Food & Drinks

Wine Etiquette to spare you some embarrassment


A waiter serves South African wine at Hemingways Nairobi.PHOTO | POOL

It reaches a certain stage in life when you shouldn’t be drinking or serving bad wine. Period. You shouldn’t be serving wine from funny glasses either and when you are that level, you and your guests should also master the etiquette of drinking wine to enjoy its flavours and aromas.

So this festive season, why not elevate the dining experience with proper wine etiquette.

Holding the wine glass

Never ever hold a wine glass by the bowl. Hold by the stem of the glass. Reason? Your body heat usually increases the temperature of the wine faster. This changes the wine’s flavour.

Holding the glass by the stem maintains a proper temperature for longer, so you could fully enjoy the gentle unraveling of the wine’s aroma and taste.

Nosing the wine

Tilt the glass elegantly away from you. Look at it. You are trying to decipher the age of the wine. Pale means you are drinking young wine, probably not aged, while darker means it is aged in oak barrels for years.

Sniff it. The taste of your wine is really in your nose. You cannot like a wine because it does not taste sweet, you like wine because its taste is balanced, harmonious, and is not offensive.

Swirl the wine to introduce oxygen, hence amplifying the flavours. 

Red wine and headaches

Red wine has a reputation for causing headaches. But if you are drinking good quality wine, you won’t get headaches.

Rosa Ali, a wine importer says the headaches are usually due to sulfites used as preservatives in some wines. To avoid headaches, choose a high-quality bottle and drink water before and in between your glasses of wine. Also, line your stomach with food before drinking wine.

“Just like all alcoholic drinks, pace yourself to avoid getting drunk fast,” she says.

You could also drink red wine with low tannins like a Pinot Noir or if it is a sweet wine, look for those that are naturally fermented without added sugars.

Mixing soda or water with wine

 Certain things are just outrightly wrong. Mixing soda or juice with wine is not something you would want to be seen doing.

Wine is an acquired taste, and your palate will guide you to what you love or not. Mixing wine with soda contaminates the flavours and spoils the structure of the wine.

“The idea is to develop the palate for different wines. It is not difficult to find the perfect wine,” says Rosa.

Break the rules but pairing shouldn’t be a disaster

 You can break the rules, that red wine with red meat, white wine with white meat… but you must understand the wines. Look for wines that are not overpowered by the flavours of the food. For instance, meat can go well with aged Chardonnay, which is a white wine. 

Let wine complement the food

 The general rule is to start your guests with sparkling wine, then light white wines, then as the main meals are served introduce oaky red wines and end the lunch or dinner with dessert wine.

“Dessert wines usually come from the old wineries, and they are concentrated with high alcohol content and sugars so don’t pour a lot in the glasses,” Rosa says.

If you are serving one main dish, offer two wines so that people have options: a Chardonnay and a red full-bodied, Cabernet Sauvignon.

If you have a favourite wine

If you have a wine that you want to drink in your host’s house, and you follow rules of common courtesy, it will work for everyone. The correct procedure is to talk to the host so he or she can help you serve it.

For instance, you might say, “I have my favourite wine, can you serve it with the ribs?” Walking into someone’s home and placing a bottle on the table and opening it and pouring it for yourself, is not right. Even if your wine is of better quality!

Storing wine after opening

Good wine can keep for two weeks. If the wine bottle has a cork, open and after serving, push it back but ensure it is clean and not contaminated. If it is a screw cap, close it tightly and put it in the refrigerator.

Some wine gets flat, don't pour it, cook with it. Marinate your beef with it and when cooking, let the wine evaporate so that the meat is not so wine(y).

[email protected]