Gift Bottle Conundrum

We’ve all been there. We ponder the host and what they’re cooking and stare at the wine rack, wondering aloud as we grab bottle after bottle by the neck and pull them out, only to slide them back in and continue the search. Eventually, you find ‘the one’. You hold that one for a little longer, remembering the last time you had it or anticipating trying it for the first time, hoping it will be just perfect with the meal. Hoping everyone else realises just what a tremendous job you’ve done in picking the perfect bottle for the perfect meal, thereby being the perfect guest.

But that’s not how it goes. Of course it isn’t. You arrive at your friend’s for dinner and nonchalantly hand over the bottle – something for the meal you say, as though you hadn’t spent an hour deciding on it. They take it, study the label for a moment, and instead of placing it on the sideboard or on the dinner table, they open the closet door and slip it into their wine rack. They close the door and mutter some gibberish about a “special occasion”.

You respond saying that tonight’s pretty special, and your host chuckles to humour you but they don’t get it. You didn’t bring that wine as a gift for some stupid future special occasion. Some stupid future special occasion that you probably won’t be invited to. You brought that wine to drink tonight. You brought that wine to drink tonight because you wanted to drink that wine tonight, with the meal whose aromas are currently making your mouth water as the smell of it cooking wafts throughout the house. You want to explain as politely as possible that it was not a gift to be taken, but a gift to be shared. A gift for the now. In fact, it wasn’t really a gift at all. It was just something you wanted to drink and deemed the assorted company worthy enough to join you. The idea that your carefully chosen cuvee might be forgotten about, might not even be enjoyed in your company, is deeply irksome.

But you grin. You grin and bear it and wince as you sip whatever undoubtedly deeply inferior drop is served to you. It doesn’t matter if it’s Dom Perignon or Chateau Margaux – even if it’s a better wine, it’s not a better wine, because it isn’t your wine.

Like I said at the beginning, we’ve all been there. The question is, how do we avoid it ever happening again? Well, we here at the Swig blog have some considerable experience with these situations, and have come up with a handy list of tried and tested methods to make sure that your stupendous contribution to the evening’s meal is appreciated.

  1. Open the bottle at home beforehand, under the pretence of making sure that it isn’t corked. This will not only seem exceptionally courteous, but also you can genuinely check the bottle isn’t corked. It also means they can’t hide it away for another time. It demands to be drunk that evening. This plan seems a little flimsy, however, when it comes to screwcaps.
  2. Bring terrible wine. Of course, if the hoarder breaks from tradition and cracks it open then and there, you may look like a tasteless fool.
  3. Drink the bottle before you go. This will not only allow you to enjoy the wine you like, but it will also allow you to skip any social awkwardness and mean that your chat over the meal will be utterly brilliant (in your own mind). This could, of course, backfire terribly, but there’s a good chance that you won’t remember it.
  4. Show your cards early. Phone your host before leaving your house and tell them straight up: “I’m bringing a bottle and you’re going to open it with the meal this evening” – they might be so offended that they rescind your invitation, in which case you can drown your outcast sorrows with your favourite bottle anyway.

like a cool drink of water

The chorus of complaints about the weather have rung throughout Britain over the last few weeks, as those who only two months ago were complaining about the lack of sun are now cursing its existence. Out here at sunny Swig HQ, we’ve had the fans blowing full blast and the occasional ice lolly after lunch, so powerful has been the heat. At one point we debated emptying the wine fridges and crawling in ourselves.

Of course, we didn’t do that. It’s far more important to regulate the temperature of our wines than our bodies.  We have, however, shifted almost entirely to a regime of chilled whites and pinks during our famous Swig lunches.  And in spite of our love of a bit of judicious oak-use, we’re steering more towards the fresh and vibrant at the moment. Wines with proper juiciness, that tug on the saliva glands and dance across the tongue.

Often it’s wines from quite hot places that do the trick, like the Aphros Loureiro, or the Clos Bagatelle St Chinian Blanc. Both have a touch of the exotic balanced by juicy acidity, giving a cooling refreshment. They’re perfect with salads or fresh seafood or to sip a glass of whilst flipping food on the barbecue.

So embrace the heat and grab some good white from the fridge, because in absolutely no time at all it will be blowing a gale and bucketing down with rain.