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Wine Tasting Etiquette Tips

WineEtiquetteWine adds flair to any meal and communicates to your guest that they are valued and important. Putting time and effort into your wine selection can not only help you entertain successfully but also help you appear confident and in charge.  Do your homework; the goal is to make your guest(s) feel appreciated.

The person who ordered the wine is normally the one who does the tasting, although the host may request that one of the guests do so. After you verify that you received the correct wine your server pours a small amount of wine into your glass. Properly taste the wine by following these steps:

* The server will present the wine to you. This is the time you examine the label, making certain it is the correct wine and vintage that you ordered.

* Look carefully before you taste because color can tell you much about the age of the wine. Red wines lose their color when aged, and white wines can become deeper yellow or gold.

* Gently swirl the wine in the glass by holding the stem firmly while the glass remains on the table. Swirling wine provides oxygen, which assists in releasing the aroma.

*Sniff the wine. Many traits of the wine can be determined by the smell, because research states that the majority of taste is due to the sense of smell. The aroma of the wine can take on a variety of flavors, from herbs to a scent of smoke. A wine with a high alcohol scent is described as heady, and perfumed refers to a delicate bouquet.

* Wearing heavy-scented perfume, cologne, or aftershave can ruin the wine-smelling experience for both you and others at the table. Keep the body fragrances to a bare minimum when you planning an evening that includes wine.

* Take a small sip, if you’d like. It’s not necessary to swish the wine through your mouth; however, if you want to taste the wine, you can hold the wine in your mouth for a moment before swallowing to get a first impression — was it rich, balanced, and pleasant?

* Now is the time to determine your overall impression of the wine and to check that the wine hasn’t spoiled. Wine is a foodstuff, and as such, it can spoil just like any other food. Even though it may be uncomfortable, if the wine tastes “off” to you, this is the time to say so. The usual remedy for spoiled wine is for the server to bring another bottle of the same wine. If that particular vintage isn’t available, the wine steward will suggest or bring a similar wine.

* Occasionally, you may find a cork that is moldy. This does not necessarily mean the wine has been corked. You may also want to feel the bottle with your hand to determine if the wine seems to be the correct temperature.  If the wine hasn’t spoiled, make a comment such as “Excellent. Please serve it.” If you had assistance selecting from the server or sommelier, remember to compliment that person on his recommendation.

* Don’t make a huge production of the wine presentation ritual. The examining and tasting process should only take a minute or two without keeping your guests waiting for a glass of wine!


WineAndBottleDrinking a great wine out of a badly designed, meager glass is just not acceptable. Admittedly, you don’t need fine crystal, but a generous-sized glass is critical for the wine to open up so you can smell and taste it better. Many restaurants have a stash of bigger wineglasses, and your wine doesn’t need to cost a zillion dollars to warrant requesting one. It’s a matter of appreciation, not money.

The server has poured your wine, put the bottle on the table, and disappeared. After 15 minutes or so, you’re ready for a little more. Is it tacky to grab the bottle and top up your own glasses?

Twenty years ago a good waiter would have been mortified if you poured your own (a sign he was not doing his job), but increasingly it’s fine, especially in casual restaurants. Lots of guests, in fact, like to be in charge of the rate – and amount – of wine poured.

In the end, wine etiquette comes down to honesty, common sense, and respect. There’s really only one hard-and-fast rule: Trust your judgment!

Making and Receiving a Proper Toast

ChampagneToasts can be made with wine or any other beverage. Traditionally, you do not toast to yourself, although some people now think that it’s okay to raise your glass in response. In either case, you do not drink if you’re the one being toasted.

Toasting was once a man’s job, and only the men drank the toast while the women nodded and smiled. Now it is perfectly appropriate for anyone to make a toast and for anyone to respond to the toast, regardless of gender.

Are there any rules left? A few:

* The host can and should propose the first toast (a welcome toast) to begin the dining.
* If the event has a guest of honor, the host proposes a toast to that person.
* If the guest of honor is a dignitary, a very important person, or a distinguished elder, it is a sign of respect for everyone to rise to perform the toast.

The guest of honor, regardless of gender, responds to the toast by thanking and toasting the host, and thanking everyone for their attendance. In fact, guest of honor or not, if you’re toasted, you should always respond with a toast.

At large events where you want to command the attention of a room or of more than one table, rising for the toast is traditional. For smaller events, rising isn’t necessary; simply ask for everyone’s attention. When you have the floor, be respectful; take a minute or less to make the toast; and be seated again.

Clinking your crystal with a fork to get attention is gauche and potentially dangerous.