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In Good Taste: No 'Whine' With Dinner, Please

Library Méjannes of Aix-en-Provence/Wikimedia Commons

As the holiday season approaches, our etiquette expert is standing by, ready to answer your questions pertaining to food and how to enjoy it with others. Today Etta Kate counsels a guest who harbors leftover feelings of resentment from last Thanksgiving.

Dear Etta Kate, I presented my hosts with a very good bottle of wine last Thanksgiving, but they did not serve it. They never sent me a thank-you note for it. This year I’m invited again, but I still feel miffed and may not even attend. I'm not being too sensitive, am I?

First, please allow me to compliment you on your choice of gifts last year. Then, let me assuage your concerns about whether you did anything wrong. You did not.

However, neither did your hosts, and here is why:

A gift’s fate is always for the recipient to decide. Although it would have been completely correct for your hosts to exclaim over your gift and serve it immediately, there are a number of reasons they might not.

A host puts a lot of time, energy, thought, and expense into the menu and its preparation, and often selects wines to enhance each course in “pairings.” 

Had you brought the finest chocolates, would you expect your hosts to put aside their plans for serving crème brûlée in favor of your treats? Of course not; they probably enjoyed your gift later and toasted you with a raised glass.

If there were other guests, one lone bottle, no matter how delightful, would not serve enough people to go around. Also, your hosts might have wanted to avoid lauding your thoughtfulness if their other guests were not as well-acquainted with the rules of etiquette and, thus, had not brought such a lovely token of their esteem.

Finally, the wine you brought was a thank-you gift in advance of a wonderful dinner, so your hosts were not obligated to send you a thank-you note for it. If we must send thank-you notes for thank-you presents, where would it end? However, I do hope you wrote a note on monogrammed stationery the next day and mailed it promptly – or (in an homage to modern times) at least called to exclaim how wonderful the dinner was and how kind your hosts were to include you.

Were I you, I’d preserve my perfect track record as a guest by sending an RSVP as quickly and warmly as I could for this year’s Thanksgiving dinner. I’d suggest you rack up further appreciation points by bringing them a bottle of the same vintage they last served. Even if the menu and wines have changed this year, you can feel certain they will enjoy yours when the time feels right.

Etta Kate is the nom de plume of a business consultant who maintains anonymity to protect her clients’ privacy. If you have a question about food and dining etiquette, Etta Kate will be happy to help. You can post your messages in the comments section of this page.