Written by Isabella Boston.
For some of us it can be intimidating walking into a tasting room, winery, or a formal dinner where wine is served. But it doesn’t have to be. A good sommelier is not just there to sell you a product but will welcome any questions you may have and will want you to enjoy what they have created.
Nonetheless, you still may want to feel more confident and self-assured when you are served a fine wine at a wedding, business dinner, or special event.
Here are some handy tips you can use while attending your next wine venture.
When Wine Etiquette Can Be Useful
· Meeting the parents
· Formal occasions
· Classy dinner dates
· Business dinners
· Wine tastings and Wineries
· Fancy Restaurants
Drinking Wine and Proper Etiquette
Hold the glass by the stem or base ~ The stem of a wine glass is not there to only look pretty. It is there for a reason. When you hold a wine glass by the bowl, your hands will transmit heat and will warm up the wine. This can change how the wine “expresses” its flavor. In addition, holding your wine glass by the stem allows you to swirl the wine more easily, which helps to release the flavor aromas.
Smell Your Wine ~ Taste relies on smell. So, take your time and sniff the wine. This allows your taste buds to pick up the subtle flavors in the wine.
Take Time to Taste the Wine ~ The first taste can tell you a lot about the wine and so does the aftertaste. Do not drink in gulps. Sip the wine and allow it to linger on your taste buds for a while. Close your eyes and really take it in, allowing your palette to experience the full taste of the wine. When tasting, you also want to make sure the wine has not been "cork tainted".
Try to Drink From the Same Position on Your Wine Glass ~ This is especially true for those of you who wear lipstick. Drinking from the same position will reduce unsightly mouth marks left on the glass.
Toasting Techniques ~ Be sure to clink bell to bell when toasting. This will reduce the chances of spillage or breakage. You should also make sure to look your toasting-buddy in the eye.
Try to Keep Your Portion of Drinking Equivalent to Those Around You ~ This goes without saying. You do not want to look or appear as a glut. You should also offer wine to others before pouring seconds for yourself.
Bring an Offering ~ Although not necessary, it always looks good to bring a bottle of wine for your hostess. However, do not get offended if the bottle you bring does not get used during the meal. Most likely, the dinner was well-planned ahead of time with a particular wine and food pairing in mind. Your bottle may not fit into the scheme of things.
When You are the Host
Pop the Cork Quietly ~ When at a formal setting, try to open the bottle of wine quietly without bringing attention to yourself. This is especially important when serving champagne and sparkling wines. Remember, this is not a party but a formal affair. You do not want to send the cork flying across the room and injuring any of the guests.
Pouring Technique ~ Hold the bottle from the base when pouring and have a napkin handy to wipe the spout. Although not necessary, you should face the label towards your guests so they can see what you are serving.
Equal Portions ~ Pour equal portions of wine in everyone’s glass (including yours). Not only is this polite, but you also want to make sure and leave plenty of room for your wine to “breathe”. Five ounces is considered standard.
Offer Seconds ~ Again, always offer seconds to your guests before pouring one for yourself. In addition, if you are serving different varieties of wine, be sure to pace the serving so everyone has a chance to taste everything.
Know Your Varieties ~ Even though you are not an expert, you can take the time to share with everyone why you selected a particular bottle of wine. Your guest will appreciate it and may even want to know the name of the brand for themselves, so make sure to keep a list handy.
Size Does Matter ~ To make wine taste better, select a glass that highlights your favorite style of wine. White wines are typically served in smaller bowled glasses while red wines are served in larger ones. The reason for this is because when serving white wines, you want to preserve the floral aromas while maintaining the cooler temperature. And for red wines, serving them in larger bowled glasses can deliver more aroma and make the wine taste better.
Visiting Wineries and Tasting Rooms
A tasting room is like a fine restaurant. Dress for the occasion and behave appropriately. You don’t need to wear a tux, but this is not a t-shirt and jeans affair either. Speak clearly to your server when asking for something, but never yell at them. Here are a few more things to consider when visiting a winery or tasting room.
Ask Questions ~ Ask the staff any questions you may have, especially about the history of the winery or brand. Take advantage of their knowledge and training. Get them talking about their product. Not only will you learn a lot, but you will also make them feel appreciated.
Use Good Manners ~ Professionals in the wine industry take their jobs seriously. Give them respect. If you have a complaint, speak up, but do so by being kind and polite. If you would like to taste a bottle again, this is perfectly fine, especially when trying to decide if you want to purchase a brand or not. But please do so by saying, “May I please revisit…”.
Follow the Rules ~ When visiting a tasting room or winery, please follow the rules. Do not argue. It is their establishment, their liability, and their preferences. Just like you set the rules in your own home, respect them enough to do the same.
Spitting ~ You may feel uncomfortable with spitting while at a wine tasting or winery. However, spitting is expected and allows you to taste the wine responsibly. You will be tasting a variety of wines and you don’t want to overindulge. Not only that, but depending on your weight and tolerance level, wine can affect you differently than everyone else. When finished, use your cup and napkin to dump wine into the spit bucket, usually located at the counter.
Portion Size ~ It is okay to ask for a smaller portion size, but please do not place your glass against the bottle to stop your server from pouring. It is perfectly okay to leave some unfinished wine in your glass.
Bring a Snack ~ It is always a good idea to eat something before going to a wine tasing or winery. Alcohol enters the bloodstream quickly and even quicker on an empty stomach. When taking a tour, carry some crackers, nuts, or other snack with you. Make sure whatever you decide to bring is not pungent so that it does not interfere with the taste of the wine. Also, be sure to pace yourself while tasting.
Make an Appointment ~ Visiting too many wineries in one day can make you slightly intoxicated and you will not be able to fully enjoy the experience. Everything will be a blur. Not only that, but your palate gets tired after tasting so many wines. You simply will not be as sensitive to the flavor, nuance, and structure of the 10th wine you taste as you were with the first. Three to four of your top wineries to visit is recommended for one day. In addition, if you should show up without an appointment, allow at least 30 minutes or more to get the full feel of a product. Never enter a room ten or fifteen minutes before closing as this is when the staff is trying to finish up with customers and you may not get served. Besides, it’s inconsiderate and impolite.
Avoid Negativity ~ If you do not like a particular brand, do not bash or criticize it. Simply move on to the next one. Everyone’s palate is different. When you make a negative comment, you might ruin the experience for someone else.
Be Open and Try Everything ~ If you can, try a variety of everything. It is the only way to get a feel for what you may or may not like. If you consistently stay with the same varietals, you will never learn about new flavors and brands.
Leave a Tip ~ Servers are not bartenders, but it is considered good manners to leave them a tip. This is especially true if they have been helpful. Leaving a tip is a way to show your appreciation and respect for all that they do. It also builds a good relationship with your local winery.
Knowing and practicing proper wine etiquette can help to make your social or hosting engagement not only more enjoyable but also memorable. Feel confident in yourself by becoming familiar with these handy tips.
Warning: Too much alcohol can have negative effects on your brain. Always drink in moderation and never to the point of intoxication. Do not drink and drive.
Isabella Boston is a multi-talented writer and the Founder of Bella’s Attic Studio. She has several years of experience in content writing, copywriting, and social media strategies. She is the author of the romantic and rare memoir, Passion of Flames. Isabella is currently working to spread awareness on the dangers and inhumanity of human sex trafficking. She has special interests in fashion and beauty, health and wellness, and natural healing as it pertains to the body, mind and soul. When Isabella is not writing, she enjoys playing the violin, learning new languages (currently Italian), and reading books of substance.
1. AboutMadeline PucketteJames Beard Award-winning author and Wine Communicator of the Year. I co-founded Wine Folly to help people learn about wine. @WineFolly. “Tips on Clinking Wine Glasses.” Wine Folly. Accessed September 11, 2022. https://winefolly.com/tips/clinking-wine-glasses/.
2. Sullivan, Sean P. “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Cork Taint.” Wine Enthusiast, March 16, 2021. https://www.winemag.com/2020/08/20/cork-taint-winefault-guide/.
3. Sonoma Valley Visitors Bureau. “Wine Tasting Etiquette 101.” Sonoma Valley. Sonoma Valley Visitors Bureau, August 24, 2021. https://www.sonomavalley.com/blog/post/wine-tasting-etiquette-101/.