The only aspect of Saturday-evening dinner parties in Hong Kong I dislike is that I always miss at least the first half of Cable TV's English soccer match of the day. Admittedly this phenomenon lasts from August to May only, but with months to go the prospects are grim. A few of my like-minded pals and I have tentatively raised this concern with our socially minded, dinner party-loving wives, only for it to fall on deaf ears. I recently tried another tactic to limit the number of missed goals and began to complain about the wine service at some less vinously inspired gatherings. My first gripe is about taking a great bottle of wine along to share on the night, only to have it whisked away to a cupboard while the host proudly pours his carefully chosen drop. Other pet hates include champagne with bobbing strawberries, coloured wineglasses, smokers in the same room and water jugs garnished with lemon slices. Dinner parties at our place are a much safer bet now I believe I have learned the rules of engagement. Any guest bringing chilled champagne or white wine expects it to be opened immediately. Red wine placed on the dining table is for meant for tonight's consumption. Gift boxes and wines slyly placed behind the microwave oven indicate great generosity or embarrassment at trying to off-load cheap wine on a supposed friend. Seating plans at our table used to take into account talkers, listeners and gender. No longer. Serious winos sit near me and within easy reach of the previously decanted 'good stuff'. Anyone wearing aftershave or strong perfume is invited to grace the head of the other end of the table. Serious quaffers adjoin them and standard quaffers fill the middle ground. Serious quaffers may be differentiated by their willingness to drink cask or strawberry wine. This usually happens at about 2am when everything else I will admit to owning has been consumed. The knack with standard quaffers is to ensure full bottles of wine are placed easily within their reach. If any glasses become empty, eager eyes have been known to stray towards my decanter. Avoiding this does require me frequently to stand up and offer top-ups but this slight inconvenience is well worth the effort. The sight of some less than appreciative guest pouring themselves an almost overflowing glass of my treasured good stuff is heartbreaking. Determining whom should share my decanter is usually straightforward. But on some occasions I have had to make a few quick decisions during the pre-dinner drinks. My approach is foolproof. First, invite a maybe-serious wino to top up his or her glass and observe. Anyone pouring wine above the half way mark is immediately disqualified. If there is not enough room in the glass for the aromas to congregate, the wine's fragrance will evaporate. Supposing the pour-test is passed, a subtle cross-examination will follow. My apparently innocent question, 'What do you think of the pre-dinner wine?' will usually give me the answer I need. Guests answering with 'Mmm, dominant melon flavours, buttery overtones, malolactic treatment I think, new American oak' are placed on my right. Any answers starting with, 'Mmm very smooth, yes, I like it' move down to the 'quaffing' position. My wife knows my decanter game plan. My secret is safe as long as the decanter makes its way to the kitchen regularly to top up her glass while she creates the feast. I am guilty of what is arguably one of the most boring of social crimes: wine snobbery. Amazingly, friends still come over for dinner. I should not be surprised, perhaps, by the fact that they no longer bring wine, but shower my wife with flowers and boxes of chocolates.