August 13, 2007

Entertaining etiquette

Here's a question for all of you more socially couth people out there: how do you handle the situation where a guest to your home for a meal brings with him a bottle of wine? You've planned your menu and you have, hopefully, purchased wine that will harmonize pleasantly with what you will be serving. Your guest brings a wine that pleases him greatly and he wants to share it with you. Or, he just brings something because he doesn't want to show up empty handed. Either way, you may not know the difference. Now, what do you do? Do you open the wine, thus perhaps upsetting the balance you've tried to strike? Do you just thank the guest, and put the wine away? I never know how to handle this. I was confronted by both situations yesterday.

We entertained my pilates class friends at the house. Our class has shrunk to three, including me, and I invited the other two and their significant others and the instructor and her significant other, out to the house for lunch yesterday. I determined that what I really wanted to prepare, other than grilled veggies and assorted cold salads, was chili-cheese burgers and so I did. I selected a Spanish white that was from close to the French border and was 30% Gewürztraminer, a grape that can stand up to spicy food. I bought six bottles and chilled them all.

Lunch was a great success and indeed did not break up until about 5:45, thus requiring me to cancel our dinner engagement. My wife wouldn't let me throw everyone out.

I put all the wine into the fridge and served the first three bottles of my wine, which went just as well as I had hoped it would. Then, for the fourth bottle, we opened a really grand unfiltered rose that one guest brought. He had tasted it and thought we would love it. Clearly, it needed to be open. We drank that one sitting in the garden while watching the children play as some smoked cigars (I passed this time).

I didn't open any guest wine during the meal and happily we had need of more wine after lunch. If not, I am not sure what I would have done.

What would you do?

Posted by Random Penseur at August 13, 2007 10:40 AM | TrackBack

Etiquette states that guests who bring wine are not supposed to expect the wine to be opened on the spot - it's supposed to be for the host(s) to enjoy another time. As far as I know, it's the host's choice if they want to use it at that time but certainly shouldn't feel required to.

Posted by: Hannah at August 13, 2007 11:42 AM

A bottle of wine brought to the house is a gift for the host(s). Depending on the situation, I may or may not open it. If I have planned wines, as you did, I will put it aside either for us to enjoy later, or to share with guests over conversation after the meal. If I haven't planned a particular wine, then I'm more than happy to open it.

If the person who brought it asks about it, then I'll open it and serve it along with whatever I have, and give the guests a choice of either or both. We're pretty relaxed about that kind of thing.

I do make a point of telling the giver how much I liked it, or at least, how much I appreciated the gift. Especially if I save it for later.

Posted by: caltechgirl at August 13, 2007 12:00 PM

Man, I really wish I could help with this, but sadly I can't. Its not that I haven't run into this situation, its just that there isn't much of a need in trying to decide which flavor of MadDog 20/20 to start with. So, we drink the bottle the guest brought, then start in on my stash.

The situation changes though if Thunderbird is the wine being provided by the host. You always start with the Thunderchicken, same goes for Night-train...

Posted by: phin at August 13, 2007 01:54 PM

Note to self: if having Phin over for dinner, ask him to bring flowers.

I have not had the pleasure, such as it is, of MadDog 20/20 since college and I actually only recall that I drank it and nothing more comes to mind.

Posted by: rp at August 13, 2007 02:53 PM

Since I run a small winery and my daughter runs our tasting room and our son-in-law-to-be is part owner-and-manager of two huge wine & spirits stores and our daughter-in-law-to-be works for a winery too...

This happens a LOT with us when we have guests over, as you might imagine. Almost everyone we know socially are in the restaurant or winery industries. :)

I play it by ear; if they bring something that might go well with what we had planned to serve, I'll open it. If not, or if it's something I just don't want to open, I gush over it and, while winking at the guests who brought it, stage whisper I will be saving it for another time when Dan & and I can enjoy it together.

Sometimes the guests insist we save it and sometimes the guests insist we open it, thus taking it out of my hands entirely. And that's fine with me.

Nobody seem to get upset about it, whatever we do or don't do. :)

After all, it's WINE! Now, how can anyone get upset about something so fabulous? :)

Posted by: Amber at August 14, 2007 10:05 AM

I have issues with this one, and that's mainly because I have red wine junkies for friends and I can't drink the stuff as I'm allergic to the tannins. As such, I generally bring a bottle of chardonnay with me, so that I have something to drink if they didn't get one. I can't expect them to remember every little thing and I wouldn't want them to. This way, if they did remember, they get to expand the very limited white sections of their respective wine cellars. If they didn't, they can open the bottle and I'll have something alcoholic to drink, and so perhaps will other people who would also like a glass of white wine. And if they choose not to open it at all, I will happily drink whatever they have that's not red wine and I won't raise a fuss about it.

In other words, it's up to the guest to be gracious about this, not the host. The host has other things to worry about, and anyone who raises a stink about their wine not being opened is someone Emily Post should come back from the dead and bitchslap for having poor manners. If it's a gift, it's up to the recipient to use it as they will, not for the guest to tell the host what they should or should not do in their home, at their party.

Posted by: Kathy at August 14, 2007 12:13 PM

When my guests bring wine, we just shove the box in the fridge and save it for later.

Posted by: Howard at August 14, 2007 03:14 PM

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