8 APRIL 2006, Page 71

Q. We have friends who regularly invite us to dinner.

Because I know that they have little appreciation of fine wine, we generally and generously like to bring a bottle of quality wine as a gift, to complement both the meal and the company. However, it is rarely opened and I and indeed others who may be invited find ourselves sitting through an otherwise enjoyable meal drinking an altogether unsuitable offering. I am sure that it would be rude to insist that our bottle be opened, but is there another way to coax our host into allowing us to enjoy the fruits of our labours?

M.G.K., London A. To circumvent this problem you can telephone, shortly in advance of your arrival, to announce pleasantly your willingness to bring something from your own cellar to complement the fare being served. This will equip you to walk into the house wielding an appropriate bottle (more likely two bottles since most drinkers need at least three glasses of wine per dinner) saying, for example, ‘Here it is — you said you were giving us lamb so I’ve brought a Château soand-so which goes brilliantly with lamb. Shall I open it for you?’ (You can even bring it preopened saying you have chambréd it at home.) For dishes requiring white wine, bring your bottles in ostentatious chilling sacks. In this way you can be fairly sure of being able to consume something ‘suitable’ when you are dining with these people.