With the holiday season approaching, I have been thinking about this question more and more. What do you do when a well-meaning guest, knowing that you enjoy wine (but who knows nothing about wine themselves), brings a bottle to a gathering you are hosting. The only problem is, what they bring is not good. Something from the middle shelf at the grocery store, perhaps. Something that, to the uninitiated, might look like “good wine,” but in reality it’s not even a decent grocery store pick, and it’s practically undrinkable.
I admit this is less of a concern at a larger gathering where several bottles will be opened - but at a gathering of say 4 people, you might only open 2 bottles (depending on the company, of course!), and opening the bottle the guest brought is the polite thing to do.
How do you handle such a situation? Do you thank them and open the bottle with dinner? Do you find new friends? Or maybe I am overthinking this. I’m inclined to just thank them and drink what they brought whilst silently longing for one of the much better bottles in my collection.
I’ve opened it immediately and share a glass. Selfishly I usually bring bottles to hosts of something I would want to drink so I assume the same. Good way of making sure it’s gone by the end of the evening and it implicitly gives them permission to help themselves to another glass for the rest of the night.
I am always a believer that there is no need to open a gift bottle, whether I am receiving a bottle or giving it. Just thank them for the gift and then you can decide what to do with the bottle after they leave.
If pressed, I just explain to guests that I had a wine plan for the evening and will be sure to enjoy the bottle another night.
Be gracious and thank them for the gift. Ask if they would like it for dinner or would they want the wine you have prepared for dinner. I get lots of wines like that from friends and keep it for cooking. My friends usually prefer beer anyways!
Yes, this. There is no etiquette which requires opening a gift bottle when presented. Nor would I expect a bottle I brought as a gift to be opened, unless we’d discussed that I’d contribute a/the wine.
You are not under any obligation to open their bottle. It is a gift. Thank them for it and proceed with your wine plan. The one caveat I would have is if the guests make a big deal about wanting you to try the wine, then I will open it, try it, and then set it aside and continue with your wine plan.
At my house, I use the gift whites for cooking and I generally open the gift reds for my sister-in-law, who will drink anything red.
You thank them for their thoughtfulness. Knowing you like wine, they’ve gone and bought what they believe to be a good bottle of wine. It’s a kind and thoughtful gesture. That they could not begin to understand what you spend on wine is not a poor reflection on them. Let them know you look forward to trying it in the future and thinking well of them when you do. And then open something lovely to share with them, as you are their host and they should not have to provide for the host.
Then give it to a friend who is hosting a party later and isn’t a big wine nerd but wants some hooch to have out for friends. Cook with it if you must. Use it for a comparative tasting with your kids so they can learn. Do whatever you want with it once it’s yours.
But never, ever, make someone feel small or foolish when they’ve tried to do something thoughtful and kind for you.
I may go to a dinner at another couple’s home. I know they are not wine obsessive like me. I bring a solid $40 bottle. They serve me plonk. My wife watches me fidget and gently pats my knee under the table —- “it’s gonna be all right baby.”
I hope they open my bottle in a few days and see its finer points. Maybe prompt them to explore.
I think your issue is in thinking that for 4 people you’re only going to open two bottles. I would typically have 2 or 3 bottles open before anyone even arrives to give everyone options and then we may open a 4th depending on what someone brings. So there’s always going to be plenty of options to drink something good.
I just had this happen last week. We had 4 guests over for dinner. Both of them brought a bottle of wine; neither one I wanted to drink. But I already had two bottles open before they arrived.
I generally agree, but statements made by the gifter can change things. If they brought a specific wine that they read or heard from the store would go great with something you are eating (as in, they were hoping to impress by bringing a wine fit perfectly for the occasion), it would be a bit rude not to include it in the festivities at least as an option.
I agree that, under Amy Vanderbilt/Miss Manners rules, there’s no obligation to open a gift bottle. But I’m not sure that the whole world understands or lives by those, so there is some risk of offense – particularly if there’s a reason to think the person brought it to be opened (maybe because he/she knows you’re a wine nerd). For example, if they hold the bottle out when they arrive and say, “Gee, I thought it would fun to try this,” I would not stash it away for another day.
So, I’d say whether you open it or now depends a little on the context.
(Footnote: Twenty years ago a friend brought a wine-loving friend to a dinner party at my place. He brought a Nicolas Joly Savennieres. We didn’t need another white, so I stashed it away. My friend told me later that her friend was really pissed and thought I’d snagged an expensive bottle for myself. I still have it. It’s a 2002. Guess I should open it!)
I always offer to provide a wine for the guests based on how much they want to spend. Not many turn down the offer that way they don’t have to go to Total Wine or a corner liquor store 20 minutes prior to arriving at the event.