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BYOB – Etiquette Debate

May 22nd, 2010

A BlogPost that asks the hard questions about BYOB wine etiquette.
When you go to a house party, it is customary to bring a bottle of wine; in fact it may even be requested on the invitation. As a wine merchant, I think that is a great idea. However, this can lead to a delicate issue rearing its unsocial head. What I refer to is the social acceptance ( or not ), of bringing a bottle for the house and a bottle for yourself. I like wine, and have developed a taste for a certain quality of wine over the years. I know there are certain wines that I can drink without food that will have no ill effects the next morning. So, when I go to a party I bring one of each, a bottle to be placed on the table for the masses to attack, but also, a bottle for myself.


This is the bottle which I and I alone get to drink. In the same way someone else might bring a six pack of Corona, because that is their tipple of choice, I like to bring a nice Provence or Rhone Valley Red. However, this seems to mortify my wife who says I should drink whatever is open instead of opening my own one and getting stuck in.

Why should I pretend to drink a wine that will, for the most part, be undrinkable? To the eternal despair of the independent wine merchant, the modern household tends to buy all its weekly needs in foreign owned supermarkets and proceed to drop the wine into the trolley along with the ham, cheese and tomatoes. There is usually an offer to get you shopping and as the independent wine merchants source the world for true value, it is the discounted rubbish that finds its way into many a household. I wouldn’t mind if they bought something bloody decent from the supermarket. At least people are too embarrassed to ask me my opinion on their great wine find. As Doc Holliday said to Wyatt Earp in Tombstone, “My hypocrisy goes only so far”. Indeed Sir.

A number of very near misses with the old fashioned wing style corkscrews ( which are useless ) has led me to recently start bringing my own corkscrew. I haven’t yet reverted to bringing my own glass, but have not ruled it out either. So, I ask you, am I being unreasonable and do I need to take yet another long hard look at myself? All comments and opinions welcome.

“Life is much too short to drink bad wine”

Paul ( writes:

I hear you, Gary.

I often bring my own glasses, though only for family events. I detest those wing corkscrews too and my trusty Donnybrook Fair one has seen much of Ireland in its time.

The wine itself is a trickier one as parties are a bit of a free-for-all and, if you bring some good stuff, you have to subtly protect it from plunder. But yeah, I don’t want to spend all night drinking Bin 555 or Eaglehawk Merlot.

I’ll usually bring a nice bottle or two and offer some to anybody I know to have an interest in wine (of which there are very few). The rest of the pigdogs I leave to their bottles of bud and warm cans of Heineken.

Ian writes:

Your not being unreasonable. I, like you, think “Life is much too short to drink bad wine” and I do what you do and bring one or two for the house and one for me.

The missus knows me well enough to know better than to say anything ;-)

Red Nose Wine ( writes:

Thanks for the solidarity lads
We went out for dinner with friends one night and it was a BYOB place. The couple we met didn’t give me the twist and then brought rubbish wine. That’s fine, except they then attacked my bottle of Barolo…. WTF is the modern Twitter lingo i think….

Paul ( writes:

But yet if you had smashed up the party and stormed off in a temper people would have said YOU were the freak, Gary.

Eamon ( writes:

Great article Gary and very relevant heading into my third barbecue of the weekend. Not like us Irish to overdo anything to do with good weather! I generally just cut my losses and opt for ice-cold bottles of Heineken. 

I was bound up, blindfolded and forced to blind taste the aforementioned plonk at a barbecue in the wee hours of Saturday morning. And of course denounced as a fraud and a charlatan when I naturally didn’t get the Cabernet-Pinotage blend right. A threat of wine-bong was issued as punishment but mercifully never carried out.

Michael Logan writes:

Delicacy called for here (from me) and there (at the BYO) from you. Life is indeed too short for many things and getting a bit controlling about glasses, corkscrews, and even wine sometimes may well be one of these times. Why dont you take it as a challenge to find IF there are any drinkable bottles among the chaff. For many years I find this works and have had a not a few very pleasant surprises and have had to reevaluate a few of my own beliefs (prejudices).It is a bit simplistic to say Coop/big ptroducer bad-Artisan good . An old hippy like me sometimes has to just go with the flow relax and enjoy the food and company and see wine in a broader context.

Paul ( writes:

Beat it, hippy – don’t you have some hair to be braiding?

! Ah no, Michael, sometimes when you get to a party the plonk is actually undrinkable. I’ve been pleasantly surprised before by lowly Eaglehawk Chardonnay and that Palo Alto red. But even with my wine snob hat firmly off, I find these okay wines become uninteresting after a glass or two.

By the end of the bottle things have usually become more interesting again, admittedly.

Robert writes:

I agree – if its a BYOB then a bottle for the house and a bottle pour moi. As you say, its like the person with the 6 pack of Corona – everybody’s entitled to their tipple of choice. Just because its good wine why is that different?

Gary Gubbins ( writes:

Great to see such opinion about a very delicate matter.

I take your point Michael but I really can’t drink the muck anymore. I have been spoiled it must be said. There are great wines from the big brands, but rarely at the 8 euro mark ( in my opinion). Some of the coop wines are great and really serious wines at all points. But, if I like to drink organic red wine from the south of France or dry whites from the Loire Valley, why should i drink a 15% monster from a factory in Australia. Do I not get a choice?

I only want to stop being made feel guilty or unsocial … I am a sensitive soul and all the dirty looks spoil my wine….

I know i can’t change the minds of the majority of the people in this country who will only buy commodity wines with no soul, but i can make a stand and refuse to conform ( at the risk of upseting someone at the party )

I am happy to be the awkward b@*tard in Tipperary. Paul – will you take the Cork job.
Lar Veale will surely take the DUblin one

Michael Logan writes:

Oh how I wish I had some hair to be braiding!!!!
I’m not suggesting anyone suspend their hard earned critical tasting faculties and drink offensive junk; there usually is an intresting bottle among the bunch. If not then why not resort to the wine equivalent of Bill Clintons policy and “Dont Inhale”
Enjoy the good weather lads.

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