The Wine Ethicist
The week before last, I suggested a “Machiavellian” strategy for choosing Thanksgiving wines, and in that post, I raised the dicey issue of whether it is ever okay to secretly drink one wine while pouring your guests another. A few days later, someone on Wineberserkers posed the same question, prompting a long and spirited thread. All the etiquette talk strikes me as an excellent excuse to introduce a new feature to this blog, called The Wine Ethicist. It’s an idea that I had a while back, and having given it additional consideration, I think there’s plenty of material to be mined here, and some fun to be had, too.
Like most hobbies, wine appreciation has its rules and rituals. But there is no wine geek manual, no formal code of conduct, and mastering wine etiquette can be challenging. In pursuit of tasting pleasures, an oenophile often confronts questions of protocol and propriety; there is even the occasional moral dilemma. Is there a statute of limitations, for instance, on returning a corked or otherwise flawed bottle of wine to a retailer? If you are hosting a dinner party and a guest brings a really nice bottle as a gift, are you obliged to serve it? If you are taking part in a wine dinner or a tasting group and someone shows up with a bottle that is a big step down from what everyone was asked to contribute, how should the matter be handled? These are issues for The Wine Ethicist.
No, I am not appointing myself the Mr. Manners of wine (I’m much too uncouth for the role). I want The Wine Ethicist to be a group thing: I’ll certainly offer my views, but I am more interested in hearing yours, and in having an entertaining conversation. Feel free, too, to suggest topics we might discuss. I plan to post a new installment of The Wine Ethicist every Monday; I will keep it going until we run out of subjects or it is clear that this was a bad idea that interests no one—well, no one except me.
So let’s get it started. The Richard Nixon method—secretly drinking one wine while serving your guests another—is clearly a hot topic at the moment. In your opinion, is it ever acceptable to do this? If so, under what circumstances?