November 24, 2004
Wine serving tips let you go with the flow
There's no need to get in a lather over wine etiquette. Most of the rules still passed off as "wine etiquette" tips went out with the advent of central heating. Unless you're serving a crusty 20-year-old bottle of wine, leave the decanters in the cupboard: Most wines today don't need to be opened until you want to drink them. And glassware? It's nice to have glasses with thin lips and graceful, long stems, which both look nice and keep your greasy fingers from mucking up the view, but don't get uptight about it. Use what you have, because the first rule of wine etiquette is to remain relaxed. Wine is about pleasure, after all.
Now that those two biggies are out of the way, here are some other tips that will ensure that your guests are comfortable and the wine flows smoothly.
- Have water and nonalcoholic beverages easily accessible for those who don't want to drink alcohol. Teetotalers should not feel like they are making a scene.
- Taste a wine before filling everyone's glasses to make sure it isn't corked. There are few more uncomfortable situations than having to tell your host the wine she served is flawed.
- Fill glasses a little less than half full so the wine can be swirled without spilling. Swirling isn't an affectation: most of what we interpret as flavor comes from scent.
- When pouring wine, keep the neck of the bottle off the lip of the glass.
- Keep a napkin handy to catch any drips too. A stain on the tablecloth or your guest's blouse is far more gauche than holding a napkin under the bottle, ready to catch drips.
- Refill glasses before they are empty, but don't be too eager to keep them topped up, or your guests might feel rushed to drink more.
- If you're serving many wines, have a container handy where guests can discreetly dump any wine they would rather not finish.
- Traditionalists will want to fill ladies' glasses before the men's, pour from the guests' right, and hold the bottle so that the guest can view the label as you're pouring. Unobtrusiveness trumps tradition, though, so if pouring from the right means sticking your arm between two people engrossed in conversation, pour from a different side.
- You don't have to open bottles brought by guests. They are gifts, for you to do with what you want.
- Keep wine talk to a minimum: The guests should feel like they are more interesting to you than what's in the glass.
This article originally appeared in the Denver Post.