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A Question of Etiquette

A funny thing happened to me recenty, and I’m surprised it had never happened before.


A friend invited me to a concert at Wrigley Field, only the tickets weren’t for Wrigley but for one of those rooftop bleacher sections across the street. Included with the seats came an unlimited buffet and beverages. Included in ‘beverages’ were several different wines, none of which I recognized. I tried the California chardonnay (it tasted like bubblegum but was drinkable) and the California merlot (it tasted like merlot but was drinkable) and the South American red blend (it tasted like merlot but was drinkable).


Our view of the concert itself was less than ideal – all we could see was the back of the enclosed stage – so our attention drifted until we were talking to the folks around us. A young couple sitting behind us joked that the next time we got up for drinks, we should grab them some beers too. I promised I would, and they promised they would, and before I realized it, one of them handed me a glass of wine.


Actually, she handed me a red plastic keg cup. It was full of red wine and ice. It was sweating, like how a frosty beer sweats on a humid day. I sniffed it and took a sip, the chill masking all flavors but dirt. She said They had the bottle out on the counter. It seemed way too warm, so I had them put it on ice, and then she smiled.


So here’s my question regarding etiquette: What do you do when somebody hands you a drink that you’re sure you won’t be able to choke down? Especially from a well-meaning friend or host? And I don’t mean a bad drink; I mean an unthinkably terrible drink.


Keep in mind: the one thing I’d always like to avoid is the dreaded label of wine snob. I suspect that appearing detached and unreasonable isn’t a good trait for a guy in the wine business.


I’ve been at parties where I’m given a lousy glass of wine, and I’m usually able to weasel out of commenting about it. If my host is smiling at me and looking for a response, I’ll try to offer a quick, vague yet honest observation like “smells like almonds” or “it’s got quite a pinkish orange color for a chardonnay” or “boy, that is sweet, isn’t it?” I’m blessed with a terribly short attention span, and it’s easy for me to forget where I put my drink and to get back to the gin or bourbon or whatever.


But there, stuck in my seat on the rooftop, I didn’t have any other options. Here’s what I did: I thanked her for the wine. I mentioned that it’s not customary to serve red so cold. I took another sip, gave up on it, and strained the wine into another cup with my fingers. In the process, I spilled a fair amount onto my lap. Soon, I was rescued by my friend, who had arrived with another load of fresh drinks, and by the distractions a concert can offer.


So I pose the question to you again: What do you do when somebody hands you a drink that you’re sure you won’t be able to choke down?

17 thoughts on “A Question of Etiquette

  1. I would probably say “Not bad” and “I think I’ll go check out the label on it”, then deftly repour yourself something good. Either that, or take a sip, spit back in the cup (or spray it on your so called friend for affect) and proclaim “I wouldn’t wash my dog in this!!”

  2. Seriously?!?! Just tell the truth! This way, they won’t make the same mistake twice – Either they won’t purchase the same wine again or they won’t invite YOU “snob” again! Either way it’s a win-win!

  3. Hey now. Just because I like wine and have tastes doesn’t mean I act like I’m above other people, which is at the core of the term “snob.” I’ve always thought it important to realize that everybody has different tastes, and to respect that. How is that snobbish?

  4. You are not a wine snob. And you do not have to “take one for the team”. You wouldn’t eat food that smelled strange or off just to please a host at the risk of getting sick, would you? Be polite and find the nearest bathroom sink. It wasn’t a keg party so ice and plastic beer cups were not the most appropriate choice for wine.

  5. The gal who handed us the wine took the whole thing quite well – she honestly didn’t know it isn’t customary to chill red wine.Mokena, writing a wine blog doesn’t automatically qualify one as a snob. A snob would be someone who looks down upon others for their choices. I’ve never seen that attitude projected on this blog.I think I like Wine Newbie’s second suggestion the best. 😉

  6. Greg-It always astounds me when people use the world “snob” on us simply for having standards with regards to what we like. If she had handed you a cup of beer she’d warmed up in the microwave because she didn’t know better, you wouldn’t want to drink it. Would that make you a beer snob?? Of course not.Don’t sweat it. Cheers!

  7. to the other dude: i respect your having your buddys back, but if it walks like a duck & quacks like a duck…. i call it a duck

  8. You dropped some knowledge that maybe she will carry forward with her. I think you do what you did, thank her for the glass and see if she is receptive to a little education. If she starts asking questions, you start advocating about wine. It’s what us beer geeks do!

  9. You definitely should have said something…because she’s seen this blog and now you aren’t a wine snob, you’re a guy who acts polite to someone’s face and then talks about it behind her back.

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