Etiquette Q & A: Wine Gifting

The holidays are here. For most of us, that means dinner with family, friends, and co-workers. Some are for fun; some are mandatory, and others are plain old tedious energy sucking events. Regardless, it’s time to put on a smile and your best manners (because Santa is always watching).

Maneuvering the world of dinner party etiquette can be tricky, especially when it comes to wine gifting. So, today I thought we would do a little reader Q&A to address some tough situations.

 



 

My friends and I have a little dinner party group where we take turns hosting. Most of us bring wine to share, but my one friend never brings anything. She likes wine and helps drink what the others have brought, but she never contributes. I feel like she is taking advantage of us. Should I say something to her? – Marie, Utah

Marie, it must be so much fun having a rotating dinner party group! I can understand your frustration with your friend, especially if it happens every time. No one likes to feel like they are being taken advantage of. Here are a few things that you should evaluate before speaking out.

  • First, the budget may be an issue for her. It may be that she enjoys being a part of the group, but her financial situation prevents her from providing wine. This could be especially true if your group tends to drink pricier wines with dinner. She may be embarrassed to bring an inexpensive bottle. If you feel like this could be the case, you could politely mention a wine the group may like in the $10 range.
  • Secondly, if she is new(ish) to the group, she may not understand your customs. This will come with time. If others in your group agree with your feelings, perhaps during your dinner the next person to host could say “I plan to make Diablo Spaghetti. Red wine will pair with that nicely if everyone would like to bring a bottle to share.” By planning and announcing ahead of time, everyone will know expectations for the next dinner. It’s also a great way to prevent wine pairing dilemmas.
  • When she hosted dinner, did she provide wine for the entire group? If I may play devil’s advocate for a moment… she may be under the impression that the hostess provides wine for dinner. If this is the case, she is technically correct in her etiquette. (Sorry!) In most cases, beverages (including wine) are provided by the hostess. If a guest chooses to bring wine to dinner, it is considered a gift and it is up to the hostess whether or not to open the wine. Gifts are just that, gifts. Nothing should be expected in return (even sharing). Everyone is different with regards to gifting. Some people just do not participate in gift exchanges matter how hard we try.

 

I moved into my condo last month. The neighbors have invited me to dinner. I know they like wine and I want to bring wine to show my appreciation. I’m not usually a wine drinker, so I feel overwhelmed when I shop for it. How much should I spend on a bottle and how do I know if it will be good? –Shandra, Florida

Shandra, I understand how intimidating buying wine can be especially if it’s not something you are knowledgeable with. The good news is that there are wine professionals for just that reason! Even your regular run of the mill grocery store usually has at least one wine professional available. Vendors are a great reference to use. Of course, they will always recommend their brand of wine. But these salesmen want you to have a pleasant experience, so they are not going to steer you wrong.

If you are shopping for wine at your grocery store, try shopping early in the morning when the vendors are there filling their supply. Look for the person stocking the shelf and ask for their help. They are usually more than happy to assist. Have them explain the wine to you so you can pass that knowledge on to the hostess: “I’ve never tried this wine, but I’ve heard it was really good. A little dry with hints of oak, spice, and tobacco.” Sounds fancy right!

As far as how much to spend – that’s a tough question that many people ask. My best answer is to buy something on the higher end of what you can afford. Wine has a few distinct price ranges, and the taste is evident between them. The $15 – $20 range is the most common price point for a gift. This is a good price point for gifting to close friends, family, and co-workers. Wine gifts in the $25-50 price range will get you brownie points if given to your boss, client or wine snob friends. Finally, save the $100 bottle for the times when you might be in the dog house or you are meeting the in-laws for the first time!

 

My friend brought me an expensive bottle of wine back from his vacation in France. He keeps asking me if I’ve tried it, but I haven’t. Mainly because it’s not my style. I would hate to waste it if I don’t like it. I feel bad for not having drunk it yet because I know it wasn’t cheap. What should I do? –Ken, California 

Ken, you can always send it to me! I’ll drink it! (Just kidding, sorta) All joking aside, it is great that you have a friend that thought enough to bring a gift back from his vacation. Since he is asking about it, he must be excited to hear your thoughts. Why don’t you invite him to try it with you! The two of you can taste it together while he shares memories from the trip. There are two benefits of sharing the wine with your friend.

  1. Sharing is always fun. I’m sure it will be a great evening of wine and chatting. Plus, he will know the wine was opened and appreciated.
  2. If you truly don’t like the wine after you taste it, you can say, “It’s not my favorite. Tell me what you like about it so I can appreciate it from your point of view.” If he has never tried it, he may not like it either. Then the two of you can laugh about how much he paid for it and then break out a bottle of yellow tail.

 



 

I want to thank all of my readers for continuing to present me with great topics for discussion. Do you have any food or wine etiquette questions you would like to have answered? Would you have answered these questions differently? Let us know….