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Wine Etiquette

Updated on March 20, 2010

What Wine to Serve

People's tastes in wine differ, but you won't be thought completely ignorant if you follow these basic rules:

The general rule is to serve red wines with meat dishes and game, claret with lighter meats. Contrary to public opinion, it is permissible, if you prefer, to have a red wine with a white meat, or a white wine with a red meat. Don't be misled by wine snobs if this is the way you like it. Wine is for drinking and enjoying.

The following chart is a general guide to help you when selecting your wines.

Wine and Food Chart

Hors d'oeuvres, oysters, avocado pear, melon, etc.
Sherry, vermouth
White wine, red wine
White wine
White wine
Duck and game
Red wine
Red wines
Brandy, liqueurs, or port.

How to Serve Wine

Red wine is served at room temperature; the cork is removed from the wine half an hour to an hour before the meal, so that the wine can breathe. White wine is served chilled.

When to Drink Wine

Drink each wine with its accompanying course, that is, as it is served. Wine served with the meat course will rarely complement the dessert. Champagne can go with any course but the soup.

Storing Wine

If wine is to be kept for any length of time, store it in a cool place, on its side to prevent the cork from shrinking. Light white table wines, claret, burgundy and rose last a couple of days after opening.

  1. Traditional sherry glass with short stem.
  2. White wine: served in a medium-sized, stemmed bowl.
  3. Champagne and sparkling wines are served in a wide-mouthed glass with a long stem. A glass of chilled wine should always be held by the stem of the glass to avoid taking the chill from it with your hands. Therefore, it is inadvisable to have a hollow-stemmed glass for chilled wine.
  4. A red wine glass usually has a shorter stem than a white wine glass. Red wine may be nursed in the hand if it is too cold.
  5. A port glass is larger than a sherry glass, and has a short stem.
  6. Liqueurs are served in a glass which has a small bowl with a long stem.
  7. Brandy is served in a balloon-shaped glass.

Points to Remember

  • Special glasses are not essential for the enjoyment of wine.
  • The cost of a meal can be limited by buying only a few wines. You can safely serve sherry at the beginning and champagne throughout the meal, then finish with port. However, one wine is sufficient.
  • Rose is a delicate, rose-colored wine. It is served chilled with almost any dish and is particularly suitable with cold foods and summer luncheons.
  • While rose should always be served chilled, claret and burgundy are usually preferred at room temperature. Room temperature varies considerably. If the weather is  particularly  hot,  you  could  place the claret  or burgundy in the refrigerator for about half an hour before serving, but do not chill. This could mean a loss of bouquet and flavor.
  • A bottle of red or white table wine usually contains five or six glasses.
  • Water is served in a goblet (like a large wine glass) at formal luncheons and dinners, in a tumbler at breakfast or away from the table.
  • Wine glasses should be clear. Colored wine glasses are taboo; the color of a good wine is spoiled in a tinted glass.

Note: Dining Out When dining and wining out, don't hesitate to enlist the help of the waiter with food and wine. Experience puts him a step ahead of all but the most practiced gourmet.

When the waiter brings the wine, he will pour a little into the host's glass so that the host can sip the wine to check its flavour and to make sure the wine is at the correct temperature. The host will nod his head if it is all right.

Unless you are a wine expert, or you feel something is absolutely wrong with the wine, save the histrionics and accept it with a smile. This will save everyone embarrassment.

Wine Tasting Party

Although we can learn about wine from books, newspaper columns, magazines and lectures and conversations with experienced wine men one of the best ways of all is to drink it. One glass can be as valuable as a thousand words. Wine tastings in your own home provide informal occasions on which one can learn a great deal.

  • They should be unpretentious and it is a good idea to provide a fork dish of some kind. Biscuits and cheese are not enough, especially since the guests will seldom have had a meal beforehand.
  • Do not offer too many wines. Supply as much information as possible about a small selection.
  • The home wine tasting may take many forms. Sherries could be compared; red or white wines made from the same variety of grapes but in different regions could be offered, or the same wine, such as a particular claret from different years.

The permutations are limitless and there are few guests who can learn nothing, for there is always something new to discover about wine.


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