Here is the twelfth in our weekly series of Another Wine Bytes; information about wine you can use to impress your friends (but not in an obnoxious way, of course!)
Should I Give a Bottle of Wine?
I received an e-mail notification that someone had replied to a comment I’d made on another wine blog. Often these comments are made by people promoting their own product sites with a link following a short sentence. When we get these and they are totally unrelated to wine, wine travel or food we file them under “spam” and delete them. But in following the spam I also read another comment that I found interesting:
Only the pickiest wine drinker wouldn’t appreciate a careful and thoughtful effort to find a delightful gift bottle… even if it’s as basic as someone’s favorite varietal or region. It shows you care and you made an effort, even if the bottle turns out to be a stinker… It’s all about sentiment.
And if you don’t know what your intended recipient really likes, head to your local wine shop and ask the proprietor for something great that’s really off-the-map… maybe a rare varietal, or a bottle that’s flying way under the radar. Learn the story behind the bottle and include a note explaining why you thought they’d like it.
It’s the thought that counts, after all. Every bottle tastes good when you’re drinking it with those you love. ~ Holiday Gifts for Wine Lovers from Vinography.com
While certainly a nice sentiment, it is simply not true that the sentiment is all that counts–especially when it comes to wine. If one of my friends with less wine savvy went to our local wine retailer and asked the more arrogant vocal “wine guy” for a gift suggestion, he would probably end up selling her whatever he needed to move that weekend. I know this because I’ve seen him do it. And what he suggests is quite often not all that good.
On the other hand, my brother does a great job of buying us wine. That’s because he usually calls for wine buying advice for others, and I will tell him exactly which wines we’ve had, which are over-priced for the quality and those that would be best left as the “secret ingredient” for barbecue sauce versus putting in a glass.
So, when it comes to wine, it’s not just the “thought” that counts. In fact, if you don’t know that much about wine, perhaps a wine-related gift, rather than a bottle of wine, would be a much better choice.
But the comments also got me to thinking about other facets of wine gifting. Should you take a bottle of wine when invited to dinner? Should a host or hostess be expected to open the wine? And what about “re-gifting” wine?
AWB #12 – Wine Giving Etiquette
Memorial Day weekend means Summer is almost here. And with Summer comes pool parties, backyard barbecues, and plenty of opportunities to give and receive wine. Since most of our friends know we like wine, drink lots of wine, and write about wine, they usually expect us to either recommend or bring a bottle.
Then there is the friend that brings the bottle. One New Year’s Eve we hosted part of a progressive dinner — I think ours was the “desserts” portion. One of the guests showed up with the cutest wine box — those artsy things you find at World Market or Tuesday Mornings. Once the wine is gone I find they are the perfect place to store dried spaghetti or fettuccine pasta. Anyway, as we were all leaving to head to the final spot for champagne at midnight, the guy who brought the wine walks over to the counter, puts a cork in the wine he’d brought, put it back in the little carrier — and took it with him. At first we thought he was just bringing it to the next stop. But the wine never re-appeared. I thought that was a little tacky. It’s not like it was even expensive wine!
But there are a few guidelines we’d like to share.
Should I Bring a Bottle of Wine?
Unless you’re going to a pot luck dinner, you’re not expected to bring anything along to share. It’s best not to bring any uninvited food. To me, it’s almost an insult to the host or hostess when you do. But you can always ask your host if he’d like for you to bring some wine to go with the meal. And then ask about the menu, so whatever you bring actually goes with the food. You don’t want to bring a big Napa Cab if tilapia is on the menu.
Should I Expect the Hostess to Open the Wine?
If your hostess has accepted your offer to bring wine to go along with the dinner, then you can probably expect her to open it. If on the other hand, you’ve purchased a special gift for your hostess, how do you make sure she actually gets to enjoy the wine? This is a tough call for your hostess as well. Perhaps she looks lustfully at the bottle, and would prefer to enjoy it later after the guests are gone? There are a couple ways you can give her the option of enjoying it later.
First, you could bring two bottles — one for now and one for later. Or, you could also ask, “shall we open it now, or would you like to save it for later?” That gives her the option of keeping it for herself without looking stingy. If it’s an extra special bottle that you searched high and low to find — how do you make sure that her cheap Uncle Fester doesn’t guzzle it all as soon as you remove the cork?
We found a great suggestion in a story on SFGate.com: Take the wine in an elaborately wrapped package; either in a fancy wine bag or box, or simply some pretty paper. Says Harry James Desmet-Bacon, a wine consultant at Beltramo’s Wine and Spirits in Menlo Park, “An elaborately wrapped bottle of wine is usually code for: This is a gift, save it for later.”
Can I Re-Gift a Bottle of Wine?
Re-gifting wine can be pretty tricky. Some are of the notion that it’s a really bad idea, because wine tends to deteriorate with age if it’s a white or is not properly stored. And often gift wine just isn’t that good. We rarely re-gift wine, but there are a couple of exceptions: If you’re familiar with the wine and it’s really good–you may simply want to share the experience with others. Or if you received several bottles of the same wine as a gift — then re-gifting a bottle is perfectly okay, as long as you know it’s good, and you’re not re-gifting it to someone hosting a party where the original giver is there.
Can I Take Home the Leftover Wine?
In a word – No. You’re not going to a fraternity party where you’re expected to bring your own beer. If you bring a bottle of wine with you to a party, expect to leave it there. Unless the host says something like — “I cannot possibly drink all of this wine, here take a bottle with you” — don’t reach for one to take home.
So, in summary, if you don’t know wine, choose another gift for a wine lover. Ask before bringing wine to a dinner party. And if the wine is a gift, wrap it up — so the host will know it’s meant only for him. And if you bring a bottle of wine to a party, leave the open bottle for the host.
And that’s this week’s Another Wine Byte. For a little musical interlude from a great Texas Band, check out the video below from The Fabulous Thunderbirds!