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Jan 29, 2009 11:37 AM

Rude guests bringing wine - should I have served it?

I'm still brooding about this one, and am wondering if I reacted badly... what are your thoughts?

Some friends/accquaintances here (we generally walked our dogs together), decided to move back to Australia. They're generally nice people, though the wife is more than a little bit neurotic (She had a long running feud with her neighbour that involved many panicked phone calls to us and her husband, and from what I know - no communication with the neighbour besides mutual setting off of car alarms at unfriendly times. She also spent a great deal of time on her own as her husband travelled quite a bit for business, and made no effort to go anywhere by herself or really do anything aside from walk her poor dog into the ground at least three times a day). We invited them for a farewell dinner at our home.

The wife had seen our barbecue and mentioned that she would like her husband to buy her a proper grill rather than the cheap ones that she's had to make due with in the past. So, we decided that we would grill some steaks to show it off a bit. I bought an absolutely wonderful beef fillet to serve.

When they arrived, they brought some wine along with them - an Australian (Wyndham's Bin 555), and a bottle of Mateus Rose. (Now, maybe I'm being a bit of a snob here, but Mateus was always the "joke" wine, akin to Baby Duck that you drank when you were a teenager.) Since we were having steak, I decided to open the Shiraz, as I didn't feel that the Rose would really complement the beef all that well.

Supper went well (though the wife asked for her beautiful fillet to be well-done. I had jokingly said to my husband earlier that if anyone asked for well-done, they could have pasta. We're a blue rare/medium rare household). I sucked it up, butterflied her beautiful steak, and proceeded to make a baseball glove out of it. Once we were done with the Shiraz, I brought out another Australian red wine (cabernet-merlot - can't remember the winery), which was met with approval.

When that bottle was done, as we were still eating, I brought out an American zinfandel (I loves me some zin). Once the wife found out it was American and not Aussie, she took one sip, proceeded to make gagging noises, started to exclaim about how horrible it was, and asked me why I didn't serve the lovely Mateus. I went into the kitchen, opened a different bottle of Australian red, took her glass of American zin, and poured her a fresh glass. I also mentioned that I thought that the rose would be far too light after the heavier reds that we had been drinking. I poured a glass of the zinfandel for myself, at which point she remarked "Kali_MM, you'll be giving yourself a terrible headache the next day".

I kept my temper, reminded myself that we didn't need to see them again, and we finished out the evening. I've been wondering since - was my response appropriate? Should I have broken down and served the Mateus? I found the wife's reaction to be incredibly rude - should I have not bit my tongue and said something instead? What would you have done?

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  1. I think the gagging was a bad joke of course because they are moving to Australia. No real harm there, just a stupid comment. Her comment about the Mateus shows that she doesn't really know about wine and doesn't really care either, but that maybe she wanted some of the wine she brought. It would have been a good time to serve it actually. I would have said, "well I can open it for you if you like" and done just that. It didn't mean that you had to drink it or pour it for everyone else.

    I think it was a waste to keep serving her your nicer bottles because she wouldn't know the difference anyway. Her palate is further revealed by the well done steak request.

    Something tells me you don't like her much anyway and obviously don't know them well enough to understand her sense of humor. After a few glasses of wine her inhibitions were a little loose and she just said the first thing that came to her mind. The fact that you were a couple glasses in and not in a good mood (don't blame you) made it into what it is now.

    4 Replies
    1. re: HaagenDazs

      I agree with this post, and would just add that a lot of people (who aren't terribly aware of the etiquette of these things) bring wine to an occasion hoping to drink it and expecting that the host will open it.

      Always interesting discussions here when it comes to wine. Seems that wine lovers sometimes need to accept that not everyone appreciates good wine, and some people never will and don't care. Just as long as nobody takes it personally.

      I'd also just echo what a few other people have said about the Australian sense of humor. I've definitely noticed it living in England and knowing a few Australians. It's easy to take offense if you're not used to it.

      1. re: HaagenDazs

        And how so had you been invited to her house and brought your lovely reds and she served you only her Mateus because she likes it? Would you have been offended had she not served your wine which you brought because you not only enjoyed it and wanted to share a gift with your host? One should consider the other side before being offended. I don't like reds at all. I like sweeter wines so I bring what I like and I really don't care whether it "goes" with anything or not. I drink wine because it is comforting to me and is my preferred alcoholic beverage. I find it bad manners to serve what you want, not what your guests want. I would walk out of a restaurant if they served me what they wanted rather than what I ordered. Gasp...bad manners.

        1. re: marneybrown

          In a restaurant, you order what you want; you are the paying customer, and should be served what you ordered. As a guest in someone's home, you eat/drink whatever is served. The host may always choose to serve/not serve a gift that a guest has brought.

          1. re: pikawicca

            Correct. So many people have lost sight of the proper role of guests vs hosts. The guest's job is to smile, be sociable, accept the host's hospitality, and be gracious. The host is not a restaurateur.

      2. I agree with most of what HaggenDazs says and think you should have just served the Mateus if you got the impression that your guest wanted it. I mean, what're you going to do with it now?

        3 Replies
        1. re: adrienne156

          exactly: serve it to her, then hand her the bottle to take home with her so she can make a lovely drip candle holder to memorialize the evening.


          1. re: karmalaw

            that is funny!! Brings me back to the early 70's!

            1. re: macca

              Right on, you guys. Though now that you mentioned the drip candle and the 70s, maybe a Polaroid to document the whole experience. ;) Here's to eating meals and sharing wines with people we actually like--may we find more of this activity in the coming year! CHEERS! *<:)

        2. Agree with HaagenDazs. She brought the Mateus and asked you to serve it. I would've served it to her or anyone else who wanted it, regardless. Poor etiquette on her part in lots of ways, but pushing back against her wasn't worth your aggravation. Sounds like you would not likely have ever had the Mateus yourself anyway. Life's too. short to let her get under your skin

          1. "It would have been a good time to serve it actually. I would have said, "well I can open it for you if you like" and done just that. It didn't mean that you had to drink it or pour it for everyone else."

            Exactly. Couldn't have said it better myself.

            1. knowing and choosing what you like is your right- dictating what others should/can enjoy starts you into a grey zone, some would argue there's nothing grey about it. I agree with others, you should have just served her the wine that she wanted, to not do so after she asked for it is quite pointed and probably hurt her feelings.