Wine Etiquette: 4 Basics For Serving And Drinking Wine

Wine etiquette is the set of rules for appropriately serving and drinking wine.

Who is wine etiquette for?

If you are hosting, learn how to serve wine to your guests, including the appropriate presentation and pairings. 

As a guest, learn the correct manners to enjoy wine best. 

Wine etiquette micro-class

1) How to choose the best wine

What you should know about wine

Wine is an alcoholic beverage made from fermented grapes. Wines differ in flavor, aroma, and complexity based on grape variety, region, and winemaking techniques.

Season and availability 

Most wines are available year-round. However, some wines, like Beaujolais Nouveau, are released shortly after harvest and are best enjoyed fresh.

Types of wine and how to choose the best

There are 6 major wine categories: red, white, rosé, sparkling, dessert, and fortified.

High-quality wines depend on wineries and vintage years. To buy the best wines, you can trust expert ratings or choose wines from quality-controlled consortia, such as AOC (Appellation d’origine contrôlée) in France or DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita), DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata), and IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica) in Italy.

2) How to serve wine

How to store wine

It is best to store wine in a cool place, far from direct light and sources of heat.

Place wine in the fridge at 45-55°F (7-13°C) and only for short-term chilling. Avoid the freezer.

Signs of spoilage include foul odors, vinegar-like aromas, a flat taste, mold, or cork particles in the bottle.

How to prepare wine before serving

If you are presenting wine in its bottle, wipe the bottle with a cloth to remove any dust.

Decanting aged, medium-bodied, and full-bodied wines can enhance their aroma. Pour the full bottle into a decanter between 20 and 60 minutes before serving.

Light wines such as most whites and rosés benefit from chilling. Place the bottle in the fridge between 30 and 60 minutes before serving.

How to serve and present wine

Wine can be enjoyed on both formal and informal occasions. It is suitable for meals, celebrations, and casual drinks.

Serve wine at the appropriate temperature: in general, whites and rosés 45-55°F (7-13°C), reds 55-65°F (13-18°C). Use clear, stemmed wine glasses designed for each type of wine.

At a restaurant, it is good etiquette to open the bottle at the table, in front of the guests. Serve first the most senior guest or party host, who will taste the wine. Avoid making negative comments about customers’ wine choices and show respect for personal preferences.

When you pour the wine, handle the bottle by its body or base for stability, never by the neck. The bottle’s label should face the guest. Fill glasses up to one third, avoid touching the rim or overfilling glasses. Use a clean napkin or cloth to stop any drops.

Wine dietary restrictions

Wine generally aligns with vegan and vegetarian diets. Some guests may have allergies or intolerances to sulfites, a common wine preservative.

Some religions, like Islam and Buddhism, restrict wine consumption.

3) How to drink wine

Food and wine pairings

The ideal pairings depend on the wine, its body, and its aroma. In general, reds go well with red meats and hearty flavors, whites with fish and poultry and lighter flavors. Each type of cheese and vegetable has its ideal wine pairings. 

The appropriate manners to drink wine

Hold wine glasses by the stem to prevent warming the wine with your hand. Gently swirl the wine in the glass to release its aroma. Take a moment to smell the wine before tasting it. Sip, not gulp, and savor the taste.

4) Etiquette mistakes when serving or drinking wine

When serving wine, avoid overfilling glasses, touching the rim, pairing wine with the wrong aromas, or pouring more than one type of wine in the same glass.

When drinking wine, avoid slurping, gulping, or overdramatizing tasting. 

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