Whether it’s celebrating with a bottle at home or dinner at a five-star restaurant, we all need some basic wine etiquette skills sure to impress even the top sommelier. With the increase of popularity of wine among younger generations, there are some unspoken rules you should follow to ensure a behavior that will impress, and not offend your companions. The following tips offer suggestions in etiquette from informal service at home to dining out and creating an enjoyable wine experience for all occasions.
The growing popularity of Midwest vineyards and wine tours brings a different kind of tasting crowd. Although wineries are a great place to learn about wine and envelope yourself in the process, it is not a free-for-all buffet. Wineries have experts on staff to assist in your wine selection and preference so your experience is enjoyable and you aren’t walking in blind. You’re probably not going to like every wine they serve at a vineyard, that’s why it is such a process to find one enjoyable to the palate. It is perfectly acceptable to discard unfavorable wine in the receptacle at a wine tasting. This will also keep you on your feet and discourage over consumption. You can also ask for a second pour on a particular wine you are unsure of. However, it is not polite to ask for a second pour on every sample. If you find yourself enjoying a particular wine, purchase a glass rather than asking for additional pours. Some wineries do not require a purchase of wine, but have a fee for the session. Others will waive fees if you purchase a wine. It is suggested that if you enjoyed a particular wine or if the winery is rather small, purchase a bottle in good form. If you don’t drink it, it’s a memento of fun times.
You sit down at table dressed in white table cloth, three forks, four glasses, and are presented the wine list. This can seem quite intimidating for the novice wine drinker, but using basic wine etiquette will ensure an enjoyable experience for both the server and you. Don’t feel shy in asking your server for recommendations. It is their job to provide you with suggestions that will compliment your food nicely, so deciding your meal prior to wine selection is helpful. Mark Taylor, Wine Director at Trezo Mare Restaurant located in Briarcliff Village also suggests “Start with a glass of sparkling, such as Prosecco so you aren’t pressured to make a decision right off bat. Then from that point the qualified server can suggest drinks that will compliment your dinner nicely.” It is also acceptable to ask your server for suggestions of wine in a variety of price ranges since restaurant wines can be so pricey. If you’re with a group, the server will also be able to recommend a wine that will compliment everyone’s meal. At a more formal dining establishment, the server will present you with the bottle and label before pouring. This is to ensure it is the correct bottle and year that was ordered. The server will then pour a small sample for the host’s approval. You can taste the wine sample, smell it, examine it, all to make sure it is a wine that is to your liking. This is where the cork is also presented for examination. Many people think it is for the host to smell the cork. Don’t smell the cork. “You want to touch it, see if there’s mold which may suggest the wine is old. If the cork was dry it could suggest it was stored improperly,” says Taylor. Do not be afraid to reject the wine if it does not live up to your expectations. This is perfectly acceptable, but do use the opportunity to have the server suggest another wine more to your liking. Any wine steward knows that the restaurant can sell the open bottle by the glass. In addition the server will be sure your red wines “open up” or decant and that whites are served properly chilled. “Red wines need a little bit of time to bring all of the floral or fruit characteristics and structure into the air,” explains Taylor. It is customary that if your server was exceptionally helpful in your wine selection or if you use the restaurant’s sommelier to tip 10-20% of the cost of the wine.
When serving wine to guests in your home, using the proper etiquette will ensure an enjoyable experience for your guests. To do this, first, select wine that will pair well with the food you are serving. If you plan to serve wine before the meal, a lighter white or sparkling wine is appropriate. Be sure to use appropriate glassware in your home, not plastic or paper because it will affect the quality and taste of the wine. Serve at an accurate temperature for the wine in conjunction with reds and whites. And finally, pour the correct amount of wine. Leaving about half of the glass empty will make it easier for your guests to enjoy without the possibility of spilling.
Wine is always an appropriate hostess gift when invited to someone’s home. A basic rule to follow is to give red during winter months and white during summer months. Of course, if you know the wine the hostess prefers, always gift it. If not, a medium priced and medium bodied wine such as a Sauvignon Blanc is a safe gift. The hostess will most likely have their menu and wine pairings selected, so never bring a bottle already chilled and expect it to be served for dinner.