Dinner party wine: When do you bring out the "good stuff?"

I fail miserably at this exercise nearly every time. Besides trying to appropriately (not “correctly,” :wink:) pair the vino to the food, I find that I routinely escalate the value as the evening progresses and I nearly always regret it later as it just seems backward. How do you do it?

Lock the cellar door neener

The more fun you’re having, the better stuff you’re cracking. That’s what it’s there for. Just enjoy and have no regrets.

My philosophy with good friends: crack 'em if you’ve got’em!

I usually plan the wines I’ll open ahead of time, and then when extras get opened, I limit myself to “cellar defenders”. That works well. The last thing I want to do is go digging around through the good stuff when bottles get poured out instantly and I’ve already been drinking. With groups of all wine people, all bets are off and I keep pulling bottles as I see fit. I just try not to pull out anything too crazy late at night.

I like the thinking - we get far too precious about wine, sometimes too precious to ever open it.

That said, if it is going to get a bit boozy, then I’d much rather serve better wines with food, and then fill out with a decent dessert wine for pud/cheese and afterwards easy drinkers (or spirits), as if you can’t remember drinking something fancy, it probably IS a waste.

how many bottles did you go through at your last dinner party?
pull that many bottles plus a case more (or more if you have a lot of guests) for your next one so there will be no reason to get corkscrew happy on the prized botles when you’re tipsy…


I agree with Ian

I plan to build to a crescendo of wines to appreciate, then I open some reasonable stuff for drinking after our palates are shot and people still want to drink.

I start with good, end with good and drink as much good in between.
I may wake up the next day and find bottles I did not even remember opening and just smile to myself. it’s all good.

I think this seems like a good approach.


except we’ve never actually had a party at Joe’s house and he keeps all his wine off site. So really tough to crack into his good stuff [snort.gif] [snort.gif] [snort.gif]

The major problem I have with wine get-togethers is that people bring too much wine! It’s hard to appreciate anything, let alone the good stuff, if there’s too much of it. I personally never deliberately escalate the value of wine as a dinner evening wears on. It is possible that the spirit I serve at the end is worth the most, however.

See my signature…

This pretty much.


I start off with a rough idea in my head of what I’m going to serve. As my head gets more piss soaked that idea deviates and expands. I rarely regret what I have opened the next day as all of the wines in my cellar are to drink at some stage.

My solution to this problem is having a bottle of scotch or bourbon at the ready. Works each and every time. After +/- a half dozen bottles of wine followed by the bourbon, nobody ever asks for more wine.

I think this is an excellent question and many of you missed the point. It’s not that he’s wondering whether to be generous opening good wines for company, he’s trying to understand the timing of it within a dinner party evening.

For example, maybe you have some great Bordeaux or Napa Cab that is the best wine you’re opening that evening, but because of what it is, it comes in last (or last before dessert) with the red meat course, after many wines consumed before dinner and during the early courses. People are buzzed, tired, restless, stuffed, etc. by then and it seems like somewhat of a waste. Not a waste to have shared a good bottle with company, but a waste to serve it at a late point in the evening where neither you nor your guests will fully appreciate it.

I’ve always wondered about that, myself. If I’m opening a Haut Brion or Cheval Blanc or something, and it’s a longer evening affair with appetizers before dinner, then a sequence of courses with wine pairings (that are good and suitable, but not wines of the class of Haut Brion or Cheval Blanc), would it make more sense to serve the Haut Brion with some suitable appetizers before dinner when everyone can appreciate it, then sort of restart with a cycle of lighter-to-heavier wines through the dinner courses? That actually makes more sense to me. Would anyone else do it that way?

And I agree with Doug, if there are going to be some gratuitous late night post-dinner drinking, it’s good to have picked out some good but not special wines, probably bigger styled reds, to pop at that point, so you aren’t (a) wasting time fumbling around your collection trying to find what is suitable when you should be with your guests, and/or (b) wasting great wines that won’t be appreciated.

So true. . .

That is why there is Cognac, Armagnac, Scotch, Bourbon etc…