By Nan McCreary
Whether we are visiting tasting rooms in wine country, ordering wine at a restaurant, or even consuming a bottle in the privacy of our own homes, most of us generally consider drinking wine to be a laid-back activity. However, no matter how casual wine-drinking may seem, there are some finer points of etiquette to follow if you want to make the experience more enjoyable.
Skip the cologne or perfume
Smell is the most important sense when it comes to wine tasting. Scientists say the human nose can detect millions of scents, and most of what you are tasting is through your olfactory receptors. The scent of perfume, aftershave or cologne can ruin the tasting experience, not just for you, but for those around you.
Ladies, wear lipstick at your own peril
Lipstick smudges on a glass are not only unsightly, but they may also interfere with your palate’s ability to fully experience the wine. A French scientist, who has studied the physics of champagne bubbles, discovered that the glass of champagne of some women foamed less than others. The reason was lipstick. Lipstick contains fats that make bubbles burst faster than normal. However, if you must wear lipstick, plant your lips on the same spot, so there is only one smudge on the glass.
When pouring wine, allow plenty of space between the rim of the glass and the surface of the wine
Fill red wine glasses one-third full to give the wine room to breathe and fill white wine glasses half-full. This space allows you to swirl the glass, releasing aromatic compounds, and enriching the tasting experience. If drinking champagne from a flute, fill the glass no more than two-thirds full, so that you can breathe in the scents.
Always hold your glass by the stem
All wines are served below room temperature and if you grasp the glass itself rather than the stem, your body heat will increase the temperature of the wine. To ensure stability, grasp the stem firmly between your thumb and first two fingers. If you are using stemless glassware, hold the glass near the base to avoid leaving smudges on the top or middle of the glass.
Take time to swirl, sniff and sip your wine
Swirling helps release hundreds of different aroma compounds found in wine. It also leaves behind legs, also called tears, on the glass, which can indicate a wine’s viscosity and signify higher alcohol levels. The more legs a glass of wine has, the more alcohol. After swirling your wine, poke your nose into the glass to pick up the subtle flavors, then take a sip. Swirl the wine around in your mouth to let your palette savor the full taste of the wine. In general, the longer the aftertaste, the better the quality of the wine.
When you are toasting, clink the bell
The bell is the rounded middle of the glass and the strongest part. If you clink the rims, you risk breakage. Always make eye contact with your drinking buddy. Not only is it considered polite, but in several European countries, superstition says that “bad-luck” penalties may be imposed if one fails to maintain eye contact.
These are just a few basics of wine etiquette. The more you learn about wine, the better your experience will be.