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Sunday, 6 September 2015

Negotiating the Minefield of Wine Etiquette!

So-called rules about wine drinking only serve to scare people away from what should be a pleasurable experience

Why do we insist on putting up barriers to people enjoying wine?
I only ask because I was both intrigued and appalled to read several reports this month of a collection of apparently dreadful social gaffes being perpetrated by our British cousins.
Several newspapers managed to frighten more than a few beginners away from wine by splashing a story about the greatest faux pas you can possibly commit while communing with the grape. What intrigued me was the fact that a research company had managed to come up with 20 wine crimes committed on a regular basis by an unwitting drinking public.
However, what appalled me was the fact that at least half of them weren't necessarily faux pas in the first place. I've whittled the more egregious ones away to examine a list of the UK's 11 deadly wine sins and see if they are really as terrible as the media would like us to believe.

1. Putting red wine in the fridge
Absolute rubbish, this one. It is perfectly acceptable to chill a Pinot Noir (or even a Cabernet) if it's too hot. Room temperature should be calibrated towards a drafty English house in early spring rather than a cabana in Mauritius in January.
2. Using a corkscrew on a screwcap
OK, this is a little embarrassing, as is the related faux pas of trying to uncork your precious Burgundy by hand. But, hey, we've all done it; usually after the second bottle.
3. Drinking from the bottle
There's not much that's forgivable about this one, in all honesty, especially if you are sharing the bottle with others. This isn't about manners – it's about basic human decency. So unless you are actually a "woohoo"-ing, stripped-to-the-waist jock/cheerleader on spring break, there is no excuse for such an atrocious social sin.
4. Asking for ice in your wine
I'm not going to condemn anyone who has done this – or the related crime of asking for a slice of lemon – because it can be a perfectly acceptable thing to do. A fairly bland white can be enlivened by the addition of ice and a slice, and spritzers cry out for both.
5. Serving in a wine glass with old lipstick stains and serving wine in chipped glasses
Again, this is not a social faux pas, it is simply a matter of good housekeeping. Check your glasses once you have washed them and throw out any that are chipped. But if that starts to get too expensive, remember that most people would rather drink wine out of an iffy glass than resort to swilling it from the bottle. Remember #3? That shit's never OK.
6. Taking a cheap bottle to a party or not bringing a bottle but drinking everyone else's
The first one is not exactly a mortal sin, especially by comparison with the second. Make no mistake, turning up empty-handed and then getting in amongst everyone else's Médoc is so far off the scale of cultural abominations that it's actually likely to cause a physical fight. It's horrible, barbaric, parasitic behavior of the worst kind. It makes the person bringing the cheap bottle look like a saint.
7. Gulping wine rather than sipping it
Sure, wine snobs will sniff snootily at those who prefer to quaff their Sangiovese (quaffing is like drinking, but you're allowed to spill more), but then there are also people who will tell you that you should eat pizza with a knife and fork. Ignore them; everyone else does, which is why they are such uptight, friendless losers in the first place. If you enjoy a good gulp, go for it.
8. Drinking it out of a tumbler
What's wrong with this? Sure, a chilled white wine will warm up faster if you're cupping it in your hand, but for reds and bolder whites there is absolutely no reason not to drink from a tumbler. You won't get the same aroma concentration that you'll get with a wine glass, but needs must when the devil drives.
9. Pouring yourself a glass before pouring others on the table
This is pretty much always wrong – unless you are testing the wine before serving it, of course. But anyone who has managed to make it to an age where they are old enough to drink surely knows that you serve others before yourself? Surely?
10. Pronouncing the 't' in Pinot Noir and/or Merlot
Fair enough, if you've got enough interest in wine to drink it on a reasonably regular basis, you should probably have picked up enough background info to know that these words are pronounced in the French manner (i.e. with an unpronounced final letter). But I'm not going to rag on anyone who does this, while there are thousands of people who blithely and confidently go through life not pronouncing the terminal 't' in Möet.
11. Asking the waiter to pour you more when they were intending you to taste it
There are two things to consider if you do this. First, check to see if anyone heard you. If people aren't staring at you in horror, there's a good chance they didn't notice. There's also a good chance that the waiter will simply pretend the whole unfortunate incident didn't happen, enabling you to salvage at least a shred of dignity. If you say it loudly, then I'm afraid the your only hope is that the ground opens up and swallows you on the spot.
It's easy to get carried away with all the palaver that has attached itself to wine down the years, but it's important not to get overawed. After all, wine is about enjoyment and it's hard to have fun when you're worrying about which unwritten social rule you're about to shatter next. And always remember there is a big difference between etiquette and manners – etiquette is knowing which fork to use for the fish; manners is not embarrassing someone for using the wrong one.

Source: http://www.wine-searcher.com/