give it his full attention. So he is a follower at best.

                    1. re: jfood


                      As always an interesting observation. Not sure that I would have picked up on that one, but you make a great point.

                      As a host, my first job is to keep my guests happy. I never wish to show them up, or any such thing. I try to ease them into not making a gaffe, but sometimes my back is against a wall. Tough call on occasion.

                      Had the wine been undrinkable, I'd have pulled that guest aside, and tried to break it gently. In this case, I just pulled the cork and then we all had the various wines. In the end, he "got it."


                    2. re: Bill Hunt

                      I don't see a reason for any great, long term embarrassment here. It sounds like more of a misunderstanding of meaning. For some people, going to Trader Joe's for a case of two-buck-Chuck twice a year constitutes "into wines" of even "really into wines." The guy was trying to be a gracious guest and mis-read the information he was given. After a little discussion where you tried to not lower the standards of your dinner and not put this guy on display, you graciously served up his plonk. He may think that wine is seven bucks a bottle and if he paid fifteen for what he brought, he was rightfully proud. TeeHee But give him points for recognizing the difference in quality and owning up to it. Gracious behavior all around. It seems like something a couple of guys might chuckle about over a glass or two of conviviality another time.

                      PS: "recognizing the difference in quality and owning up to it." How many people do either of these things?

                      1. re: yayadave

                        You are correct. He thought so, and was trying to be a gracious guest. It was never my intention to hold his wine up against some of the best of that varietal, that the world has ever experienced. I tried to spare him any embarassment, but he would not hear of it. I was very quiet about it, and just got out extra glasses. I also deflected any comments on the extra wine, as I was the host.

                        He did what he thought was correct. Had he not insisted that his wine be served, it would have been a moot point. I think that he'd think otherwise, and I tried to make it as easy as was possible.

                        I guess that I could have refused, but then I was the host. What would you have had me do in this situation? Think about that for a moment, please. I had a $7 bottle of Merlot, that might have been OK. I had five bottles of a world-reknown Merlot in the range of US$600 to $2000 per bottle. These were the ultimate Merlots in many folk's opinion. What should I have done? I served it and did not say a word. Should I have done otherwise?


                        1. re: Bill Hunt

                          Nope. No harm was done by serving his plonk. Unless it ruined someone's palate for the treasures to come. I'm sure no one thought it was yours. And he "got it" in the end. As I said, gracious all around.

                  2. You don't have to serve the wine. But I can picture some people who are unfamiliar with dinner party etiquette getting offended if you don't serve it -- kind of like how many people were offended by the whole lipstick at the table thing.