Dear Helena,

I went to a dinner party recently and brought a nice bottle of wine. The hosts thanked me but never opened it. I wanted everyone to try the wine and thought it was understood that when you bring something for the hosts, they’re supposed to share it with the guests. Was it rude for my friends to keep my wine for themselves?–Thwarted Guest

Dear Thwarted Guest,

Bringing a gift to a dinner party is not like bringing a dish to a potluck. At a dinner party, the host will make sure there’s enough to eat and drink. He probably put a lot of thought into the food and accompanying wines. Adding another item might disrupt his menu.

When you bring wine or another offering, it’s a token of appreciation. So if he wants, the host can hide your chocolates on top of the fridge and save them as a reward for doing the dishes. And he can stick your bottle in his wine rack and guzzle it for a nightcap.

There are two exceptions. If the alcohol runs dry, the host should crack open the wine you brought, and if he skimped on dessert, he should share your chocolates.

The other exception is for hard liquor. If you bring a bottle of scotch, the host must offer everyone a tipple. This is because liquor, unlike wine, isn’t perishable, and a bottle goes a long way.

But next time you’re the guest, why not bring something other than food or drink? That way, the host can both share your gift and enjoy it afterward. One friend of mine often brings a little toy. Last time, he brought a plastic twig with a plastic caterpillar perched on it. When you tilted the stick one way, the caterpillar inched downward. When you tilted it the other way, it inched back. The caterpillar tickled the other guests. The next day, it was the perfect distraction from my hangover.

Have a Table Manners question? Email Helena.

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