Wine etiquette

by MAURICE LEE [email protected]

Maurice Lee has lived in the Algarve for five years but has been visiting for 20 years. He is a retired Cellar Master and is part of a local wine society. He is often invited to be a guest speaker to discuss wines and regularly holds tastings.

Is ‘Wine Etiquette’ important? Now that we are in the 21st century and more people than ever are drinking wine, it is far less important than it was 50 or more years ago.

In those days there were certain rules you adhered to. Today most drinkers don’t even know the rules never mind apply them, and I say good luck to them.  

If you’re at a banquet, the host has ordered the correct wines and the Sommelier (wine waiter)knows what he’s doing, then you will be served young reds before old ones and light whites before full bodied ones. If you’re entertaining at home, anything goes.

Look at the changing habits of wine drinkers:

Whatever wine was used for cooking, a similar one was served with the meal. Not done today: one bottle for the pot and one for the table, they used to say. Could you really afford to use one bottle of Chateâuneuf-du-Pape in the sauce and serve at least one bottle with dinner? Over 80 euros for each bottle is not unrealistic so it’s unlikely you’ll tip any of it into a saucepan.

You drank reds at room temperature. Today many reds are served from the fridge.

You could drink only white wine with fish. Now reds or rosés are popular.

People always chose certain wines to go with their food. These days if they like a wine, that is what they drink irrespective of what’s on the menu:

You followed the sun when pouring wine (you moved the bottle round the table clockwise). Bottles are now moved in any direction to wherever there is an empty glass:

Let young wines at the lower end of the market breathe. Why?

So much for 21st century etiquette. Before New World wines became popular in Europe, the influence of this code of behaviour among wine drinkers was waning. A very popular fish dish was ‘Drunken Turbot’ and the reason it got that name was because a white wine sauce was poured over one half of the fish and a red wine sauce over the other half. Try choosing a wine to drink with that.

Recently on television, a lady went into a very expensive looking wine store for a good wine to accompany roast lamb. The attendant recommended two wines. One was Rioja and the other was Merlot. If he was going by the book he would have suggested Red Medoc from Bordeaux.

Merlot is a grape and if the grape name is on the label it’s unlikely to be from Medoc. The Rioja would not have been considered years ago.

I’m not suggesting that you throw caution to the wind by ignoring all the rules. However do try and be sensible, and keep things in perspective. Wine should be talked over, not about. Life is too short to talk about your wine.

Drink wine and enjoy it. Don’t drink it to impress others.

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