You are hosting a dinner party and everything is planned everything. The invitations went out months ago, you’ve worked tirelessly on the menu and spent all day in the kitchen making sure everything is delicious. On top of that, you selected what you think are the perfect wines to go with everything you’ve prepared. But when your guests arrive for the dinner party, many of them come bearing bottles of wine, and they have that look on their faces that they’d like you to open what they’ve brought, what do you do?
The first step in diffusing this tricky situation is to be polite and thank your guests for the bottles they’ve brought. Many times these bottles could be special to those that have brought them, so the last thing you want to do is give your friends the impression you don’t appreciate the gesture or are judging their selections.
After happily accepting the wine, take a look at it and see if you think you could serve it along with what you’ve already chosen. If you’ve chosen to make a very light fish dish and were planning to serve a delicate white or red to go along with it but your guest brought a rich Zinfandel, we understand how this might throw off what you’d intended to serve for the evening. But even then, if you can find a way to serve the wine that’s been brought along with your own selection, even if it means compromising on your ideal vision of the night, you’ll come off as much more of a gracious host than if you somehow wind up offending the friend when you decide not to pour their bottle.
It’s important to remember that while for a lot of people a great wine and food pairing enhances the dining experience, for others, it doesn’t really matter all that much, which is why we always advise that you should drink what you like when you like to drink it. While you may take wine pairings very seriously, if your guests don’t and therefore don’t seem to understand why you won’t pour the wine they’ve brought simply because you feel you’ve chosen a perfect pairing, is this really a disagreement you want to get in to with friends? In this situation, even if you feel strongly, you’re the one that will wind up looking like the snob.
A better solution would be to not only open the bottle brought by your guests but also explain that you’ve selected some wines that you think go well with each dish and you’ll be serving those too. Perhaps upon having a glass of wine you’ve selected with the dish you’ve made, your guests will realize why you made such a fuss in the first place. But if they don’t, don’t take it personally or think there is something wrong with them, just enjoy yourself and the meal. At least this way your guests are getting to still enjoy the wine they brought, and you’re getting to enjoy your pairing.
If, however, all of this sounds like a huge headache, the best way to avoid the situation all together is to simply let your guests know when you invite them over that you will not only be preparing the meal, but will also be providing a wine for each course. You may also want to suggest in the invitation things they could bring besides a bottle of wine if they feel compelled to do so. While this may still not prevent your companions from bringing you a bottle, it will at least be easier for them to understand why you don’t open it once received.
In all of this just remember, by choosing to host you are committing to provide an enjoyable time for those you’ve invited over. Hosting isn’t about perfection or having a restaurant experience, it’s about going with the flow and enjoying good food and booze with friends. If things don’t work out the ideal way you’d intended, who cares? Life, food and wine are not that serious, so have fun with it!
By Adam Teeter, VinePair