Wine Not?
November 22, 2020 10:30 AM   Subscribe

My Partner believes a gracious dinner guest should accept the wine offered by the host. I have a strong distaste for red wine, and I always politely decline it when it's offered. Partner says I should force myself to drink more of it so I acquire a taste for it (as they've done). Doing so, they say, will make things "easier" for me at dinners. Is there some social norm I'm missing out on here? More details under the fold!

Obligatory preface: Partner is a wonderful person with many great qualities. I'm genuinely curious if I'm missing something obvious. I'm not asking a "who is right?" question.

My Partner grew up in a household with parents who love to entertain, and one parent in particular is very “into wine” (i.e., has a wine cellar) and really enjoys mixing cocktails for their dinner guests. Like parent, like child, Partner also likes hosting parties/dinners/etc. and has a burgeoning interest in wine and mixology. I know it would make Partner happy if we could share these interests. My parents seldom drank when I was growing up and I never really got into it as an adult. For a variety of not-very-interesting reasons, I got in the habit of not-drinking. For example, I was often a DD, or I couldn’t afford a $12 cocktail when out for dinner, or I was on a diet/avoiding the calories from alcohol. Throughout most of my 20s, I probably averaged 5-10 drinks/year.

Since Partner enjoys wine/cocktails, I do drink a bit more now, but old habits die hard. At dinner parties and such, I might enjoy a single cocktail or a glass of white wine. Though I’ve never been able to develop a taste for beer or red wine, I’ll often have a sip of Partner’s drink. If white wine is offered at a dinner, I will often have a single glass. But if red wine is offered, I will politely decline.

Last night Partner and I were having dinner and they suggested opening a bottle of red wine. They know about my distaste for red wine and I said I wouldn’t be having any, other than a sip of theirs, but that they were welcome to open the bottle. They decided not to, but a tense discussion ensued. Partner suggested that I “learn” to like red wine by forcing myself to drink it by the glass (instead of taking sips of theirs) until I’ve acquired a taste for this. They employed this strategy to acquire their taste for red wine. I told them I wasn’t bothered by not liking it. They replied that I would be a more gracious dinner guest if I drank the red wine that was often offered. Partner said that wine at a dinner is like a gift from a host – something they’ve put effort and money into, and that a gracious guest should accept. To clarify, Partner was *not* suggesting that I’ve acted rudely or ungraciously at events we’ve been to together.

I’m feeling very perplexed by this. I’ve never felt awkward not-drinking at a social event, and I’ve never thought it to be rude to turn down wine at a dinner. But now I feel that I’ve been making social faux pas. For those who like entertaining: would you consider a guest ungracious for not drinking the offered red wine? Is there a social norm that I am oblivious to?

Since this is important to Partner, and part of their family's culture, I would like to try a little bit harder to like red wine. However, usually I can only stomach one sip of it because I dislike the taste. For those who now enjoy red wine, are there strategies to develop a taste for it, besides forcing myself to drink glasses of it until I no longer dislike it?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (59 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You're fine. This is your partner's problem, and they should develop a taste for not bullying you.
posted by 2soxy4mypuppet at 10:34 AM on November 22, 2020 [155 favorites]

ugh. in the before times hubby and I loved to have people over for dinner. we would NEVER want someone to take something offered for the sake of politeness! they are guests, we want them to be happy and are always ready to offer a variety of beverages (and food accommodations) including non-alcoholic. not everyone drinks booze. it's ok.
posted by supermedusa at 10:41 AM on November 22, 2020 [28 favorites]

This is bonkers. You have not been making a social faux pas, and I say that as a person who hangs out with people in the wine world -- one of my best friends is a world-class wine importer. This is just...not how it works. You politely decline to taste anything you'd prefer not to drink. That's it.
posted by BlahLaLa at 10:41 AM on November 22, 2020 [66 favorites]

I absolutely would not consider it rude for someone to decline a glass of wine. People don’t drink for all kinds of reasons, none of which are anyone else’s business. I can’t think of a situation in which this would be considered a social faux pas. Your partner is being extremely controlling and you’re not a child - you get to decide what you put in your mouth.
posted by tatiana wishbone at 10:41 AM on November 22, 2020 [53 favorites]

Absolutely not, no no no, do not do anything with your body that you don’t like.

The only thing I can recommend you to do as a positive engagement in this situation is to develop your vocabulary for what you don’t like about red wine. The more complicated and nuanced you can make your objections to the taste, the more you can convey to your partner and whom ever else that you are trying, but it really doesn’t appeal to your taste buds.
posted by itesser at 10:42 AM on November 22, 2020 [5 favorites]

A gracious host does not force things on a guest that the guest doesn't want.
posted by JanetLand at 10:43 AM on November 22, 2020 [37 favorites]

It is fine not to enjoy and to decline being served a particular form of alcohol, or indeed any food, as long as you are polite about it.

Wine at a dinner is a gift to the group, not an individual gift to you. If you do not drink it, other people will--it won't be wasted. I think most serious wine lovers enjoy sharing wine, but would prefer not to waste good wine on someone who is actively forcing themselves to drink it.

As a dinner host, I would be appalled by the thought that one of my guests felt obligated/pressured to drink or eat absolutely anything I served that they didn't want, especially something alcoholic.

It sounds like your partner is maybe feeling a little judged for drinking when you don't or that drinking wine with you one on one results in wasted wine because they don't finish the bottle, and in that case I'd look into some of the various vacuum preservation options.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 10:44 AM on November 22, 2020 [28 favorites]

You are not being rude. If anyone presses you about why you’ve politely declined their offer of *anything*, they are the ones being rude. As for trying to acquire a taste for this, I think this year has been hard enough without you having to force yourself to do something you don’t like in order to please someone else for no substantial reason.
posted by Bunny Boneyology at 10:47 AM on November 22, 2020 [11 favorites]

Red wine gives me a headache. No one who is my friend would want me to have a headache. And interestingly, a strong distaste for red wine is often a reaction to its tannens, even if you're not getting the headache.

But even if it was just that you hate the taste the way someone else hated broccoli: no one who is your friend wants you to force yourself to take anything you don't enjoy -- be it broccoli or expensive wine.

That said, I've been at huge crowded parties (oh how sad, remember those?) where the host came up and thrust a glass of Beaujolais or some other festive red into my hand with a "SO GLAD YOU CAME!" and butterfly'ed off again to the next guest. It was easier to say "thanks!" and then put it down and go get something else to drink. But that's another case entirely.
posted by nantucket at 10:48 AM on November 22, 2020 [16 favorites]

Uh, strong no. I myself am practically allergic to alcohol, and have actually fallen asleep sitting up at the table because it’s effect is so strong on me. I feel like that would make me a worse guest than just refusing wine.

No one has ever given me trouble for refusing it...and I’ve only gotten the suggestion of “maybe try drinking more for tolerance!” If I appear wistful about it. But that’s only brought up once and not again.

I would never judge someone for refusing a pour at dinner. Like mentioned above, people have all sorts of reasons for not drinking. In fact, if it’s a matter of waste/rejection wouldn’t it be worse to accept a pour of a potentially expensive bottle and then only take a tiny sip? Just hypothetically speaking. I have also done that before and (pre-Covid) my friends usually happily finish my glass.
posted by sprezzy at 10:49 AM on November 22, 2020 [4 favorites]

The social norm is very simple: You should drink whatever you want to drink and you should not drink whatever you do not want to drink. No long conversation or analysis or explanation is necessary.
posted by TurkishGolds at 10:49 AM on November 22, 2020 [18 favorites]

Here's an actual norm observed by people in the 21st century: you don't coerce people into drinking alcohol if they don't want to, or doing anything else if they don't want to. People who would be offended by weird shit like this are people I would not hang out with.

>Partner says I should force myself to drink more of it so I acquire a taste for it (as they've done). Doing so, they say, will make things "easier" for me

I don't even know where to start with this. Do something you dislike more frequently, and learn to tolerate the unhappiness this causes, because it will make things easier-- for your partner, mind, not for you. Please manage your relationship as you see fit, but if I was partnered to somebody who suggested this I would go up one side of them and down the other one.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 11:09 AM on November 22, 2020 [50 favorites]

Your partner is incorrect. It is not a guest's duty to drink if they don't want to, and a good host will accommodate them. There are a million reasons why guests might not want to drink, from medical to taste to allergies to recovery, and a good host will never pressure or pry.

You mention that this was in the context of your partner deciding whether to open a bottle of wine, and that when you decided not to, they didn't and were angry about it. Personally, if I feel like someone is pressuring me to drink more so that they can feel comfortable drinking more, it is a bit of a red flag for me. I'm not sure if this is a concern for you, and I know there might be a lot of other context here (for instance, I can imagine that COVID is preventing a lot of dinner parties and drinking fun for your partner, and they might be feeling cranky about it), but I thought I'd mention it all the same. Alcohol can be tricky, and everyone has their own personal and cultural expectations about it. That said, it is never ok to pressure someone to drink if they don't want to. I'd recommend holding your boundaries, talking to your partner to learn more about where they're coming from, staying aware of your partner's behaviors around alcohol, and holding your boundaries. Don't forget to hold your boundaries.
posted by ourobouros at 11:09 AM on November 22, 2020 [19 favorites]

Oh my god, no, you are not required to drink - or learn to drink! - anything you're not interested in. Even if you were attending a wine pairing dinner - which I have done with someone who loved wine but unfortunately would be non-functional from migraine if they had even half a glass of red, and the sommelier was delighted to provide excellent substitutes - you are not obligated to do anything you don't want with the alcohol (or food!) involved.

Get your partner a vacuum wine saver so they can open a bottle without it having anything to do with you, and if they don't understand implicitly that you are drawing a line under this conversation and that line is a boundary, you may need to say it out loud. Once. And then that should be the end of the discussion. A good partner does not coerce you to drink.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:12 AM on November 22, 2020 [18 favorites]

Oh my, pushing alcohol is not cool. You are not rude for saying no. Certainly no host would expect all guests to like or enjoy all things equally.

As someone who entertained frequently pre 2020, I want my guests relaxed and comfy....whatever that means for them. Not what it means for me.

I am a little concerned and confused by your partners insistence on you drinking. Drinking alcohol is not always a healthy past time and certainly not something to ever be pushed on someone.
posted by SassyMcSassin at 11:15 AM on November 22, 2020 [9 favorites]

Red wine is revolting to me. I believe the OP and I share some gene that makes red wine Not A Real Beverage. Anybody suggesting the OP must drink red wine for some reason is just wrong.
posted by JimN2TAW at 11:25 AM on November 22, 2020 [7 favorites]

I’ve said this before to other comments like this one, though without the overhead of alcohol as a complication, but I think the flat no-thanks here is a bit gauche. A host's offering food or drink to their guest as a welcoming act and their guest's acceptance of it is a deeply-rooted ritual just about everywhere there have ever been two humans and a roof, and short-circuiting that ceremony as a guest is rude. That said, you definitely shouldn’t start drinking something you don’t want to out of a sense of social pressure; in your circumstances, I would say "Thank you, no, but I'd be grateful for a glass of water”, allowing the completion of the ritual without involving the booze.

Really, you don’t even need to drink the water, just accepting it from your host is plenty.
posted by mhoye at 11:26 AM on November 22, 2020 [13 favorites]

What? Jesus no, you're not being rude. You don't like red wine. Your partner will not keel over because you don't share this special interest with them. They can join an online forum to talk to other people who love their thing like the rest of us.

More to the point of your question -- so, I'm low-key fascinated by what etiquette actually means. Like, why do we have rules about how the table is set? Why is there, traditionally, a one-year period after the wedding to send thank-you notes? Because it is an agreed-upon* set of rules that let people know they are doing the 'right' thing, and ensuring that everyone is comfortable and confident. One is polite because it makes one's guests comfortable, and vice-versa. You politely refusing a glass of red wine is not going to make your host uncomfortable. Someone else will finish the bottle! Any good host would be horrified to learn that you're making yourself miserable, and possibly drunker, to meet some standard that we did not collectively agree to. There is no etiquette standard that you must accept the drink you're given. There just isn't. Therefore, the thing that is best for you and your host is for you to drink what you like, and not drink what you don't like.

*ok, I know we didn't like, have a council meeting to collectively decide this, but it's a set of rules that can be learned via reading Miss Manners or whatever, acknowledging different rules for different classes, cultural backgrounds, etc.
posted by kalimac at 11:27 AM on November 22, 2020 [4 favorites]

I'm troubled by your description of partner's family, because it sounds a lot like my alcoholic family culture. There was always a lot of "ah go on have a drink" talk, especially when wine connoisseurship was involved. Now that I don't drink or have any interest in drinking, I can see clearly that these behaviors were more about enabling the drinking of the person doing the offering. I really hope this isn't applicable to your partner/his family, but it rang an alarm bell for me.
posted by Morpeth at 11:38 AM on November 22, 2020 [15 favorites]

I’m a real outlier on this stuff, having been indoctrinated with old-world hospitality norms that require hosts to set aside any personal interest in favor of catering to their guests, and guests graciously making best efforts to enjoy everything offered, no matter how dubious. If you’ve carefully planned a meal, including the wines, it’s so nice to have everyone enjoy it. I have consumed many a sketch meal out of politeness. But even I know that you don’t coerce people into consuming anything they don’t want to, especially alcohol. I’ve been on the receiving end of that too and it’s ridiculous. Maybe your partner comes from the same type of background as me and feels like this is almost a moral issue, but regardless, they’re not the hospitality police and they should leave you alone. Whether you do or do not choose to consume something you don’t like is your business.
posted by HotToddy at 11:46 AM on November 22, 2020 [11 favorites]

This is actually what I was taught growing up (American, West Coast, lower middle class, in the 1960s and '70s). You were expected to eat whatever was served and drink whatever your hosts offered. You could bring something to a gathering, and drink that if it was served, but you were expected to be a good guest and respectfully take what was offered. (Keep in mind, with booze, AA and the like weren't as big a part of people's lives as they are now, and being sober wasn't as talked about.) It's made me miserable through most of my life, because I could live without wine most of the time, especially red since it often gave me migraines, and there is one food I really loathe and choke on trying to eat, and it (onions) is in literally almost everything.

It's only been in recent years that I've let myself politely decline things, or sometimes opened what I brought to drink while I was hanging in the kitchen with a friend, etc. I think there must have been some puritanical midcentury (and earlier) etiquette rule about this, because many of the people I knew in my age group were like this, where the people I hang out with now who are younger than I am don't think that way. I'm guessing it came out of more elaborate formal dinner parties with set menus and beverages. It's entirely probable that your partner's family grew up with this mindset and passed it on to them, and they just haven't made that adjustment to the entertaining styles of Now.

I think a lot of people here are being ungenerous about your partner's upbringing and their mindset here. I can see your partner/their family thinking this, because it's exactly what I was taught to think.
posted by kitten kaboodle at 11:58 AM on November 22, 2020 [7 favorites]

Part of this is culture-dependent; there are definitely cultures where refusing what a host gives you can be taken as rude or unpleasant. And there are individuals within any culture who will take offense at all kinds of things.

But as someone who doesn't eat/drink certain things, my experience with people from stricter (along these lines) cultures is that they (taken as a whole) find ways to let me know that they're unhappy with my rejection of their offerings. I think if you lived in such a culture, the chances of not being aware of it past, say, your teenage years would be pretty low.

I try to make up for eschewing certain things by complimenting and visibly enjoying the things I do accept, regardless of culture.
posted by trig at 12:02 PM on November 22, 2020 [2 favorites]

I like red wine but it doesn't like me so when offered I will generally say thanks but no thanks. And that's really all the conversation needs to be. If offered white wine or beer I'll accept or happily drink water. No reason for anyone to feel guilty about making that choice and definitely not good to push any drink -or food - on a guest.
posted by leslies at 12:08 PM on November 22, 2020 [1 favorite]

But now I feel that I’ve been making social faux pas. For those who like entertaining: would you consider a guest ungracious for not drinking the offered red wine? Is there a social norm that I am oblivious to?

My understanding of etiquette is that it's about trying to make people feel at ease, not used as a bludgeon to get people to do things for fear of censure. So, as someone who doesn't drink any wine, this is a thing I've grappled with, but I take the mhoye route "Oh I'm sorry I don't drink wine, water would be great" or something. That allows the host to host, and you to accept hosting in a way that isn't "You need to do this thing you don't want to do to appear polite."

Because, sure, if someone has made dinner for you, it's polite to at least try things (unless you have allergies or intolerances) but beyond that the rude part is giving someone a hard time for not liking/eating your food. And if the wine is fancy/expensive, having someone pour you a glass that goes untouched (or barely touched) seems like a thing to avoid, though I'd absolutely do it in a big party situation like nantucket outlines.

Your partner clearly has other ideas about this, and they have a thing that worked for them and would like you to try it. But it's okay not to. And if it's not okay with your partner that you make the choice that works for you, it's okay for you to tell your partner that you're not comfortable with that and you can interrogate the reason they have Strong Feelings around this (hey, things are tough all over for a lot of people lately) or they can leave it alone.
posted by jessamyn at 12:09 PM on November 22, 2020 [5 favorites]

Is it possible your partner feels uncomfortable or self-conscious drinking as much as they want to when you're not drinking? If they want one drink but feel wasteful, or like a lush, or even just rude to open something you don't want and drink it themselves, it seems like you developing a taste for it would soothe a frustration of theirs that they might feel too silly to talk about explicitly.

There are a lot of drinks/snacks that I won't prepare or "waste" just to have some myself but will if someone joins me. And for a lot of people, alcohol when it's not social feels inappropriate or like they might be judged. Especially since social drinking is gone for now, it's possible your partner wants to drink more, feels weird about it, and is making you feel like the weird one to change things or just soothe their own discomfort.
posted by gideonfrog at 12:15 PM on November 22, 2020 [3 favorites]

The way it comes across to me, your partner REALLY wanted to drink the wine but did not want to drink alone, hence the "tense discussion". I have had acquaintances who professed being uncomfortable with me being at their party and not drinking but these were folks for whom drinking was the whole point of the party. When I asked why we couldn't just live and let live they told me they feel like the very fact that I wasn't drinking made them feel judged and ashamed of how much they were drinking.

That he wants to make it your problem is weird. That much emotion around drinking sounds fishy to me. Like, being angry about drinking (though admittedly, not exactly like this) is literally included in one of the "problematic drinking" questionnaires.
posted by M. at 12:17 PM on November 22, 2020 [15 favorites]

It sounds like partner wanted you to drink the red wine with them and made you feel guilty for not doing so. People can get really sensitive about alcohol. I don't drink at all, and sometimes people might take that as a judgement of them. But I don't care at all if other people drink but sometimes they might feel judged anyway, which is their problem (like, they know they "shouldn't" drink, and here I am, an example of someone not drinking, and then they feel bad about themselves). Honestly it's tiring when people get a little weird about me not drinking.

I think partner wanted to share red wine with you and feels sad that you refused and took it personally. But to react with "you should drink it so you'll develop a taste for it and to not accept it at a party is rude" is out of line.
posted by foxjacket at 12:40 PM on November 22, 2020 [3 favorites]

Yeah, this sounds like Partner didn't want to drink the whole bottle alone. Which, fair enough, I can't put down a whole bottle of wine solo and and enjoy it all either; and it probably won't be as yummy a few days later. This is not actually some kind of disaster! Tail-ends of red occur pretty frequently at my place and they get used for cooking.

I don't think you're breaking some general rule, but if you want to leave out possible points of negotiation/pressure such as "I don't like red wine" (with the possible reply "oh, but you'll like THIS"), and be sure that you're accepting graciously, you could go with something like "just a tiny bit, thanks". Then sip or not at a rate you choose. I highly doubt that anyone except Partner is monitoring your wine drinking.
posted by inexorably_forward at 12:40 PM on November 22, 2020 [1 favorite]

Forcing yourself to do something that you don’t want to do is rarely the answer.
posted by sugarbomb at 1:22 PM on November 22, 2020 [6 favorites]

It is never a faux pas to refuse a food or beverage. It is, generally, socially awkward to lengthily go into WHY you aren't drinking, whether it's an allergy, religious reasons, sobriety, personal dislike, contraindication with a medicine your taking, etc. Just graciously say, "No, thank you," with a smile of appreciation."

The idea of repeatedly trying something to develop a taste or liking of it is hit and miss, but it's personal. I've been fed broccoli all my life and I hate it. Children often grow out of their preferences and it's an obligation of parents to get their children to experiment with food and also to learn how to reject offerings politely; as an adult, you should never be pushed into eating/drinking something for which you've previously expressed distaste, nor to try something in which you are not interested. That's actually a social faux pas.

But why are you sipping your spouse's drink? Either get a tiny glass of your own, or don't drink. You're giving him mixed signals, which is feeding his pushiness in this area. But the fact that red wine is important is his culture doesn't mean you have to drink it; if you want to show that you value his culture as it relates to wine, learn about wine (history, regions, vintners, the science of it) but if your partner takes your rejection of drinking red wine personally, this isn't about wine.
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 1:40 PM on November 22, 2020 [1 favorite]

I think that it would be a much bigger social faux pas to expect someone to accept and drink an alcoholic drink that they do not want.
posted by kinddieserzeit at 1:48 PM on November 22, 2020 [2 favorites]

Side comment to your main question: I agree with a few other commenters that what is probably going on is that he wants to enjoy a good bottle of wine but doesn’t want to drink a full bottle. This was my situation as the only wine drinker in my household, rarely getting a chance to enjoy wine at home because I had no one to share with. May I suggest getting him a Coravin? Would be a perfect holiday gift. Now I can have just one or two glasses from a nice bottle and the rest is preserved for later. Total game changer.
posted by scantee at 1:58 PM on November 22, 2020 [4 favorites]

I'm in complete agreement with all the above commenters: you do not, ever, have to drink alcohol to be polite to a host.
As a wine professional, I'd be fired-- and I'd fire any staff-- for doing what your partner is trying to do. Perhaps it does stem from them wanting to share and not feel like they're drinking it all themselves, but it's the wrong approach to claim that it's you who is being rude. They are.
posted by winesong at 2:00 PM on November 22, 2020 [4 favorites]

They replied that I would be a more gracious dinner guest if I drank the red wine that was often offered. Partner said that wine at a dinner is like a gift from a host – something they’ve put effort and money into,

This can be true of food, it was certainly true of food when I was growing up. I agree that that can be a cultural thing. However, it is an unhealthy attitude when applied towards alcohol, and the "be grateful and eat what is served to you" attitude was never, ever applied to alcoholic drinks in any circle I know of because it's alcohol. Nobody should feel pressured to drink when they don't want to, regardless of the reason. Just buying wine that the host wants to drink for dinner is not a gift (cooking, at least, takes effort). That's a bad attitude. I really do not think you should start drinking more just to appease your partner, I don't think that is a good path to go down.
posted by stillnocturnal at 2:09 PM on November 22, 2020 [2 favorites]

(Also, you don't like red wine. You know you don't like red wine, and always decline it. The fact that he and his parents keep trying to give you red wine is REALLY WEIRD and pushy when they know that you don't like it, and would be a red flag to me that his respect for boundaries is not always great. What sort of person gives someone a "gift" of something they know the person doesn't like?)
posted by stillnocturnal at 2:12 PM on November 22, 2020 [4 favorites]

Just on the "learning to like wine" aspect, I myself am trying to get more into wine. My main issue is I like sweet drinks, most wines are dry, so my strategy is to start with sweet wine that I like, and then every couple of weeks try a different bottle that, according to the ratings, is slightly less sweet. The goal is to continue this slow slide to the dry side and develop a taste for it.

But anyway, important part here is: This is MY idea. I actually wanted to do this, I can stop anytime, and no one is guilting me about it.
posted by tinydancer at 2:36 PM on November 22, 2020 [4 favorites]

There is indeed one school of etiquette/manners that says you should never turn down food or drink offered to you, and even if you don't like it you should try it just to be polite.

This school is extremely old-fashioned, and custom in most of the rest of the Western world dictates it is perfectly acceptable to politely decline something you don't like or know will disagree with you. Depending on the situation, "No, thanks" or "No, thanks, just water is great" or even "No, thanks, it doesn't agree with me" are all perfectly socially acceptable.

With food, if you feel you must, you can take a very small portion and poke at it with your fork. You can't really do that with wine.

And my goodness, no remotely reasonable or aware host would take offense at a guest declining alcohol, for any reason. If they did, they wouldn't be the sort of person whose parties I'd want to go back to.

It can be interesting to try to learn to like things you don't like. I have learned to enjoy olives, anchovies, and sherry, and my life is tastier for it. But trying to change your palate is a voluntary fun experiment, not a social or moral obligation. And there are some things you're just never going to like! I spent nearly a decade continuing to try fennel, anise, and licorice in various forms to try to find a way to like it, and no, it is not happening, my body does not interpret that flavor as edible.

And to address the whole "wine is a gift from the host thing"--sure, I can see that as a technically correct statement, but wouldn't drinking it when you know you don't enjoy it be depriving your fellow guests who do enjoy it of having more? Wouldn't having a full glass you only take a few pained sips of be a waste of wine?
posted by rhiannonstone at 3:02 PM on November 22, 2020 [1 favorite]

So, my extended family likes to drink. And at (non-COVID) Thanksgiving, there’s wine. And it’s just an accepted thing that we need a couple of different options, because some of my family likes red wine, and some like sweet white wine. And some like beer. And it’s ok.

I get that your partner wants to share this thing they’re really into with you, their partner who they love, but that doesn’t mean you have to drink red wine that you don’t like.
posted by leahwrenn at 3:51 PM on November 22, 2020 [1 favorite]

There is not a social norm you are oblivious to. It seems very strange to me that someone would get angry or frustrated with their partner for not wanting to drink - for any reason. This includes at dinners, parties, and social functions. If a host gets upset with a guest for declining wine, the host is being rude, not the guest.

"They know about my distaste for red wine and I said I wouldn’t be having any, other than a sip of theirs, but that they were welcome to open the bottle. They decided not to, but a tense discussion ensued." <-- This is a red flag.
posted by panther of the pyrenees at 4:26 PM on November 22, 2020 [4 favorites]

Last night Partner and I were having dinner and they suggested opening a bottle of red wine. They know about my distaste for red wine and I said I wouldn’t be having any, other than a sip of theirs, but that they were welcome to open the bottle. They decided not to, but a tense discussion ensued. Partner suggested that I “learn” to like red wine by forcing myself to drink it by the glass (instead of taking sips of theirs) until I’ve acquired a taste for this. They employed this strategy to acquire their taste for red wine.

I don't think this is about the dinner party thing. I think your partner wants you to drink what they like, with them, when they want to, and they're frustrated that you will drink white wine but not red, the kind they want to have sometimes. They maybe don't want to drink alone? They won't want to open a bottle just for themselves because then they feel like a lush? Or they'll drink too much?

I think the dinner party thing is a red herring. It seems like what really happened was that they want you to drink with them. Maybe they think drinking white but not red means you lack sophistication? (I don't drink wine so I'm just spitballing.)

It seems to me the issue here is between you two. I would try to circle back to how they feel when you say no to red wine with them. Do they feel rejected? Does drinking a bottle of wine together represent something to them? Is this about a control issue for them with you?
posted by bluedaisy at 4:55 PM on November 22, 2020 [5 favorites]

Trying to force myself to like a food or drink I don't like like (i.e. coffee--I don't care how much you milk/water it down, still tastes like drinking ashes somehow) hasn't worked. Also, why are you wasting the wine you don't want when someone else could have drunk it?

I nth that this sounds like your SO's issue and he's trying to make it into yours for some reason? Like it's more socially acceptable if he's not drinking alone?

"When I asked why we couldn't just live and let live they told me they feel like the very fact that I wasn't drinking made them feel judged and ashamed of how much they were drinking."

Yeah, this. This also sounds like when I was hanging out with some guys smoking pot and it seemed to really bother them that I didn't care about smoking the pot.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:28 PM on November 22, 2020

In full agreement with all the above comments suggesting that this is not something you should feel obligated to do.

This part of your context struck me as a very telling though...

Partner suggested that I “learn” to like red wine by forcing myself to drink it by the glass (instead of taking sips of theirs) until I’ve acquired a taste for this. They employed this strategy to acquire their taste for red wine.

So much to unpack here! If my partner said something akin to this, it would trigger me. My first thought would be something like "Really? So because you grinded your way through something you didn't like, I should too?"

Then it would probably strike me that partner thinks they know what's best for me and I might start looking for other instances of the same thing to see if there was a pattern or if this was just a weird outlier.
posted by jeremias at 5:30 PM on November 22, 2020 [2 favorites]

this is kind of like the thing at the dr's office where they tell you it'd be good if you lost weight.

what they mean is, it'd be better if you weren't fat to begin with. (the data they're working with, that shows how much better it is to not be fat, is about not-fat-to-begin-with people.)

what your gf means is it that it would be nice if you were someone who liked wine. that's true, insofar as it goes. It's not fun to drink wine alone.

but it doesn't mean that you can become such a person (she says she did, but frankly I doubt she had as much of a distaste for it to begin with as you do, since you have tried it many times and still hate it); or that you should pretend to be such a person (which is not what hosts want. We had a very long thread about this here the other day in response to a question I myself asked; and one common theme was that people would be mortified if they had reason to believe a guest was consuming something in their home that was making them miserable.)
posted by fingersandtoes at 6:06 PM on November 22, 2020 [1 favorite]

Nthing everything about this being a bit of a red flag for this to provoke a "tense" discussion from your partner.

But I have in the past worked to acquire a taste for various things. Never to make myself a more gracious guest. I just generally like to try new things. It's almost like figuring out a puzzle.

In general, I find that pairing what I dislike with something I do like where the two complement each other is actually very helpful. For red wine, it was a cheese plate. Red wine tends to give me a headache, so it's something I still stay away from.

But none of these things have been tastes that I think are vile (except for cilantro tasting like soap). It's usually been a hair more distaste than "meh, not my thing." So the "process" as it were is not painful.
posted by ghost phoneme at 7:50 PM on November 22, 2020

He feels guilty for wanting to open a bottle and have a glass just for himself. He wants the bonhomie of sharing a glass with a drinking partner, but if you don’t share that desire he’s out of luck. He is bullying you a bit (only you know how serious/common this type of behavior is for him). If you’re on good terms currently I’d find a way to gently ask why he feels he can’t open a bottle just for his own pleasure.
posted by stoneandstar at 9:40 PM on November 22, 2020

I will say, my dad is someone who plans and meticulously executes dinner parties, and to him a well chosen wine is a critical part of the meal, he puts tons of thought into it, and I've absolutely seen him be hurt afterwards when a guest turned down wine with no explanation. Even just taking a sip would have made him feel so much better. To him it's an "I went to all this trouble to find and procure this absolutely perfect wine and they wouldn't even take a sip to toast!" situation. It's just as insulting to him as if you showed up and refused to taste the main course because you didn't like how it looked. Which, idk, I guess a lot of people in this thread don't think that's rude but I'd consider that extremely rude. People put work into hosting, it's a huge source of anxiety for many people, and I think it's appropriate to honor that emotional work by at least trying everything on the table. I don't think that's old-fashioned.

The good news is that if you do happen to have a friend like this there are two magic words that serve as a get-out-of-jail-free card: "doctor's orders." That's all you need to say. I get migraines from reds myself and my dad always picks a white for me when he's cooking. In fact, if you do have a wine-obsessed friend like this I bet they'd be thrilled to know so they can provide a wine for you that you'll actually enjoy! So you can tell your partner your social faux pas is entirely mitigated now and keep only drinking the wines you like.
posted by potrzebie at 9:48 PM on November 22, 2020 [1 favorite]

All red wine tastes like church to me, thanks! Also, any great host has options available and contingency plans.
posted by markbrendanawitzmissesus at 10:20 PM on November 22, 2020 [1 favorite]

I enjoy hosting for people. I enjoy finding something alcohol-wise that matches a meal, and/or an evening.

I would be utterly horrified to hear that a guest of mine had felt a *fraction* of the pressure your partner (or, on update, some commenters families) has placed upon your shoulders. That they're that incapable of respecting your wishes/consent, particularly with mind-altering substances, would leave me with some heavy questions about their character and the nature of any relationship I had with them up to this point. (And to suggest that one should lie about medical matters to assuage their guilt?? Doubly worse.)
posted by CrystalDave at 10:20 PM on November 22, 2020 [2 favorites]

Wow, not rude at all. Lots of people don't like lots of things, including red wine, and I would never want anyone to feel forced to drink something they don't like out of 'politeness'! My other half is a bit of a wine expert, and often plans meals specifically to go with wine, but if we had a guest who didn't want any, they wouldn't care at all.

Please don't feel you are being rude - it's completely fine.
posted by sedimentary_deer at 1:06 AM on November 23, 2020

You have done nothing wrong; please do not buckle on this issue. My late mother-in-law was like this. I went out with her once and she would only order a glass of wine if I also ordered a glass of wine although I hate wine. I couldn’t just get a beer or a cup of tea. So I agreed that one time and then just didn’t put myself in that situation again.

Al-Anon, a fellowship for the friends and family of alcoholics, has taught me that feelings are not facts. Also, importantly, we are not responsible for managing the feelings that other people have. We are certainly responsible for our own behavior, and we are certainly responsible for managing our own feelings.

If you had taken the offered glass of wine and tossed it at your partner, presumably your partner would also have been upset and had reason to be upset based on your behavior. But turning down a glass of wine is something that healthy relationships allow for. They allow for individuals to say no to all kinds of things without their partners taking it personally and feeling offended.

My most recent ex loved distance cycling, jazz, and wine. I did not share any of those passions but I did share several others and that was enough (our break up had nothing to do with the interests that we did and did not share). That partner never attempted to bully me into drinking, which is not my thing. He did not attempt to make me hop on a bike and follow him for 40 miles or go to jazz concerts.

Look, I get that it can feel lonely to drink alone or to listen to jazz with other friends instead of your partner or to not share certain passions with someone you love. I get that, because there are passions of my own that I wish people near and dear to me also shared. But they don’t. I make two attempts to interest someone in something that I care about. If they say no, I focus on the other things we can do together.

You are not being rude to your partner by saying no to something you dislike. You are not being rude to past nor future hosts. You are being true to yourself and taking care of yourself by setting an important boundary (and also protecting your relationship, because relationships based on poor boundaries are fragile). The freedom to say no is a vital right. You are not being rude to your partner by saying no to something you dislike. You are not being rude to past nor to future hosts by saying no. This is an important boundary whether we are talking about drinking wine or engaging in anything that makes you go yuck.

Is it a little sad that your partner cannot share this particular pleasure with you? Sure it is, but just a little. Your partner can morn briefly if necessary but then they need to suck it up and move on like a grownup. Your right to say no and need to take care of yourself trumps whatever family culture your partner grew up in. Lots of wonderful people have blind spots; time for this person to see the light.

TL;DR: For sure, someone was being rude. It wasn’t you.
posted by Bella Donna at 2:11 AM on November 23, 2020 [6 favorites]

I do not like wine. At all. When I'm seated for dinner, the first thing I do is turn over my wine glass. A gracious host/hostess won't say a word about it.
posted by james33 at 3:38 AM on November 23, 2020

I just realized I referred to your partner as "he" in my answer for some reason, my apologies.
posted by M. at 4:38 AM on November 23, 2020

I'll add to the chorus and say you can politely decline any alcoholic beverage with no worry of being rude.

With that said, "red wine" is such a broad category of flavor profiles that if you like white wine I bet there is some red wines that you like as well. Weather you seek out that self-knowledge or not is solely up to you and you shouldn't be given grief about it.
posted by mmascolino at 6:37 AM on November 23, 2020

Pressurising you to drink something that you don’t want to seems far more rude than you politely declining it. I can’t imagine a host who presumably wants you to enjoy an event would expect you to force yourself to choke down something you really dislike.

I do think saying that you would drink some of partner’s drink is probably making this unclear and confusing to your partner. If you don’t like it and don’t want a glass, say no and don’t drink it at all. At least until the message sinks in. Tasting it seems likely to indicate that you want to drink it to some extent at least, and may lead to more of these conversations.

The world has changed, not everyone drinks alcohol for a myriad of reasons. I see absolutely no need to apologise, explain or feel bad for not drinking if I’ve chosen not to on that occasion.
posted by ElasticParrot at 8:28 AM on November 23, 2020

For those who like entertaining: would you consider a guest ungracious for not drinking the offered red wine? Is there a social norm that I am oblivious to?

Just for refusing red wine because you don't like it? Oh for fuck's sake absolutely not. If I were the host and caught wind of your partner feeling embarrassed and trying to project their outdated views onto your behavior like this, I'd graciously shut them down. You are absolutely positively not making a social faux pas. Period.

Now, it is certainly possible as a guest to cross a line into ungraciousness by refusing the wine rudely. I had one friend who, instead of just saying "no thank you," would say "ew, no, that stuff is disgusting." I had a relative-in-law who would interrogate the host about the wine selection to make a judgement before consenting to a glass or not. I once witnessed someone cheerfully asking the host of a holiday dinner to provide a beverage that was completely out of sync, as if they were ordering from a server on a cruise ship, like "nah, but hey, could you make me a piña colada?" You are not doing anything like any of this.

However, if you really, really want to compromise with your partner, you could play it as follows (once we can have dinner parties again, post-COVID): When the red wine is offered, say "Oh, I don't do well with red wine in general*, but I'd like just a little taste to see how nicely it pairs with the food." And then let them put a little splash in your glass, instead of you taking a sip from your partner's glass. This more than satisfies any and all old-fashioned etiquette considerations. Also, we winos and foodies loooove turning people on to something that they thought they might not like, so when someone asks you what you think of the wine, you can just say "I don't think I'll ever be a red wine person, but I appreciate the chance to try a taste."

*Quite a few people find that they have a sniffly/stuffy reaction to red wine and for others it's an insta-heartburn or migraine trigger, so you'll probably get a sympathetic comment from the host to the effect of "ohhh, I think it's supposed to something about the sulfites or something? Feel free to just drink the white if you want."

Partner suggested that I “learn” to like red wine by forcing myself to drink it by the glass (instead of taking sips of theirs) until I’ve acquired a taste for this. They employed this strategy to acquire their taste for red wine.

No. Hard no. Fuck this suggestion.

If YOU decide that you personally want to explore "learning to like red wine," I would recommend taking a wine-tasting class. It is an interesting experience to taste wine while learning about the different regions and varieties of grapes, history and cultural traditions, methods of production, biochemistry, etc. -- even without acquiring a taste for red wine as a beverage.
posted by desuetude at 11:11 AM on November 23, 2020

Partner said: Doing so will make things "easier" for me at dinners
You said: I’ve never felt awkward not-drinking at a social event

Let's first eliminate the idea that your partner is trying to help you solve a problem. There is no problem here for you. Partner is trying to solve a problem for themselves. What is that problem? Here are some possibilities:

- Class differences? Your partner and their family enjoy feeling fancy with their wine and mixology and stuff...and perhaps Partner judges you for not being into it (ie. classy people drink red wine). Is Partner perhaps embarrassed that you don't drink red, especially around their family? Do they think of you as uncultured?

- Do they derive a lot of self-worth from their ability to entertain? Hosting parties is a joint activity. Is it hard for them to picture a future with someone who doesn’t appreciate something they feel is central to entertaining?

- Do they feel guilty about drinking as much as they do?

- Do they want to drink more than they do, but don't want to do it alone?

It's worth exploring all these possibilities with your partner. Get to the root of the issue, because it certainly isn't about party etiquette when it's also a problem at home, just the two of you.

Also, Partner said: a gracious guest should accept

If Partner plans to continue entertaining, they should learn the responsibilities of a gracious host, which have been enumerated above.

Lastly, a thought exercise. Replace “red wine” in this story with any other substance that is objectively bad for you,* like Pepsi or ice cream. Now tell this whole story again. How do you feel?

*Yes, alcohol is objectively bad for you. Red wine may be less bad for you than other alcoholic drinks. That doesn’t mean it isn’t bad for you.

posted by yawper at 1:34 PM on November 23, 2020 [2 favorites]

[reminder: if OP has not specified genders please try to not infer them. We can edit comments if you want us to.]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:13 PM on November 23, 2020

you can have the wine poured buy not drink it...
posted by evilmonk at 2:49 PM on November 24, 2020

OP, would your partner pressure you this way if you were a recovering alcoholic? Resist the urge to say "But Partner knows I am not in recovery!" - if you were, you shouldn't need to disclose your sobriety status in order to be excused from drinking alcohol! Simply saying no to a drink should be enough to make them stop asking you to drink it, just like simply saying no to any sexual activity should be enough to stop trying to have sex with you.

As an aside, I suspect they are attempting to cover up their own issues with alcohol dependency by forcing you to drink with them. But that's almost beside the point. What's shocking about your post is how they're forcing you to consume things you do not want to. There's nothing subtle about their effort to control you utterly.
posted by MiraK at 8:21 PM on November 25, 2020 [1 favorite]

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