Which is worse – to take an expensive wine to a party (“Oh, how sweet of you!”) only for the host to snaffle it away, or to take a lousy one (“Oh, um, thanks….”), and be publicly humiliated as it is placed next to the cooking sherry?
Of course, in our parents’ day it was considered terribly naff, even insulting, to take a bottle, just as it was to take flowers or chocolates. You simply presented yourself, had a nice time, wrote a fulsome letter of thanks the following morning and then sent flowers or chocolates.
Nowadays, though, a bottle is de rigueur. But what should you take? The simple answer, of course, is to take a wine you would like to drink yourself. Take something ghastly and it may come back to haunt you. A friend of mine swears that a bottle of cheap Chianti he once took to supper with a neighbour is still doing the rounds of his street eleven years later.
If your host is a regular entertainer he or she is likely to have matched the menu with carefully chosen wines of their own, in which case take something quirky that can be brought out to oohs and aahs of appreciation if supplies run low. But since the wine is more likely to be enjoyed at a later date put a discreet label around its neck (“Thought you might enjoy this! Love, X”) to ensure your host remembers who it’s from.
Alternatively, call ahead and ask what to bring (“Nothing, just bring yourself!”). Insist, saying that you want to bring something to match a particular course. Only a churlish host would refuse. Result: you get to drink what you bring, gaining plaudits for your generosity and discernment while shaming those who brought plonk.
Or you could always stay at home and drink the pick of your cellar with a TV supper…