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Nov 27, 2009 11:49 AM

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.


                  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.


                      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!


                          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.


                              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!


                                  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.



            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!