Wine Etiquette: What To Do When Your Wine Does Not Fit The Theme

At The Wine rack

with Christopher Reckord

Thursday, April 05, 2018

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I was recently invited to host a wine-tasting session overseas as one of the activities for a birthday celebration. With over 200 guests slated to be in attendance, I had to create a micro-event within a bigger event that would not bore people and cycle through many groups very quickly. Fortunately, I was given two months' notice so I had sufficient time to research and experiment on how to pull this off.

Tasting theme

After cycling through all the usual party themes of Vertical Wine tasting (same wine, different vintages) or Horizontal Wine tastings (same vintages, different wines) and many more variations I settled on presenting Old World vs New World. The key reason for this decision was that I could only choose wines that were on the venue's limited wine list. I titled the theme of the tasting Old World vs New World: A Very Quick Study of the Burgundy Varietals. We were doing a side-by-side tasting of Chardonnay & Pinot Noir wines from France and from California. The idea was to first present a few facts about each wine followed by the tasting.

Special request

A few days before the event, after sending all the information on the theme including the wine list and a four-glass tasting sheet, I received a 'special request' to create an additional space for a fifth wine! I asked which wine it was and the information conveyed suggested that it was a port-like dessert wine from Australia. How did a Stickie (what Aussies call dessert wines) get to be part of the tasting? It turned out that the winery owner is a friend of the celebrant who will be visiting the winery later this year, so the event organisers thought it would be a nice touch. After some careful thought on how to respond correctly and diplomatically, the decision was eventually taken to include that dessert wine, but at the very end of the tasting to not affect the theme or running order. NB. It's not always this simple!

Bringing wine as a gift — for the host/hostess or for consumption?

When I first “got into” this wine world while still living in the USA, I was invited to dinner at a fellow wine lover's home. I accepted the invite and brought a very special wine as a gift. It was my expectation that the bottle of wine would be opened that very evening. On arrival at the home I was surprised by the very generic entry-level wines I saw on the table. To my further horror, the wine I brought was eagerly accepted and hurriedly taken away to be placed where they kept their special bottles. Sadly, this situation happened to me a few times since and the main lesson learnt is to seek crystal-clear communication — if you want to open one of your special bottles, call and plan it ahead of time to make absolutely sure that everyone is on the same page; make no assumptions.

I have been on the receiving end of some amazing bottles of wine and in the past I said thanks and packed it away. Now, I accept the gift and then ask if they want us to open it immediately, even if you know it does not complement the fare or the evening's theme.

I now gift great bottles with no expectation that they will be opened, unless it is decided ahead of time.

Christopher Reckord - Information Technology Entrepreneur & Wine Enthusiast. Send your questions and comments to You can also follow me on Facebook, Instagram @chrisreckord and on Twitter: @Reckord

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