Is it OK for a guest to take back a bottle of wine they brought to a dinner party if the host didn't open it?

Ask Dr Vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, but you can call me Vinny. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the fine points of etiquette to the science of winemaking. And don't worry, I'm no wine snob—you can also ask me those "dumb questions" you're too embarrased to ask your wine geek friends! I hope you find my answers educational, empowering and even amusing. And don't forget to check out my most asked questions and my full archives for all my Q&A classics.

Dear Dr. Vinny,

We recently hosted a dinner party. One of the guests brought a bottle of wine that we didn’t end up opening. They asked for the bottle back when they left and we returned it to them. Am I wrong to never want to invite them back?

—Deanna, Seattle, Wash.

Dear Deanna,

You’re correct that the concept of a host gift is that it is a gift for the host to enjoy whenever they wish, and there should never be the expectation that it be served. If a guest is bringing a bottle of wine that they expect you to open that evening, they should clear it with you before arriving, especially at a dinner party. They should have contacted you ahead of time and asked if it was OK if they helped pitch in with the wine (and worked with you to make sure it was a good fit with the menu). As a host, you also have the option of graciously declining the offer, explaining that you’ve already selected the menu and wines.

But let’s assume that this was a misunderstanding. Perhaps your guest meant to tell you that it was a special bottle that they picked out for that evening and they wanted to share it with everyone. Yes, they should have asked you privately if that would be OK, but they didn’t. The bottle they brought could also have represented what they personally like to drink (which might be something different than what you typically serve), even though presenting it as a gift to you (and then asking for it back!) isn’t a good way to handle that situation.

If you want to be a particularly good sport and invite them back, I would graciously ask them if they still have the bottle of wine, and ask them to bring it so you can enjoy it together. Because I’m a very famous cartoon wine-advice columnist, sometimes guests bring me bottles of wine and I think secretly that they want to share the wine with me to hear my opinion of the wine. So even though Miss Manners and you would point out that it’s against protocol, I usually ask the guest if they would like me to open the bottle with them. It’s just a bottle of wine, and friendships are much more valuable.

—Dr. Vinny

Ask Dr. Vinny Serving Wine

More In Dr. Vinny

Should every wine on a restaurant wine list be available?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny advises patience as the restaurant industry recovers from …

Jul 26, 2021

Will ice cubes made from alkaline water change the flavor of white wine?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains how an ice cube can change the taste of wine in …

Jul 19, 2021

What's the proper way to pour wine?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny offers pro tips for wine service.

Jul 12, 2021

Where can I find recommendations for inexpensive wines that are ready to drink now?

Wine Spectator's resident wine expert, Dr. Vinny, says that just because a wine CAN age for …

Jul 6, 2021

What’s the difference between white Bordeaux and white Burgundy?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains which grapes are grown in two of France's most …

Jun 28, 2021

What does it mean to say a wine is “dry”? And which wines are driest?

Wine Spectator's resident wine expert, Dr. Vinny, explains a commonly misunderstood wine …

Jun 21, 2021