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Wine Etiquette: Dos and Don'ts

There are some basic wine etiquette Dos and Don'ts that will help in your appreciation of wine at home and in more formal settings. Find out them here.

A person holding wine bottles on a laid table with empty wines glasses.

At home as you pour yourself a drop of Burgundy into your Best Dad in the World mug, the word etiquette can sound a little pretentious and, when linked with wine, make you want to switch off, roll your eyes and think this isn't for me.

However, there are some basic wine etiquette Dos and Don'ts that will help in your appreciation of wine at home and in more formal settings, in addition, they can enhance your wine tasting proficiency, see the how to taste wine blog for more.

Two people at a restaurant toasting their wine glasses one-third full.

Basic Dos

Buy some good wine glassware. The best all-rounder is a tulip-shaped glass; this works well for all wines, even fizz. The shape helps concentrate aromas allowing you to smell those beautiful fragrances and helps in swirling the wine around assisting in releasing those joyous aromatics.

Keep your glassware clean. This may sound like common sense, however, how many times have you had a glass with lipstick on it? A clean glass allows you to see those gorgeous colours of deep ruby, golden lemon or salmon pink as well as those lovely bubbles.

Hold your glass by the stem. This helps keep the glassware clean but also aids in swirling the wine. This can seem a little pretentious and risky if not mastered, as it can lead to spillages. Give it a go and hopefully, you will reap the rewards.

Basic Don'ts

Don't fill your glass, or anyone else’s, too full; the optimum level is around one-third. This allows enough wine to be seen so you can marvel at its colour, but not too much that you risk spilling it as you swirl to aerate the wine, enabling you to breathe in those delectable aromas.

Don't put ice in your glass of wine! Use an ice bucket to keep your wine chilled. Ice not only dilutes the wine, but it may also chill it too much and inhibit your ability to taste all those wonderful flavours.

A man serving red wine into a glass to one of the guests at a table.

Dining Out in a Restaurant

Eating out can be a daunting experience when someone passes you the wine list saying: "You’re a wine expert, pick some good wine for us". You may be tempted to buy what you would like to drink and, depending on who you are with, this may be acceptable but just take a few moments to think.

Do ask people what their wine choices are, it may be a red or white or even a bottle of each. Also bear in mind people’s budgets. You can always start by saying does anyone fancy any fizz? You may end up with vintage champagne, but it allows others to temper your enthusiasm.

Do check that it's the right bottle and smell it first before you taste it. If it doesn’t smell right then it probably won't taste nice either. Don't be afraid to send the wine back if it's the wrong bottle or doesn't smell or taste right, but don't send it back because you don't like it.

Do ask for recommendations from the waiter or sommelier if you're stuck on a choice. They should be well-versed in the food and wine, so can match what you're ordering. Don't be afraid to ask for another option, especially if they are recommending something out of your price point.

A person wearing an apron pouring wine into a decanter.

Dining out at formal gatherings or business dinners can be a foreboding experience, especially as the classier the establishment, the more under pressure you may feel. All the above will help in those situations and add to the enjoyment of the occasion.

Dining In

Entertaining at home and sharing good food and wine always seems to make everything taste so much better, especially with friends. There is no reason why this should not be the case in more formal gatherings. Here are a few Dos and Don'ts that we can add to the others.

Do have a selection of wines to cater for all of your guests. This will be easy if you know who is coming, but if you only drink red wine, do have some white to share with them. Remember if you go to someone's house and they only offer you a glass of white wine, you would not be best pleased.

Do decant your wines before the guests arrive, even whites; some wines need decanting to remove sediment. A good decant helps release those wonderful aromas. There's no need for an expensive decanter, just pour it into a jug, rinse out the bottle and pour the wine back in.

Don't take a bottle to someone else's house that you wouldn't drink yourself. Think of it as a gift to the host. Remember if they offer to open the bottle later and it is something you wouldn't drink, it could be quite awkward.

Don't wear too much cologne if you know that the evening is going to be a wine-related event. What we smell is related to what we taste, so it is important that our senses aren't confused and distracted by overpowering aftershaves and perfumes.

Conclusion

When you step back and look at these simple Dos and Don'ts they aren’t complicated or pretentious but are simple guidelines that wine professionals follow. The reason why people follow these rules is to ensure that the wine itself is the centre of attention.

Wine etiquette helps you, and everyone else who is with you, to get the best out of the wine and the event you are at. These rules are not expensive to adhere to and are not part of a passing trend that will quickly go out of fashion.

The basics are Do enjoy yourself and Don't worry if you're not doing everything, just take things one step at a time. In no time at all, you will be appreciating your Grand Cru Burgundy at its peak and everyone will want to share that experience with you, as long as you are happy to share it.