In these straitened times, it is increasingly common for people to entertain at home rather than meet at a restaurant as in the olden days. Of course, if you’re dining out it’s perfectly acceptable to draw the sommelier’s attention to a nasty case of corked wine. But what if you’re dining at a friend’s house and they bring out a claret that smells like a serial killer’s cellar? And what if they don’t notice? Is it ever acceptable to tell a friend their wine is corked? Should you just drink up and look forward to the headache? Or should you feign pregnancy and say you’re not drinking at all? (This will be tough as I am a man).
Major Aubrey Darling
Dear Major Darling
This is a tricky one, and much depends on the company, I think. If you are dining with the chaps – and you suspect they may have thrown in the awful wine as a test of your expertise – and if they’re the sort of chaps I think they are, you may spit it out all over the tablecloth while bellowing, ‘For Christ’s sake, Sebastian, you complete weapon, are you trying to kill us all with your revolting plonk?’ They would expect no less.
If you’re dining with more normal friends, then it’s best to try to catch the host/ess’s eye and affect a slight grimace; they will probably flutter over, and ask if there’s a problem at which point you can say, apologetically, ‘So sorry, I thought you were trying to catch my eye about this wine – I think you’re right, it might be a bit corked…’ Better that they get the chance to replace it before anyone else notices, or downs a couple of glasses and suffers the consequences.
Or, if there’s simply no way to draw attention to it without covering the hosts in embarrassment, you can either leave your glass discreetly or knock the whole bottle over. Although that last strategy depends on whether you think your host values his reputation for good wine over his carpet.