Recently, I've been asked to contribute to a programme on manners. I may not be unusually polite, but I do have some firm opinions on how people should behave - most of them to do with socialising and, therefore, drinking. I'm not talking about how to pass the port, but the unspoken rules surrounding the giving and receiving of booze. For example: in my opinion, it is the height of bad manners to bring a good bottle to a dinner party and ask for it to be opened there and then, in preference to whatever your host has on the go. This is the equivalent of turning up with your own Tupperware container of gourmet food and a coterie of stimulating, good-looking friends - and then insisting on sitting next to those friends. On the other hand, it is equally bad manners for the host to snaffle your lovely bottle and stockpile it for presentation at a later date, in company that he/she is more eager to impress. Then there's the whole issue of whether or not you should be taking a bottle in the first place. These days I would say you can't go wrong in taking one, unless the bottle in question is screw-top and funkily labelled, with a raffle ticket still Sellotaped to its neck. No one likes to feel dumped on, and undrinkable wine is the worst sort of dumping. The rule of bring-a-bottle should be - don't, unless it's good enough for you yourself to drink every last drop from it.
See? You probably thought: "Drink and manners? What's to say?" - but actually, a lot of bad feeling and anxiety results from taking too much for granted. For example, I am still seething about the time I threw a birthday party for a friend who, having thanked me profusely, set about packing up all the leftover bottles of champagne that had been brought by his guests. Helloooo! This is not a rule that many people will need spelling out. But just in case: if someone splashes out on a party for you, any leftovers automatically belong to her. Jeez.
Something else that really gets my goat is the bloke who orders from the wine list without consulting anyone else present, and then expects you to split the bill and pay for his fantasy selection. Please! The private wine order (involving lots of murmuring with the sommelier and forehead-rumpling) is all very well so long as the person who orders is planning to pay for it privately. Similarly rude is the cheap date who asks for the house red without even checking which country it comes from. Everyone knows that if you are strapped for cash, you either stay in and cook a Jamie Oliver recipe (in which case you can get away with a £3 wine, although obviously you'll need two if it's a date), or you brave rip-off restaurant prices and order the second-cheapest wine on the list. It's just good manners.
If there are any more booze-related etiquette matters that you want settled, problems on a postcard, please.