Wine Etiquette

Wine Tips for your Next Event

Posted by Liz Taylor Mar 27, 2015

I enjoy and appreciate wine. One of my favorite ways to spend weekend evenings is over a bottle of wine and enjoying the company of great friends. I’ve been studying wine more carefully throughout the year and want to point out a few tips that might help you when you’re hosting an upcoming party, dining out with clients or gifting a bottle to a host.

Storing wine. When storing white wine, keep bottles around 48-55 degrees. Reds should be housed around 60-65 degrees.

Uncorking wine. You can drink whites right away, but let reds breath for about an hour before you drink. The oxidation process will help you discern the full flavor of the vintage.  I like to decant my reds to “let them breath” as many wines experience years of air deprivation and need the oxygen. 

Pouring wine. When pouring a champagne or sparkling wine, pour it down the side of the glass to protect the bubbles. Fill the glass three-quarters full. If the wine is still, pour in the center of the glass halfway full for white wine and one-third full for red wine.

The glass makes an impact. Riedel glasses are my favorite and the shape of a glass plays a role in the enjoyment of great wine. Stemware consists of three parts: bowl, stem and base. The shape and architecture of stemware bring out four sensations which include: bouquet, texture, flavor and finish. While drinking, cradle the bowl of red wines with your entire hand and hold whites and champagne by their stem.

Ordering the appropriate amount. When dining out and ordering wines, a general rule of thumb is to budget a half bottle per person. If your group includes at least three people you can’t go wrong ordering a bottle of red and a bottle of white. 

Working with a sommelier. If you are lucky to work with a sommelier at your dinner event, point out the price point you are comfortable with and let them take it from there. They are specially trained, knowledgeable and have a knack for reading the vibe of your party. Be prepared to tell them the types of food you will be eating.

Selecting a wine. Ask your guests what they prefer. If they defer to your judgment, I automatically go for a Pinot Noir when ordering red and a Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio when ordering white. These are both extremely food-friendly wines and pair well with almost anything. If you are at a steakhouse, a Cabernet Sauvignon is a safe choice.

Inspecting wine. If you are the host, it will more than likely be your responsibility to order wine for the table. Prepare for a three step process when the server returns with your wine: 1.) Visual inspection- look at the label to ensure it’s the wine and vintage you ordered. 2.) Pick up and examine the cork to make sure it’s not spoiled and 3.) Try a sample of wine by swirling it, put your nose in the glass and inhale to take in the various notes of the wine. Next, take a sip and roll it around in your mouth before you swallow. If you don’t detect any flaws, nod to the server (if it smells like wet cardboard or tastes like vinegar, it should be sent back). 

Gifting wine to a host. Don’t expect your wine to be opened the evening of a dinner party you are attending. Many hosts already have their wines selected with purpose. Aim for a price point equivalent to the meal that your host will be serving (in most cases you should be fine with a $20-$40 bottle of wine). I always have wine on hand ready to gift.  

Food Pairing. Gone are the days where you must pair a red wine with a red sauced food dish and white wine with a white sauced food dish. When planning a dinner party, I love kicking things off with appetizers and recommend going to a cheese shop and pairing crackers, toasted baguette slices with several cheese and charcuterie varieties that complement the selected wines. For the main courses, people tend to stick with the wine they’ve been drinking or you can switch it up and have fun experimenting. 

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