Picture it: You are hosting an elegant dinner party and everything has been planned months ago. You meticulously prepared the perfect menu and spent all day in the kitchen ensuring everything is delicious. On top of that, you selected what you think are the perfect wines and cocktails to go with each course. Then the unthinkable happens – When your guests arrive for the dinner party, many of them come bearing bottles of wine, and they have that excited and expectant look on their faces that they would like you to open and share what they’ve brought.
What do you do?
First, be polite and thank your guests for the bottles they brought. Many times these vinos are special to those that have brought them, so the last thing you want to do is give the impression you don’t appreciate the gesture or you are judging their tastes.
After accepting the wine, take a look at it and see if it can be served with any of the courses you are serving. If you decided to prepare a light fish and serving a delicate white or red alongside it but your guest brought a rich Zinfandel, this may not be the best option and could throw off your evening. But, if you can find a way to serve the gifted wine along with your own selection, (yes, this means compromising on your ideal vision of the night), you will be perceived as much more of a gracious host than if you decide not to pour their bottle.
Remember, it’s important that while for a lot of people a great wine and food pairing enhances the dining experience, for others, it doesn’t really matter. We always advise that you drink what you like when you like to drink it. Even if you take wine pairings seriously, if your guests don’t and therefore don’t seem to understand why you don’t pour the wine they have brought simply because of your opinion, is this really a disagreement you want to get in to with friends? Even if you feel strongly in this situation, you’re the one that will wind up looking like the ungracious host.
We suggest to not only open the bottle provided by your guests but also explain your selection and how you think each course will be paired. Perhaps upon having a glass of the wine you’ve selected with the paired course, your guests will understand why you made such a decision. But if they don’t, don’t take it personally or think there is something wrong with them, just enjoy yourself and the meal. This way your guests are enjoying the wine they brought, and you are enjoying your pairing (with more wine for you!).
However, if this all sounds like more of a headache than it is worth to you, avoid the situation all together by simply informing your guests when you invite them over that you will not only be preparing the meal, but will also be providing a wine pairing for each course. You may consider suggesting in the invitation items they could bring aside from a bottle of wine. While this still may not prevent your guests from bringing a bottle of their favorite wine, they will understand why you don’t open and serve it.
Above all remember, by being host you are committed to providing an enjoyable party for your invited guests. Hosting isn’t about perfection or having a restaurant quality experience, it’s about going with the flow and enjoying good food and booze with friends. If things don’t go as planned, who cares? Food and wine do not have to be that serious, so have fun with it!