The Undrunk Wine (Is It A Hostess Gift Or Not?)

by admin on August 23, 2010

A while back, we had an informal dinner party at our house and invited several friends.  We provided all the food and drink.  My invitation had said, “We had a fully-stocked bar, as you know, but if there’s anything in particular you like to drink that we may not have, please bring it.

One couple brought a bottle of wine and handed it to me ceremoniously as they came in the door.  Because I knew they weren’t wine drinkers (he’s much more of a rum guy, and she rarely drinks at all), I assumed it was a gift for the hosts.

Apparently not.  At the end of the evening, the husband noticed that the bottle hadn’t been opened and said, “Hey, since no-one drank that, we’ll just take it home again.”  I couldn’t believe my ears and thought that either he was joking or that I’d mis-heard.  Nope – he was on his way out the door and said, “Where’s that wine?”  I handed it to him without a word.   1101-08

The confusion here starts with the suggestion that guests “bring your own booze” (known here in the US as BYOB).  It may have been their offering for the dinner party bar to be drunk by other guests and when it was not opened, they took back possession of their own booze.  The fact that the husband wanted the wine back indicates he has some further use intended for it which may include drinking it.

Had you not suggested that guests BYOB and the bottle was given to you as described, then I would presume it to be a hostess gift which you are free to use for the function or save for later consumption.

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

The Big Gripe August 23, 2010 at 9:33 am

I have to disagree with the verdict on this one. It was the guest’s responsibility to announce his intentions about the wine when he arrived. He should either have said a) “I thought the other guests might enjoy this,” or b) “We brought you a little something.” Regardless, if the wine was not drunk at the party, he should have assumed the host or hostess thought it was a gift, and not asked for it back.

– bossgripes.com

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Abby August 23, 2010 at 10:02 am

I agree. Sounds like he was bringing it to contribute to your alcohol supply for the party, and when no one took any, decided to take it back. He probably will bring it along for the next party he attends.

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Mom2PBJ August 23, 2010 at 10:24 am

I would say the wine was not a hostess gift. The invitation stated to bring something that they would like to drink. The couple did, it wasn’t opened, so they took it back home to, probably to drink it there. If it had been opened and drank out of, then they most likely wouldn’t have asked for the bottle back.

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RP August 23, 2010 at 1:20 pm

I suppose the guests in question took the “We had a fully-stocked bar” to mean that it was OK to keep anything they brought that didn’t get used.

That said, it is odd that they brought something that they weren’t going to drink themselves. The OP did indicate that they have a fully stocked bar and said to bring something if you wanted to have something “in particular”. It doesn’t make sense that they brought something that they themselves didn’t want. It was clear that it wasn’t necessary to bring anything for the party at large.

I can see how the OP thought it was a gift but I’d chalk this instance up to confusion.

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SHOEGAL August 23, 2010 at 1:38 pm

The fact they never indicated that they would like to drink it at any point in the evening is what is throwing this whole thing off – and “ceremoniously” giving it at the door would have caused me to thank them for it. I would have also assumed this was a hostess gift. The thing is at some point they would have been asked what they wanted to drink. They could have easily said, “the wine we brought” without feeling funny about it because the invitation indicated it was perfectly fine to bring your own. I am assuming they drank something else all evening so again – this would have told me it was a hostess gift.

Sometimes we invite friends over for an evening very casually and occasionally someone will bring wine – should that bottle be opened right away, is it okay to drink it then so the person who brought it gets to have some too (supposing that it is a “gift”) – or should it be put aside to use at another time or doesn’t it matter.

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RM August 23, 2010 at 1:47 pm

I think a gracious person would have left the wine as a hostess gift OR asked to have the wine opened and had that to drink instead of drinking form the hostess’ supply.

In this instance, the guests were just ‘takers’. While they may have technically not broken any etiquette rules, I think it’s a shame that they didn’t act more generously. I hope they reciprocate this invitation soon.

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Simone August 23, 2010 at 4:09 pm

My friends and I all enjoy wine. If we host a dinner party I’ll do the same as you and invite them to bring anything they particularly enjoy. Then when offering a drink I usually say “We have your SSB (or whatever it happens to be) or I have…” and let them choose. They will usually choose whatever I have because it gives them a chance to try something new. Then, if their bottle isn’t subsequently opened over the course of the evening they leave it…gives ME a chance to try something new.

However I do always ask if they would like it back, since I did specify to bring alcohol if they chose, and it wasn’t consumed, technically it’s not a gift. Very occassionally they’ll say “That was a bottle I really wanted to try WITH you, so we’ll have to open it next time I’m over” (which we do) but I’ve never had anyone actually take it home.

So I guess he’s within his rights to take it back, but it’s not very gracious or generous. I wouldn’t expect a reciprocal invitation any time soon.

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Kimmy August 23, 2010 at 6:02 pm

When I was younger, I had a dinner party with friends. One of my friends brought a bottle of wine, and we all had a glass and there was a bit left over. She took the leftover opened wine home with her. I thought that was incredibly tacky!

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Sharon August 23, 2010 at 8:06 pm

It is confusing that they brought something that they did not drink. Especially in the light that the host specifically said in the invites that if someone wanted a particular drink to bring it “just in case” the host did not have that drink.
But, it is just one of those misunderstandings that happen when more than one human being is involved.
It did not cost anyone any extra money, and hopefully it did not cause anyone to be embarassed in front of others.
It would have been nice if the guests had left the wine for their hosts, but they didn’t and that should not be an invite to ehell.

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jenna August 23, 2010 at 9:35 pm

I also would have assumed it was a hostess gift, but when asked for it back, I would have given it. I would have though “Hmm. OK. That’s just…odd and a bit cheap” but it’s easier to just give back the wine than start a drama over it.

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Michellep August 24, 2010 at 3:10 am

I’m with admin on this one; seems more like just a casual misunderstanding. However, I wouldn’t bring anything to a host’s home and then take it back, unopened or not. I’ll never forget when my husband threw a Super Bowl party; a guy came with a bowl of dessert. I don’t remember what it was, but at least half of it was gone when the party was over, and he asked me to cover it so he could take it home. I didn’t say a word, but I was surprised. Isn’t that tacky?

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Mojo August 24, 2010 at 5:19 am

I’d consider this thoughtless, rather than rude. If they really can’t drink anything else, then they would have consumed the wine during the evening. They didn’t, they drank what was already there. So it’s reasonable to think they brought the wine as a contribution to the party. That contribution should be left with the hosts, whether it was a specific ‘hostess gift’ or not.

Did they bring it as back-up, just in case they didn’t like what the hostess provided? Then it would be thoughtless to present it at the door. It would suggest “Hi, glad we could make it. I heard you chose the wine, so we brought good stuff, just in case.” Would you tell your host you’d brought sandwiches, just in case his cooking was off?

Certainly, if I take a bottle to a party, and I consume the host’s food and drink, I wouldn’t think of taking back the wine at the end of the evening. If you hand it to the host, it stays with the host.

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Enna August 24, 2010 at 4:02 pm

if he is a rum drinkiner why not bring rum? He should have brought something to be opened at the party asking for it back is just cheap. Very cheap. The OP did agree to provide drinks but if the perosn felt they needed to bring stuff why? Esp wine they don’t normally dirnk!

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Caro August 25, 2010 at 4:57 am

My husband and I always take a bottle of nice dinner wine with us whenever we are invited to dinner at a friend’s place. On one occasion when we did this, our host took the very nice (and quite expensive) bottle of wine and placed it in their wine cabinet. The host then proceeded to bring out a somewhat less nice and very cheap bottle of wine for dinner. I piped up and asked him to serve the nice wine we had brought because we were meant to be celebrating together as friends… To which the host got rather grumpy! I guess the wine etiquette is complex, however I would always assume that to take a bottle of wine to a person’s house is an offer of a gift whether the intention is to drink the wine at the function or not.

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Jillybean August 25, 2010 at 10:47 am

@Caro – perhaps the bottle they brought out was something they very much enjoy and had planned for dinner to share with you. They invited you to dinner, which implies that they provide dinner, and can serve the wine of their choice. You brought them a gift, which they are under no obligation to serve at the dinner they have already planned. I must say, I’d be grumpy too if you asked me to serve the “nice wine” you brought since we were “meant to be celebrating as friends” – because quite frankly, you are implying (to me, and likely to him), that you couldn’t possibly really celebrate with their cheap, inferior wine. Not very polite or gracious of you.

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Jan74 August 25, 2010 at 7:01 pm

I agree with Jillybean. A hostess gift is not the same as a contribution to the meal. A gift is for a hostess to do as she pleases.

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Caro August 26, 2010 at 6:41 am

The wine we brought was a clearly a contribution to the meal in a “you provide the food, we’ll provide the wine” agreement, I should have made that clear from the start I guess. I can also assure you that I didn’t just say “hey man, take this crap away and bring out the good stuff”, I was really paraphrasing here for sake of being pithy, but the subject was approached in a ‘we brought the wine to compliment the meal as agreed’ way. I do think that if there is a clear agreement that one party is providing the wine specifically for a dinner party, that is the wine that should be served, rather than a cheap substitute.

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Jillybean August 26, 2010 at 1:59 pm

Caro – agreed. The information that it was mutually agreed that you were to supply the wine to compliment the meal makes all the difference in the world to your story, so yes, that was definitely not a piece of info to leave out. :-)

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lbarton August 26, 2010 at 9:32 pm

Sounds like a cheapskate to me… the world’s full of them. I hope he goes to etiquette hell, where he is invited to parties and divested of his wine for eternity.

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Bee September 9, 2010 at 6:29 pm

While it wasn’t alcohol, it does remind me of a time my aunt and uncle came to visit when I was a kid.

They’re your classic “moochers”. They would spring “surprise” visits on us for weeks at a time when my uncle had no work, therefore no money, bring the four kids and expect hospitality at short notice. They didn’t even bring a cot for their baby, so luckily my parents still had an old cot from when I was a baby – about fifteen years previous! No idea what they would have done if we didn’t have that.

My mother always did her best to accommodate an extra six people, but neither my aunt or uncle would lift a finger to help, or buy any groceries. Mum snapped one day and told Dad (as it was his brother) that he needed to sort it out. So the surprise visits stopped for a while.

Then one weekend, they arrived with a 20kg bag of potatoes. Why potatoes? Your guess is as good as mine. The potatoes were put in the corner of the kitchen, as their only contribution to the stay. Again, no offer of help or groceries from my aunt or uncle, apparently the potatoes were going to cover their stay. Even with ten people in the house, Mum probably only used a dozen or so of the potatoes, so when the visit was over, the potatoes were packed back into their truck and taken home again.

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Gee September 21, 2010 at 4:33 pm

In any case other than a clear hostess gift (with some sort of wrapping or definitive offering): unless the hostess says at the end of the night “Hey- we never opened your wine and we probably won’t drink red, so you guys are welcome to take it back home- thanks for bringing it though!” or something along those lines, then the guest should keep his/her mouth shut! The guest just enjoyed a meal, cooked and paid for, along with alcoholic beverages… they can contribute a $10-$15 bottle of wine without stingily taking it back! It’s the price of hospitality. Actually, no matter what anyone says, I always bring SOMETHING to the host/esse’s home. The price of wine, compared with what it would have cost to go out that evening or even cook at home, is a deal!

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Allie October 17, 2010 at 7:10 am

As the hostess, at some point in the party, I’d pipe up with something along the lines of, ‘Oh Tom, you brought that lovely bottle of X; shall we open it?’

As the guest, I’d never dream of reclaiming a bottle!

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