Wine Etiquette 101: Must You Serve the Bottle a Guest Brings?

Showing up to a dinner party with wine can cause an etiquette conundrum for the host.

For those who aren't skilled bakers or appetizer-innovators, a bottle of wine may seem like an obvious choice for a hostess gift. For starters, it's great in a pinch—you can pick it up on the way to the party. But more importantly, it's something we'd be happy to receive for ourselves: Who doesn't love having an extra bottle lying around for the occasional weeknight wind-down? That said, showing up to a dinner party with a bottle of wine can cause quite the etiquette conundrum for your host. Here's how to avoid any awkwardness, whether attending or hosting the party.

Woman holding bouquet and wine bottle while visiting friends
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Dinner Party Etiquette

How To Know When To Bring Wine?

Unless your host has explicitly asked you to bring a bottle of wine to his dinner party, likely, he has already selected wines that will pair nicely with the meal. While most hosts would not view bringing wine as an affront to their dinner-party-throwing abilities, it's best to make your intentions clear that the wine is a "thank you" gift rather than something to serve with the dinner they've thoughtfully planned and prepared.

How To Make the Wine Appear as a Gift?

To help make your point that a bottle of wine is intended as a gift, hand it to the host and say something like, "Thank you for having me! I hope you can enjoy this soon." This gesture relieves pressure on the host when deciding whether you were hoping to enjoy the wine that evening or not. It also helps to present the bottle of wine as a gift, wrapped in a wine bag or even with a simple bow and "thank you" note.

How Should a Host Receive Wine as a Gift?

Your main priority as a host is to make your guests feel at ease from the moment they step into your home. If your guest shows up with a bottle of wine and doesn't offer any instruction, it's best to say thank you and then ask if she'd like you to serve it with dinner. This way, your guest has an opportunity to confirm that it is a hostess gift and that the wine, at your discretion, can either be uncorked that evening or stowed away as you please.

What if Your Guest Surprises You With Their Wine Requests?

Should your guest not be schooled in proper wine etiquette and request that you serve her bottle with dinner, accept it graciously, and offer it to your guests as an option during the meal, whether it pairs nicely with the salmon or not. Of course, try not to indicate that your guest has acted improperly because the most well-mannered people never point out the poor manners of others.

How Else Can You Express Gratitude as a Party Guest?

Bringing a thoughtful hostess gift and having pitch-perfect table manners make for a gracious guest. But the best guests know the most important party trick in the book: When to leave.

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