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Exceptions to the rules on bringing wine to someone's home?

The most recent issue of Food & Wine has an article in it that makes multiple references to the high expectation of people bringing wine to someone's home that it be opened and served at that event. Admittedly this article seems to be from the perspective of a rather high level of wine expertise for all involved, but I think posts here (as well as general consensus) would disagree with that position.................. saying the wine is a gift and opening it is at the option of the host.....ALWAYS.

So............... ABSENT any prior history or understanding between the guests and the host as to what should happen to the wine.................... is this article tongue-in-cheek, or do we really buy that the etiquette changes at the 'geek' or 'connoisseur' level?

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  1. I've learned my lesson after gifting two wonderful bottles of wine (selected by a trusted sommelier) to my boss at a Christmas party the boss hosted. He obviously didn't recognize the appelation or the labels so he put them under the sink. NEVER AGAIN. Anywhere, to ANYONE.

    1. There is only one rule on taking wine as a guest: Never do it, under any circumstances.

      Younger generation/students/house sharers are of course exempted from this. In their case it is compulsory!

      1 Reply
      1. re: Robin Joy

        And groups of friends who may not have a lot of money, whatever their age.

        We all do it. Arty types.

      2. of course it is the host's prerogative not to open the wine, nor the chocolates, nor the soaps or any other gift that is brought. In fact I would think it quite rude to open gifts in front of guests unless it's Christmas or a birthday, but for a dinner party ..... no.

        If you bring wine and the host has carefully chosen wine to go with dinner then yours might well be wrong. And they may have bought enough wine for the evening and your one bottle will not fit with the others.
        A gift is a gift, what the receiver does with it afterwards is not your business.

        16 Replies
        1. re: smartie

          When I have received hostess gifts from people I always open them that night so I can thank them. I always felt bad just putting them aside. Do you think that is wrong?

          1. re: Alica

            Alica I think it depends on who you are hosting. If it's really good friends or family then no problem opening gifts but if you are having a group of people to a dinner party I would not open hostess gifts in front of the group.

              1. re: smartie

                Interesting, I had a friend relate an encounter that had enraged her. She had gone to a party and brought a gift and "the host didn't even care enough to open it and see what it was". She never socialized with them again.

                I admit I have no idea what the proper, generally expected, etiquette here is, but, it is clearly hardly universal.

                1. re: Atahualpa

                  That was what I was thinking. When I open it I try not to do it in front of everyone but I certainly think you should acknowledge it.

                2. re: smartie

                  Smartie, you make some good points. We do both, hosted, wine-oriented sit-downs, and also gatherings of friends for a meal.

                  For the former, I have carefully chosen the wines, and my wife and I may have taste-tested the recipes with any number, to arrive at the perfect match on our palates.

                  For the latter, I call my host/hostess and discuss the menu. I then bring along some wines that should go well. When I host these, the same rules apply - you've got the red assignment, and you have the white assignment, or very similar.

                  The tone of the dinner can matter greatly.

                  Hunt

                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                    If your host says "Just bring yourselves," do you respect that and just bring a single bottle or something else as a hostess gift?

                    1. re: c oliver

                      Not sure that I have been in that exact spot before, but maybe way back when. Now, I am asked to either brings wines for a dish, for a portion of the meal, or not at all. In all situations, I do bring a bottle (or two) for my host/hostess. These are for their enjoyment whenever, and either with me, or without me.

                      Usually, I will work with the chef to pick just the right wines for my portion of the meal. Sometimes, that is one course (whether we bring it, or not), and sometimes it'll be for the entire dinner, with many food and wine courses. It just depends.

                      Usually, if I am the host, I'll do all wines, with few exceptions. Any wines that show up are gladly received, but the wine list is done already. I've had a very few instances where the guest seriously asked that his/her wine be served. In those few instances, it was not a pretty sight, though I did agree and tried my best to make that wine fit in, and it got the same glassware and serving care as the wine(s), that I had chosen previously.

                      When I bring a wine, which is very often, I do not intend that it be served, unless the host/hostess/chef has requested that I do something for a course. Now, there have been a few instances, where I hoped that over the course of a stay, my wine might make the list, but when it has not, that is life and I move on. After all, it was a gift for my host/hostess, and that was its duty in life. They are the ones, who will decide when, and with whom, it will be served.

                      Hope that I did not miss your question, but if I did, please clarify and I'll do my best.

                      Hunt

                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                        Hi Hunt. So it sounds like in your "circle" that it's pretty much taken for granted that you'll bring some of the wine for the meal? That's cool --- and I wish I were hosting you :) But let's create a hypothetical. Jane and John Doe, who you know a little but haven't dined with each other before, invite you and Mrs. to their home for a small dinner party (6 or 8?). My feeling is that the appropriate thing would be to bring a hostess gift, wine if you wish, but not to call ahead and consult on the menu and then bring wine appropriate for a course or the meal. Would that be your call also? Happy New Year --- and I hope y'all drank some great wine!

                        1. re: c oliver

                          You are absolutely correct. I will bring wine for their later enjoyment, with zero intent that it be served. I've been on the other end too many times, and it seldom works as the guest intends.

                          Recently, similar happened. We were invited to a dinner, and I brought a 1er Cru Chablis for the host/hostess. The apps. were being served, and the host asked which wine I would recommend. We retired to his cellar and went down the list. All were bigger reds, and we had three light shrimp dishes. We looked and looked. Finally, I confided that my "gift wine" was the best choice. He served it, and all the guests raved. Two wrote down all of the details of that wine for the shrimp dishes.

                          In another similar thread, many called me to task for suggesting the gift wine, but I stick with my choice. It was never my intent, but it was by far and away, the best choice, considering the options. Why tell the host to choose a big Napa Cab from his cellar, when the Chablis worked so well, regardless of when it came into his cellar? If he had possessed anything similar, I'd have gone that route, but there was just no other choice.

                          Sometimes, the details of the situation will change things, regardless of original intent. Gotta' go with the flow.

                          Here's a Happy 2010 from sunny AZ back at you!

                          Hunt

                          1. re: Bill Hunt

                            Isn't that funny that he waited that late to make wine decisions? I think you acted appropriately.

                            1. re: c oliver

                              I do not think that our host had really given thought to the full evening's meal, or wines. He had hired a caterer, and kind of left the decisions to her. As he, and his wife, enjoyed reds, more than whites, I assume that the pairings never crossed his mind, until the shrimp were served.

                              Guess that I could have chosen something from his cellar, but there were just no good matches. My wine just happened to be a good choice - better than any that I found in his cellar. I was mostly concerned with him being afforded a great pairing, regardless of the provenance of that wine. He was my host, and asked me to pair. I did the best that I could. It was just blind luck, that I had gifted a great white. Had I known beforehand, that he preferred reds, I could have been totally out of luck on the starter wines.

                              Now, I did know that he liked reds, as he had just been the successful bidder on a 6 year vertical of Jos. Phelps Insignia, that I had provided to a charity. I also knew that he would be serving those for the main course, and looked for a different wine as a gift. As part of the "gift," I also provided him with an additional vintage of Insignia, on each end of his vertical, giving him 8 years of Insignia. He also served those two, as well, but without any input from me. Initially, all three bottles were just gifts, and he was free to do, as he wished. As it turned out, I think that his guests benefited from all of my gifts, plus his bidding at the charity auction.

                              Just blind luck on my part.

                              Hunt

                              1. re: Bill Hunt

                                Somehow, Mr. Hunt, I don't think your wine luck is ever blind :) And it all sounds wonderful. I think y'all need to make a Lake Tahoe trip :)

                                1. re: c oliver

                                  Hm-m, wife's corporation has a hospital there. It's about time that they had a meeting at that facility. I've never been before, would need to go!

                                  If so, I'll treat on the wine!

                                  Hunt

                                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                                    And help me pick out an affordable bottle of port to go with my affordable new port glasses?

                                    1. re: c oliver

                                      As per comments in other Port threads, there is Port, then there is Port, then there is port. Much of this depends on what one likes, and rather how/when they plan on serving it.

                                      Here are my very general comments: I really like Tawny Port, especially with dessert foods. My two favorites are Taylor-Fladgate 20 Year Tawny (like it better than the more expensive 30 & 40 Year Tawnies from the same house) and the Porto Barros 20 Anos Tawny. They are really from across the river from each other, but are different styles. For me Taylor is great with anything with walnuts, and Barros with anything with pecans.

                                      Now, when it comes to Vintage Ports, there are few "affordable" bottles, EXCEPT for some really good LBV (Late Bottle Vintage) Ports, that as quite similar (without the wonderful nuances) to VP, in all but the best years. I am a fan of both Taylor-Fladgate and Fonseca. Though part of the same corporation, the differences are there.

                                      Now, this is not meant to pass judgement on some very nice port-styled wines, from the US, OZ, or elsewhere. They are great fun, though usually not quite so complex as Ports. [We're working on a bottle of Sonoma port-styled wine, that is wonderful, albeit different.]

                                      Also, in my above comments, I have omitted several great Port houses. This is not because I do not enjoy their wines, but because those listed are my favs. If you enjoy a Tawny, do a Taylor-Fladgate 20 besides a Cockburn's 20. Same basic average age, but totally different wines. Same for Graham's, Croft's, Dow's and so on. Look to my recs. as but starters. The world of Port awaits. Also, there are some fun Rubies, that need to be experienced too.

                                      Enjoy,

                                      Hunt

            1. A guest may never justifiably expect that anything he or she brings to a non-potluck dinner unbidden (either directly or through course of dealing in the past) by the host will be served at that dinner. Doesn't change according to the wallet.

              1. I would never show up without a bottle of wine, but whether or not it should be served is up to the host, and may vary by situation. For example, we have a small, close group of friends that we eat and travel with. We enjoy sharing and learning about new wines together. So, if I were showing up at their house with a sommelier selected wine, I would feel perfectly comfortable saying, "I'd really like to try that tonight." I have no doubt they would do the same at my house. However, if I were attending a large party or dinner, I wouldn't expect that my wine would be served. It really is intended as a gift for the host. Maybe the above mentioned boss is stashing them under the sink so that he doesn't have to share with his guests. I wouldn't put out expensive wine at the office Christmas party.

                3 Replies
                1. re: mountaincachers

                  I would have preferred if he had put the bottles in his wine keeper.

                  1. re: RedTop

                    He was hiding them obviously in case Johnson from Accounting got intoxicated and took Helena's advice (the advice column on chow) and decided to help himself to some more wine.

                    1. re: Bryn

                      Ah, ha. Clarification. Thank you, Bryn!

                2. "etiquette changes at the 'geek' or 'connoisseur' level" is not dependent on status. Etiquette states it is a gift, and no expectations of opening and serving.

                  The jfood's group of friends always bring wines to all the dinners at the houses. And it is an unwritten rule that all wines are available for anyone to drink and suggest. It is fairly laid back when it comes to this stuff.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: jfood

                    Sometimes it is more than just ettiquette..................
                    When married to ex-wife, we kept a strictly Kosher home. Any food and wine gifts brought by guests were accepted with a smile, thank you and quickly spirited away to the garage. Later, they were inspected to see if they were in fact kosher and could be used on our table. If not, the neighbors enjoyed them. A lovely thank you note was sent out the next day.
                    My sister has a child allergic to both nuts and wheat, so all food gifts are never put out and served. She poliely explains why in private to the giver so they will understand.

                    When people ask me what they can bring to a dinner or party at my home, my standard answer is 'could you pick up an extra bag of ice, some how there's never enough' makes them feel like they're contributing to the evening and you are not asking them to spend a lot of money

                    1. re: bagelman01

                      Good point B.

                      Jfood is not a wine drinker and his friends love them and have very nice ones. It is win-win. Jfood concentrates on the food, his friends concentrate on the wine and everyone enjoys

                      1. re: bagelman01

                        Well, if I'm visiting certain friends who keep kosher, I'll be sure to take a kosher wine. No problem.

                        1. re: bagelman01

                          Fortunately for me and my wines, none of my friends keep Kosher. I've only had a few Baron Herzog's that I could appreciate. Even at Sader, with some extended family, the general assumption is that we'll be doing wines. As mentioned in earlier posts, we do several "levels" of wines. One level is the general one, and is used in the ceremony. Then, hidden away (usually in a decanter) is the next level. After all, who wants to watch Aunt Ethel pour 7-up into a Ch. Latour '70?

                          Hunt

                          1. re: Bill Hunt

                            Bill, the strictly kosher friends I'm most likely to be visiting live in Paris, and I can find relatively decent kosher wines there. I don't have many close friends who keep kosher, or halal for that matter, though several are from Jewish or Muslim backgrounds. The latter have been known to make jokes about halal wines...

                            But if I'm visiting someone, I'll take them a gift they can appreciate and use, whether or not it would be my first choice.

                            Oh dear, even asking for ice for your Château Latour would be painful, but 7-up? Painful thought.

                            1. re: lagatta

                              Well, Kosher wines have made vast improvements over the decades. Once, the offerings were horribly limited, but not so, should one seek out some of the Kosher producers. Things have improved vastly.

                              Now, concerning the wines for Passover, our perennial host has two levels of wines. One is the Seder wine and is also usually offered upon arrival. Then, he has another wine, or two, for those, who will likely appreciate them. When one has a very broad guest list, things like this happen. At least for the Kosher group, we now have some good alternatives.

                              Times have changed greatly, and for the better.

                              Hunt

                      2. I am a wine geek, though a relatively new one. One particular single person loves to do small dinner parties. She loves wine but her cellar is empty.

                        What works for us very well is I give her my link to cellartracker. She then looks at my inventory and picks out the wine for the evening. That way I get to bring something and she can pair the wines with what she is serving.

                        Works for both of us.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: duck833

                          Now that is cool. I would never have thought of that. For me, I get the menu and prep, and then do the "heavy-lifting," but that sounds like fun.

                          Thanks for sharing,

                          Hunt

                          PS - I hope to empty my cellar, prior to my death. I have forgotten what it looked like, on the day I christened it.

                        2. We gather for a large dinner party at dear friends' house every other week or so. Pretty much EVERYBODY brings a bottle of wine or two. They are for consumption right there and then. I've never understood the drama & discussion on this whole topic.

                          It might be different at a smaller gathering of, say, 4 four people or so, where one brought a very special & expensive bottle as a hostess gift. But then it's still up to the host to decide whether they would like to save that bottle for an even more special occasion or whether they want to open and share with the guests.

                          1. Did anyone here ever think of asking the host/hostess, "should I bring wine or are you all set"? Then you say something like, "what do you like, or should I select something"? My, my, all the fuss over nothing. This isn't a state dinner at the White House.
                            CocoDan

                            1. Sometimes it goes the other way around. I was invited to a dinner party last Saturday and brought a pretty nice bottle. There were 12 people at dinner, and the host opened all the wines everyone had brought, as well as some of his own, at the beginning of the meal. By the end of the meal there were at least five partial bottles remaining, some nearly full. And I know this guy has no wine preservation system. I would much rather he had NOT opened my bottle (which was still more than half full) but had instead saved it for another meal where it would have been fully appreciated.

                              1. Dh and I were invited to the home of his parents friends for Thanksgiving dinner. I had a bottle of what I'd been told was a lovely Chardonnay when I asked at the state store. I took it because I know the hosts enjoy wine. It would have been fun to try, but I certainly didn't expect it. The host said "Oh, I love that winery" and spirited our bottle off to the kitchen with thanks. He then served a lovely wine he had picked out, and mentioned he had a Riesling ready if we needed another bottle. My only hope... that they guy at the state store was right, and that the host enjoys the wine, in thanks for a lovely dinner! :)

                                1. Here's a link to the article that resulted in this topic: http://www.foodandwine.com/articles/t...

                                  I posted on the Wine board in hope of getting some of the wine folk to come here to comment more on the seemingly odd stance of a wine writer in promoting this apparent breach of ordinary etiquette.

                                  5 Replies
                                  1. re: Midlife

                                    Having now read the article, I have to say that I found all of the people in it to be very irritating. I'm glad they aren't my friends.

                                    1. re: mountaincachers

                                      I've found that there is a definite line of wine 'aficionado-dom' at which people just seem to slip over into a completely different world. I see it on some of the wine boards I follow and have seen it among tasters when we had our winebar. I don't think it's so much that they're irritating as that they've reached a point where they really know what they like and can afford to indulge themselves.

                                      When we had our winebar, there were some tasters who had to have a fresh glass for every pour at a $15 tasting of <$20 wines. In marketing my wine preservation device I've found people who don't believe in using ANY kind of preservation (no gas is good enough; vacuum systems are worthless) other than pouring the wine into a smaller bottle that can be filled completely. [This isn't because it doesn't cost anything, but because they don't want to introduce any foreign component into the bottle.]

                                      I can only conclude that 'wine geeks' (if you will) just expect that everyone's preference is to share wine.............. period.

                                      1. re: Midlife

                                        Maybe I'm not enough of a wine geek, but having a host turn up their nose at a bottle and saying "I don't like red" or "We're only drinking French tonight" is rude (and, in my opinion, irritating). I'm glad that they know what they like and can afford in indulge themselves, but it shouldn't be at the expense of someone else's feelings. I love good food (and good wine too, though I will admit to not knowing as much about wine), but I would never snub someone's gift. Smile, say thank you, and toss it later if you don't like it. Or, open it and let them enjoy it. This is the sort of bad behavior that makes people think wine drinkers are snobby.

                                        1. re: mountaincachers

                                          Well.........................I'm not agreeing with what I still feel is bad etiquette, but I DO understand that people who really like to taste wine and enjoy it with friends would associate with people who feel the same way. When I bring wine to the homes of wine-centric friends I don't expect that they'll open it but they almost always open everything that's been brought as well as what they've picked from their own supply. It's simply so that we can all enjoy as many wines as possible.

                                          But................ writing an article, in a major magazine, without explaining the special context of something like I've described just seems like thoughtless writing. Nothing really to get upset about, just enough to make someone post on Chowhound to see if he's the only one who thinks so.

                                      2. re: mountaincachers

                                        I felt the same way. I thought they were annoying. She was upset that her "better" bottle of wine wasn't served at a dinner party that she was invited to when it seems like the wine was picked for the meal? A gift is a gift, and to be upset that you don't get to use the gift that you brought, no matter how nice, is ill-mannered. I wonder if she expects her gift soaps to be used in the powder room, even if she did hand make it.

                                    2. I've commented on some stories on this topic, in the Wine thread.

                                      To RedTop, I had similar not THAT long ago. I brought two bottles of 1er Cru Bdx, along with four other bottles of very nice reds, to a host's home. We were guests for a long weekend, and one of the menus was grilled beef. This had been shared beforehand, and I had picked the Bdx. to go with that meal. This host had a nice cellar back in the city, but we were at their country home.

                                      Time came for the grilled beef dinner, and he pulled out something from "below the sink." It was dreadful. His comment was, "I'd liked to have served your Bdx, but I'll be saving it for some visitors next week." Oh well. At least I had other wines, and they did much better than that "sink wine."

                                      It happens, and the host can choose, as they desire. I did make a mental note, however...

                                      Hunt

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                                        OK, that's bad...using your wine to impress next weekend's guests. Incidentally, we also have a second home, and when our friends come with us, they often bring wine. In that situation, the assumption would be that we will be drinking it together that weekend. Of course, most people we would invite for a weekend would be the same people we would share our better bottles with at home too.

                                        1. re: mountaincachers

                                          In that particular case, we rolled with the punches. When this couple was last at our home for a dinner party, the "great wines" were pulled out for all. That is the nature of our dinner parties. I pair, as well as is possible, with each dish, and share the wonderful wines, that I have collected over the years. Sharing my wines with my friends and guests are a treat to me. I hope to drink them all, in my lifetime, and in the meantime, I will attempt to share them with people, who will appreciate them.

                                          Hunt

                                      2. It depends. If you are bringing wine to a wine tasting, where food also is being served, then yes, it is to be opened. If you are bringing wine to a dinner party where wine is to be opened, then it is a gift.

                                        1. on the other hand we have the opposite scenario. Many years ago we visited friends in Wales (UK) to spend a weekend on their farm. My husband selected a really good bottle of port, aged and so on, and we gave out our gifts when we arrived. My husband had in mind that the port would be opened on Saturday evening after dinner. Our friend drives up to the farmhouse in his battered land rover, walks into his kitchen in his muddy and poohey boots, says hi to us, looks at the bottle of port, makes smacking lips noises and gets an old tea mug out of the sink and pours himself a mugful and downs it in one go.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: smartie

                                            Hey - you made your host happy. Good on you.

                                          2. If you're invited to dinner and are a connoisseur, I think it would be okay to ask ahead of time if you can bring a bottle that would go w/ dinner, if you are close friends. But, to bring a bottle that you expect to be served, regardless of what the host has planned, is rude. And, to be snobby about the hosts' choice is even more rude. "I brought my own utensils because I didn't think what you had would be adequate."

                                            3 Replies
                                            1. re: chowser

                                              The author is a well-known wine writer and it's pretty easy to see how, among her circle of friends, sharing all the bottles would be the goal. After re-reading the article and thinking about it some more, I'm giving her the benefit of any doubt in this. I don't think she, or they, would be rude about it. A lot of the article is about 'strategies' to get to enjoy the wine you brought, and not really at the cost of anyone's feelings.

                                              I think any really serious wine lover would admit that, when bringing a quality wine to a party, you'd really like to be able to enjoy it, as well as the host's and those of other guests. The article is, I now think, more of a lament regarding those occasions when you have to bow to protocol and just leave the wine for the host. I know I've felt that way myself.

                                              1. re: Midlife

                                                Sharing wine is wonderful, as is sharing knowledge. What surprised me is her tone--she seemed to think bringing a gift bottle in meant to be shared. Many hosts will pair wine to the food and to expect the host to serve your bottle instead is presumptuous. If I want to drink a bottle of wine, I'll do it in my house. If I bring it to someone, it's his/hers. I'll reread the article (read it the first time in a dentist office so not the most accepting mood). But, my initial reaction was that it was ironic that she thought the host was being rude when it was actually her.

                                                1. re: chowser

                                                  Yes. What I perceived to be her tone was what got me started on this topic. I've since e-mailed with someone who knows her pretty well, and thought about the whole thing in a broader sense, and have changed my opinion. I have no way of knowing her true intent but decided that it would be incredibly arrogant for someone in her field to seriously flaunt the etiquette that way. Ironic, arrogant? Anyway, it's only a magazine article.

                                            2. I feel no obligation to open wine that a guest brings. I look forward to tasting it on another occasion. I often try to bring something that I know the host likes whether it is a nice bottle of a wine they like or a liquor or cordial they like. I think the most universally appreciated bottle is champagne. Its always good to have a nice bottle in the fridge so you are ready to celebrate.

                                              1. Bill Hunt wrote a clear and concise answer that is very similar to how our group handles this.

                                                For high-end dinners

                                                Wine is pre-selected before the events, if a guest is contributing a bottle for a portion of the meal, that bottle is brought to the house a week before the event. The last think you want is for the sediment to be stirred during the trip, the wine to go through temperature changes and bottle shock to occur.

                                                If a person brings wine as a GIFT, it is simply a gift; to be used by the recipient when and how they feel appropriate, for you to think otherwise is foolish and an unjust expectation of the gift-giver.

                                                For casual get together’s, many people will bring quaffing wine that they wish to drink. However, this is not presented as a GIFT to the host it is usually presented as “Hey I brought this bottle of __________. At that point I say would you like to open it now or later and let them be in charge of their wine.

                                                There have been times at our nice dinners when a new guest brings an obviously expensive wine and they thought that we would serve it with dinner. I then usually explain on the side that we have the wines matched to the meals and although their wine was a great choice we will not serve it this evening. I then tell them I understand that they have spent a considerable sum of money on this nice wine and if they would like take it home to use on a special dinner or occasion I would fully understand. If the wine is a very good one I will also offer to cellar it at my home and invite them back for a meal that features their wine for one of the courses. I jokingly tell them to think about it over dinner because they might not like the food and may never want to return.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: RetiredChef

                                                  In the case of the latter, I would begin planning a meal for that wine, and the donor would be at the top of the guest list. It's happened, just as you describe, and is a perfect excuse to invite that donor over to share that special bottle with food to match it. Like I need an excuse to host a dinner with great people, food and wine...

                                                  Hunt