There's a lot of information out there about how to taste, drink, and enjoy wine. I'm here to set the record straight concerning some of the biggest misconceptions I have encountered teaching over the last few years. These are the most common questions people ask me when trying to up their wine game. Guidance in these areas will surely help you avoid any wine etiquette pitfalls...
1.) What's the right way to hold a wine glass?
Hold your glass by the stem. You do this because the body heat from your hand has the potential to heat up and change the characteristics of the wine you're holding. So, to keep your wine in its most natural state, try to only touch the stem of the glass. Sometimes, the question of stemless glassware comes up. With these glasses, you don't even have a chance to to avoid altering your wine. They aren't the best and I wouldn't recommend investing in them for your home. However, if they are your last resort at an event, they won't kill you.
2.) Why and how do people swirl wine?
Swirling wine may look like a completely pretentious activity. I can remember looking at people twirling their wine and thinking they were quite full of themselves. However, now I see the light. Swirling wine is the best way to quickly incorporate oxygen into your glass. Doing it simply means the wine will release more aromas, flavors, and enjoyable characteristics. To avoid a rookie mistake of swirling the wine right out of your glass, I recommend putting your wine glass on a solid surface. Next, take hold of the bottom of the glass and start moving the glass in circular movement. This will give you greater control of the glass and prevent any slushing catastrophes.
3.) What do I do during the wine presentation at a restaurant?
This can be an intimidating experience for some people. I can still remember presenting wines to guests at restaurants and seeing their nervous expressions during my wine presentation. However, the process is quite simple. After you order a bottle, the server or sommelier will return to present the bottle you ordered. During this ceremony, they will show you the label. Actually, take a look and double check its right. Next, they will open the bottle in front of you and pour you a sip. This is where the confusion comes in. Do you smell the cork? Do you just gulp the sip down? Is there something special you have to say? What if you don't like it? All great questions I hear time and time again. Don't worry about smelling the cork, because if there is something wrong with the wine you will find the flaws more in the glass than on the cork. That being said, focus on your wine and give it a quick spin on the table to release more aromas. Then, smell the wine and look for anything musky, funky, or just off-putting. Next, take a small sip (you don't have to finish the whole taste) and make sure everything checks out with the wine. If everything smells and tastes correct, just let your sommelier or server know they can pour away. Now, say you find something weird or off in the wine. This is your time to have the confidence to speak up and let the server know. They will make sure to bring you an unflawed bottle. Also, if you made a mistake in ordering and absolutely hate the wine, this is also the time to speak up. A great restaurant will replace the bottle so you won't have a subpar dining experience. Ways to avoid ordering the wrong bottle is to seek assistance from your sommelier. They're around to help you choose your ideal wine. At the end of the day, its your wine and your experience.
4.) What bottle should I give as a gift? Is expensive always better?
Giving wine as a gift can be daunting and potentially pricey. There's a full proof way to avoid breaking the bank or alternatively going noticeably cheap. My best advice for giving bottles as gifts is to gravitate toward lesser known producers from lesser known parts of the world. Your local wine shop can surely help you with this. You just have to know what to ask for. Ask your local wine shop to guide you to a bottle between $15 to $30 dollars from a unique region that over delivers for the price. I find many people who work with wine have a sixth sense in knowing what the perfect bottle for this scenario would be.
5.) Why do people spit out wine during a tasting?
You have probably seen wine professionals at a tasting drinking wine after wine and spitting them all out. At first, it's a horrible thought. All that wasted wine! However, there is a method to the madness. Spitting prevents wine professionals from getting drunk. It's a way to allow tasters to explore potentially hundreds of wines while still having their wits about them.
Now, go out there and show the world how wine savvy you are!