Over the last several classes, my wine education, readings, and experience, I have come around certain wine etiquette questions that often come to mind but many seldom ask about. Here are some I want to share:
1. BYOB – Many of us keep great bottles at home and it often feels like a shame to go out for dinner and order other bottles while thinking about that gem we left behind. That’s when it may be just the thing to bring it to the restaurant. It’s always wise to call ahead to make sure that’s allowed and if so, what is the corkage fee. Personally, if $35 or more, it feels like they don’t really want you to bring that bottle. But then again, if your bottle is that special, then the economics of expensive corkage fees may work. I think it is always good form to offer a drink to the waitstaff. I also find it elegant, for instance, if you bring a red, to buy a cheaper white from the restaurant. Remember that often there are limits to the number of bottles that can be brought. It is not unusual to allow “just” one bottle per two guests.
2. Tipping on wine- This is truly an art form. I think that most folks would agree that it may be unreasonable to tip 20% on a $500 bottle of wine for pulling and serving the wine. On the other hand, this may be perfectly fine for those more down to earth bottles. It’s been said that if you fret too much about tipping for wine, perhaps going out and ordering wine is not what you should be doing.
3. Ordering cheaper priced wines without appearing to look cheap - It’s perfectly cool to point at the wine list, slide your finger right to the prices, and show the server/sommelier the price range you want. Nobody will know what that range was! Remember that often the second to the cheapest wine is the wine with the highest markup…the restaurant knows that you don’t want to be cheapskate!
4. What to do with the cork? - Very little. This is a throwback to the days a branded cork helped confirm the provenance of the wine when labels would peel off or otherwise deteriorate. DO NOT SMELL IT! Why? Because corks smell like cork and there’s not much information from that. Instead just look at it to make sure it’s not destroyed or blemished with wine staining the side as that can be a sign of seepage and thus a bad wine. It’s still a cool part of the pageantry.
5. That popping noise- Again…part of the pageantry for some but technically considered not “elegant”. Same applies to opening sparkling wines. Instead “popping” the cork should make no more noise than the sigh of a content lover or a nun’s fart (this IS an adult blog, folks).
6. The guest who holds out a wine glass up in the air for a refill- This is a disaster waiting to happen and considered uncouth. When faced with this situation, gently grab the glass, set it on a table, and then pour the wine. Be nice.
7. Bringing wine to a party- Do not expect that your wine will be opened because chances are that your host already has the drinks set up. But if you must, bring one for opening and another for your guests to enjoy later. Please be clear to your host. Not cool to make them read your mind.
Above all, beyond all these “rules”, the bottom line is that wine should be there to serve us and not the other way around. Agree?
Lorenzo, the wine guy
Friends, food, and wine...I'm happy there.