Cathy Gowdie

You could bring pre-opened bottles of red on the grounds that 'they need to breathe'.
You could bring pre-opened bottles of red on the grounds that 'they need to breathe'. Photo: Lee Besford

Every summer, we are invited to the lavish home of wealthy relatives for a long lunch. Every year, they serve mediocre wine. If we bring something good, they never open it. What can we do?

I sometimes wonder if there might be an inverse relationship between the amounts of money certain people spend on cars and what they spend on wine. I'm talking about the individuals - we know who they are - who drive $200,000 SUVs but whose fridges at home are stacked with sub-$10 whites. Can they not detect quality unless it comes with a German automobile manufacturer's badge attached?

Do their car repayments leave them too skint to drink anything better? We may never know. Anyway, I'm off-topic: you mentioned your relatives' house, not their cars.

The bottom line is, they're the hosts, you're the guests, and there's no polite way of forcing them to pour what you've brought. Odds are you'll have to swallow what you're served, or - if the plonk is truly terrible - feign an ailment that has placed you temporarily on the wagon.

You may adopt the time-honoured tactic of bringing pre-opened bottles of red on the grounds that ''they needed to breathe for a few hours''. This ruse won't work for whites: you're pretty much stuck with dropping the hint inherent in bringing a bottle already chilled.

As a last resort, you could say you brought the wine for other lunch guests to try (''I know Jane and John have been waiting for the new vintage of the Stringbag Estate chardonnay, I thought I'd bring it along for them - shall we crack it now?''). Of course, that will depend on whether you know anyone else present well enough to cook up a convincing story.

Whatever you do, never take anything too special if you know it might go unopened - you risk being embittered as well as thirsty, and you'll only have yourself to blame.

Remember that line about not being able to choose your relatives, and save the good stuff for your friends.

Are you struck with wine angst? Contact our Agony Aunt at epicure@theage.com.au or leave a question for her in the comments below.