Your Guide To Dinner Party Wine Etiquette

If you’ve ever been unsure about proper etiquette for giving and receiving wine at a dinner party you need to read this. Seriously, before Thanksgiving! As the host and the guest the “rules” are different, so we’ll spell it out, once and for all!

You channeled your inner Martha leading into this so you already have your dishes and their respective wines paired.

First of all, we applaud you! Second of all, we’re assuming all of your dinner picks are ready to be served (chilled/decanted) so as soon as your guests arrive you can breeze a glass into their hands as you take their coats. Now, if your guest’s, Mom taught them anything, it’s to never show up to a dinner party empty handed. So, opening a bottle of something your friends brought (even if you didn’t ask them to, or told them “don’t bring anything”) may feel like the polite move, but the understanding here is that the wine is for you to enjoy a later date. Don’t feel pressured to open anything anyone rolls up with, no matter how fancy it might be!

Now there is always an instance for exceptions. So, if you want to open the bottle your guests brought, go for it. If they hand you a bottle of chilled white or a something they eagerly say will “pair great with dinner”, use your discretion. If you’re the guest, we strongly advise against pushing (even gently) for the wine to be opened that night as it puts unnecessary pressure on your hosts!

Tip: if friends gift you a bottle at a dinner, make a note on the bottle with a wine glass writer noting who gave it to you. You can thank them later when you do enjoy it! Or, thank us later when you don’t re-gift them the bottle they gave you!

You’re picky when it comes to wine but your hosts aren’t…

Sadly, if you’re fan of Bordeaux and they serve Yellowtail, just grin and bear it. Don’t make your hosts uncomfortable by making negative comments about it. Find something you can positively comment on and leave it at that. More often than not your hosts will also have beer or mixed drinks, so if those feel like a safer bet, opt for them. Also bear in mind that a little food can help improve the wine.

We can’t stress this enough: there are no circumstances where it’s ever acceptable for you to try and take the bottle you showed up with. It doesn’t matter if it was unique, expensive or just something you really wanted to try, it belongs to your hosts now! If they didn’t open it, tough luck!

Your hosts are picky when it comes to wine but you aren’t…

Totally clueless when it comes to wine but you want to bring a bottle to thank your wine-loving hosts? Your best bet is to head to a shop (ahem, one like ours) that can get someone to help you pick a great bottle. Don’t feel like you need to break the bank either, there is a tremendous amount of affordable wine out there to pick from. Ask whoever is helping you for a neat tidbit about the grape or the wine and head off confidently to your evening! If you’re at dinner sipping a wine that your hosts are raving about and you don’t really “get it”, say something like, “it has great balance” and you’ll sound like a pro!

Tip: if you’re heading to a party with a spouse/partner or to a large party you can always bring more than one bottle!

When it comes to dinner parties, just remember to be nice, be useful and bring wine!

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Selena Gaudet
Selena Gaudet

Wine & Spirits Contributor | Social Stylist at VineStyles