Food and DrinkTravel

5 Crucial Wine Questions Answered: How To Not Be That Guy At The Next Party

You want to drink wine at that next high class event but you have no idea what is happening, why there so many glasses, where to hold the glasses, and whether it should be chilled or room temperature.  Any Modern Military Man who has been to a fancy party (same as a regular party but you call it fancy because you’re getting wine drunk) understands the importance of knowing enough about wine to not look like a clown.  Here are some answers to common questions that will keep you from doing anything embarrassing at the next Catalina Wine Mixer.

1. Why Are There So Many Different Glasses?

What is the point of all these insane shapes and sizes when it comes to wine glasses?

They are specifically designed for the type of wine.

The glass is meant to allow the wine to breathe, allows the aromas to meld, and directs those scents to your face.  Red wines generally need to breathe a bit more, thus you often see red wine glasses with large bowls to allow for airflow.   Tall, slender, glasses are generally for white wine, and short round glasses for red.  This holds true for the normal white and red wine glasses that most of us use in our homes for everyday use.

However, it seems like these days there’s a glass for each type of grape so this rule of thumb doesn’t always apply. Honestly though, that 10 dollar bottle you are opening for that random girl you just met at the bar at last call probably won’t care which type of glass you use.

If you are looking for a nice set of wine glasses you can use to woo when you have people over I recommend the Riedel Ouverture Set.  Riedel is a staple in the wine glass industry.

2. Do I serve It Chilled Or Room Temperature?

Experts will tell you light dry whites ( Pinot Grigio) need to be between 40oF and 50oF, full bodied whites and some of the fruitier reds (Chardonnay and Pinot Noir) should be between 50oF and 60oF, and full bodied reds (Cabernet Sauvignon) should be served 60oF to 65oF.  What this means is all wine should be below room temperature to some degree.

To me this means red wines are good to go right off the shelf.

My white wines I tend to throw in the fridge for about 30min before serving them to give them a bit of a chill.  Here’s the best advice you’ll hear all day: do whatever tastes best to you.

However, don’t do what a young lady once did in front of me. When I brought her a very highly rated bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon she uncorked it and threw some ice cubes in her glass… the last time I date a civilian in Alabama.

3. How Do I Hold The Glass?

The fact that we have to go over this only reinforces the stereotype that wine drinkers are snobs.  But hey some are, and you don’t want to look dumb at the yacht club.  Classical (and classier) wine glasses, will have a stem.  These are the types of glasses you will find in most formal settings and there is only one thing to really remember; make sure you hold the stem near the base and away from the wine.  This ensures that your hand does not heat up the wine, and keeps the glass smudge free.  Furthermore, using the stem when swirling, is classier and more efficient than grabbing the bowl.

If the glass is stemless you are likely in a less formal situation so gently grab the glass towards the top away from the wine itself, and in between drinks look to place the glass down so as to not heat the wine.

4. What Does It Mean To Let The Wine Breathe?

You have likely seen a decanter, a large glass device which is used to aerate wine and allow sediment to settle.  For high end wines or older wines just opening the bottle is not enough aeration. A decanter allows for much more air flow over the wine which brings out aromas and softens the wine.  There are many schools of thought on when and why you should decant wine.  In my experience, an older wine (more than 5yrs) should be decanted for at least an hour prior to serving.  But decant or don’t decant you really can’t go wrong either way, I know some would be appalled at that statement but hey whatever works for you.

5. The Waiter Just Brought Me The Bottle I Ordered, Now What Do I Do?

This is one of those things that can be awkward for everyone involved if you don’t know what you’re doing.  You are just trying to impress your date by purchasing a nice bottle and now the waiter is standing there staring at you as if you’re about to make a mind blowing realization about the wine.

What you need to do is actually quite simple.  First, the waiter will present the bottle, all you have to do is make sure they grabbed the right one.  I have seen them bring the wrong year, the wrong vineyard, and one time the waiter came back with an entirely different type of wine than what I ordered.  Once you have agreed that this is the bottle you ordered, the waiter will uncork it and generally put the cork in front of you for inspection.  This is probably not something you need to worry about unless you just bought the $700 bottle on the menu and you are worried about recorking.  Just check to see if there’s damage or mold on the cork.

Next, the waiter will pour a small amount in your glass and now the pressure is on for your decision on the wine.  All you need to do is swirl the wine slightly to allow some air to reach it, then give it a liberal sniff and enjoy the aromas.

Finally, take a generous sip noting the different tastes as they entertain your pallet.  Even uninitiated wine drinkers will at this point be able to tell if a wine has gone bad.   A general nail polish like taste or somewhat murky taste will be your clues that this is no longer a good bottle.  If you suspect any issues ask another person at the table for their opinion. If you both are unsatisfied, do not accept the bottle from the server.  This is your only opportunity to not suffer through a gross bottle of wine all dinner so make the decision and don’t let your server persuade you otherwise.  In the grand scheme of things you are most likely buying a $40-$60 bottle that was likely produced along with 50,000 other cases and it is very unlikely you will find any issue with the wine, but at least now you have an idea of the steps.

In conclusion, don’t let wine snobs get you down or worry you about your etiquette. As long as you’re enjoying the wine then all of the etiquette is just pomp and circumstance.  Form your own opinions and then stick with them… unless she’s cute, then definitely agree with her.

Did I Miss Any Info That Every Wine Drinker Should Know?

Tony Broviso

Tony Broviso

Broviso is active duty Air Force, when he’s not flying low level and being the “Quiet Professional” he can be found being very loud and very unprofessional at your local pub, attempting to flirt with everyone from the waitress to that old lady drinking alone at the end of the bar.

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2 Comments

  1. Luke Cummerbund
    March 19, 2015 at 7:19 am — Reply

    Tony knows his wine.

  2. March 2, 2016 at 5:15 pm — Reply

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