As a matter of politeness (or etiquette), what is the right thing to do when a guest rings the doorbell with a bottle of wine? Here are our best tips, and the faux-pas to avoid.
"I'll bring the wine back!". An innocent response to an invitation to dinner, this is a proposal that can unfortunately turn into a drama. Indeed, the choice of bottle and the attitude to adopt say a lot about the relationship you have with your guest, but also about your ability to navigate in troubled waters. There are several possible scenarios, each of which requires an appropriate response.
What to do if your guest brings back bad wine?
Being recognised by your friends as a wine connoisseur can, at best, impress them and, at worst, make them feel less responsible. They will therefore have an unfortunate tendency to try to win you over with a prestigious label, or on the contrary to play the "screwed for screwed" card, knowing full well that you will undoubtedly have enough to keep them well fed throughout the evening, and that their bottle will undoubtedly end up in the trash. As a result, it is not uncommon to have a sort of "cellar of shame" at home, with a collection of piquettes and picrates offered by unscrupulous guests - if you decide to offer them at a party where the bottle will be less important than the intoxication, be careful not to bring back the one that was left to you last month by the host in question!
How to react to your guest's bottle?
Depending on the wine, there are several tips that can help you avoid opening the bottle of discord.
If it is an obviously tannic red wine - recognisable by its dark colour, its origin and the number of degrees on the label - look admiring, say the vintage out loud with enthusiasm, then frown and say that it would be a shame to open such a bottle so young, and that this vintage deserves at least a few more years of ageing. The clever ones might even suggest to their guests that they come back for dinner in the spring of 2027, when the wine will have reached its peak. Another alternative is to bet on the relevance of the food-wine pairing, by saying that it would be a shame to start with such a powerful vintage, at the risk of saturating the palate prematurely.
For champagne or white wine, on the other hand, the above-mentioned argument may seem suspicious, so you will have to find another way around it: the temperature. Too hot or too cold, it doesn't matter. Place the bottle against your cheek, flinch discreetly, and offer to put it aside to cool or warm up. Make sure you choose a place where it won't be remembered by your guests during the evening, put out a few bottles in advance, and "forget about it" until further notice.
As a last resort, there is always the generous option of opening a sufficient number of bottles from your own cellar in advance, so that you can reasonably justify not opening your guest's cellar, for obvious reasons of moderation.
So, to the question "Is it compulsory to open a guest's bottle?", the answer is now no, since you have in your hands some precious advice to avoid having to drink a bad wine out of pure politeness. And if, after reading this, you suddenly realise that you have been the innocent victim of one of these tricks, take the time to read these tips to avoid any faux pas when you are - perhaps - invited back for dinner.