Question: I brought a bottle of pinot noir I’d been saving for a special occasion to a dinner party, which the host promptly placed on his wine rack. The wines he served instead weren’t as nice. Could I have insisted that he open my wine?
If Miss Manners taught me anything besides how to properly stir tea – north, south, gently from 12 o’clock to six o’clock – it’s that the host gift belongs to the host or hostess. It’s a token of gratitude for the invitation and hospitality.
When you bring a bottle of wine to a dinner party, decorum suggests it’s up to the host to decide whether to open it. They may have already selected wines for the meal.
Nevertheless, this remains a common conundrum for wine lovers. You bring a special bottle you’d hope to share with company and end up gritting your teeth as you sip a joyless glass of plonk instead.
I have heard of people who bring a chilled bottle of white or sparkling as a sign of intent.
A friend from Ottawa recalls being at a dinner party where a guest turned up with his bottle of red wine already decanted, potentially running afoul of open container laws in transit.
Certainly that’s one surefire way to ensure your bottle gets opened, but I sought out advice from one of the leaders of hospitality in Canadian wine to find out a more tactful manner of influencing your host’s decision.
Debi Pratt worked alongside Donald Ziraldo and Karl Kaiser at Inniskillin Wines and largely influenced sales, marketing and public relations practices for the Ontario and Canadian wine industries. Her 40-plus years of achievement in the wine industry earned her the 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce in October.
“I love this scenario as we have all had it happen to us,” explains Pratt, who retired in 2014, having served in senior marketing and public relations roles with Inniskillin Wines, then Vincor and Constellation Brands.
“If it’s a special white that I bring, I always say, ‘Let’s get this chilled so we can all enjoy a wine that I think is very special and one of my favourites. Will love to hear what you think?’”
Pratt suggests taking a similar approach. When you arrive with your particular bottle, she advises explaining to your host, “I’m looking forward to sharing this wine with you and your guests tonight. I chose it specifically because I thought everyone would enjoy it and I have an interesting story that I will share as we taste it.”
Opening the wine will still be at your host’s discretion, but at least you’ve made your case.