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Described by The Telegraph as ‘the empress of etiquette’, Jo joined The English Manner in 2019 from Debrett’s, where she spent over a decade as a tutor and the editor of more than fifteen acclaimed books on etiquette and modern manners.

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Published

2 January 2024

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Here are some top tips and a practical guide to enjoying wine at home and in a restaurant.

Glass guidance

Wine etiquette 101 is knowing that red wine glasses are bigger than white wine glasses. This allows red wine to have more contact with the air, to ‘open up’ and release the bouquet. White wine has less aroma, so a smaller glass is fine.

Temperature check

White wine is served chilled. Don’t over-chill whites, as it can kill the flavour (but it’s a good idea for bottles of ‘plonk’ – English slang for very cheap wine); a very fine white only needs about 20 minutes in the fridge.

Hand held

All stemmed glasses holding chilled liquid, including white wine glasses, should be held by the stem. Hold towards the top of the stem for balance, and pinch your thumb and forefinger with your second and third fingers for support.

Red wine glasses can also be held in this way; it avoids getting mucky fingerprints on the bowl of the glass, and generally looks more elegant. Aficionados may cup the bowl of the glass in their palm and swill but, for general drinking, holding by the stem is best.

Perfect pour

Wine glasses should never be overfilled pub-measure style. So, red wine glasses, being larger, are filled to just below the widest point, and white wine glasses just past the widest point. When pouring, avoid the bottle touching the rim of glass; it should hover just above.

Tasting notes

If you are asked to taste the wine in a restaurant, don’t panic: it really is a simple as swill, sniff, sip. Remember, you are checking whether it is ‘corked’. Corked wine is instantly recognisable as it smells musty, like an old dishcloth. 

In an age where screw-top wines are increasingly used, tasting wine has become less necessary as it is near impossible for a bottle of screw-top wine to be corked. Tasting wine, however, is part of the ritual of being served wine in a restaurant, so go with it.

Taking orders

Only order wine for a group if you know what you are doing. If in doubt, ask someone else to take over and choose or, if you are really put on the spot, ask the sommelier for help. 

Perfect pairs

One of the repeat questions we get during our dining etiquette masterclasses is regarding wine pairing.

Gone are the days of red-for-meat, white-for-fish wine pairings. While certain classic pairings often work best, whether you drink red or white is a matter of personal choice. 

Be nice

There’s not much worse than a wine snob. Enjoy your drinks, drink sensibly, know your limits and don’t bore everyone else with excessive tasting notes. 

Why not join our webinar on the Service and Etiquette of Drinks?

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