Updated: Feb 17
Wine etiquette is a social code of conduct, meant to facilitate the tasting and enjoyment of wine. It usually involves knowing when it's appropriate to sip, and when to pour a whole glass. The best wines for various occasions can vary greatly. So read on, and discover how you can react appropriately at formal dinners or casual get-togethers:
Open wine bottles quietly and carefully
For still wines, examine the enclosure (i.e. the cork or the screw cap) to check if there is any damage. If there is a foil wrap, cut it off and extract the cork with your favorite extractor, taking care to wipe the opening with a clean cloth prior to pouring.
For sparkling wine, be sure not to shake the bottle, and point the bottle away when opening, all the while putting pressure on the cork by holding it down with your hand. You should release it with a slight pop whilst holding it down to prevent the cork from flying away.
Pour the appropriate amount for your guests, then yourself
Hold the bottle towards the base and fill each glass less than half way through to give room for the aromas to bloom and rise. Keep the portion equal to everyone in attendance and offer wine to others before pouring seconds for yourself. A typical 750ml bottle can fill anywhere between 4 to 6 glasses.
Hold your glass by the stem
Wine glasses are designed to help accentuate the flavours of the wine. Enjoy your drink best by holding your glass by the stem, to avoid heating the glass with your hand.
Take a sniff before drinking
Half the enjoyment of wine is in learning to appreciate its aromas. Swirl your glass and see if you can identify the flavours in the bouquet. You’ll be surprised to find not only fruit notes but also floral and earthy tones. It also is a good opportunity to talk about the wine by starting with the smell
Don’t shy away from spitting
If you’re going to your first wine tasting experience, you might find someone frequenting the spit bucket. This is normal especially when you are planning to taste a lot of wines. A good alternative is to take small sips and throw the rest. Do this if you don’t feel like getting too drunk or when you want to taste, savour, and study each wine.
If you’re lost in the vast variety of wines available in a restaurant, don’t be afraid to ask your sommelier or attendant for suggestions. They are likely to know which bottles will work best with the dishes that you chose.
Experiment and have fun
There are endless varietals, blends, old world, new world, vintages, and regions to explore. The fun is in not knowing how each will perform. There is much enjoyment in trying out new things when you are feeling adventurous enough to branch out from your trusted bottles and producers.
Respect other people’s preferences
Others might prefer fruity whites to tannic reds. Some might find the combination of Pinot Noir and creamy pasta enjoyable while some might not. Wine tasting is very subjective, and so are the multitude of ways to enjoy wine. Sharing notes about the wine at hand is a wonderful way to bond with strangers, and will provide you with endless opportunities with your fellow wine lovers.