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Gorgeous and ghastly gift bottles from guests: How to serve them

Oh, the minefield of bringing wine to a party and the decisions around receiving it as the host. Coming empty-handed as a guest is not an option and putting gift bottles to one side as the host is not a friendly look though either. What are we to do? Here’s your Clos19 guide to guest bottle etiquette… on both sides.

Dear host...

You’re being a generous, caring host who has planned every detail down to matching napkins to the bottle labels. The wine and food combinations are perfect, you’ve decanted the reds in time and the whites are chilled to perfection. Then the guests arrive; they know you know your wine and they’ve taken time to choose something special for the dinner. You can tell they’ve spent more than they normally do too and are eager for you to approve their choices and open them up. The thing is, you’ve got more than enough open already and seriously, Soave is not the best match for your beef wellington. What to do?

Be the host with the most

You have a choice here: put the wine aside for a ‘later’ that everyone suspects will never come and you risk offending your guest. Instead, be generous: praise the choice for any reason or six you can find and open it anyway once it’s the right temperature. As long as you show your own wine and food match first, have the guest’s wine sits alongside so they can taste both and make their own decisions. If it really won’t go with anything you’re serving however, find a way round it with snacks or cheese that you may have in the house and serve as an extra course in the most appropriate place. Wine is a pleasure made for sharing after all, and making your guests feel at home is your number one priority.

For the guest…

This is a tricky one. You want to bring something seriously good to dinner, but if you do that, you really would like to taste it. What if they just put it in a cupboard or what if it doesn’t go with the food? There’s a simple way around this dilemma though and the onus is on you! How? Always call your host beforehand, asking what’s on the menu so you can find a wine that will go with the food. That way, your host will know you’re bringing a bottle and will prepare their own wines accordingly. Do some simple research on wine styles to match your host’s food choices or simply ask them for advice. It’s not cheating; it’s a relief! And everybody wins.

Remember, communication is everything. If a guest asks what they can bring, tell them. And if someone still turns up with something frightful, then perhaps your choices will show them the way...