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Top Three Biggest Wine Faux-Pas

By Alyssa Rapp, the Founder and CEO of Bottlenotes.com, the premier online wine community where wine enthusiasts come to learn about wine, share tasting notes, and buy wine. Alyssa is also the author of Bottlenotes Guide to Wine: Around the World in 80 Sips.

There’s no question that some of the biggest wine faux pas are the least known, and some of the mythical wine faux pas (e.g.: “No drinking white wine with steak,”) are simply untrue. Follow this quick list of three wine faux pas to avoid in any setting, and you’ll be sure to come off as wine-savvy:

1) How to Hold a Glass of Wine

Wine glasses are beautifully shaped. They are also an example of form meeting function, where the glass itself is supposed to help enhance your wine-tasting experience. First, the bulb of the glass is shaped in such a way to help aerate the wine, enabling oxygen to interact with the living, breathing juice, thus release aromas that comprise a wine’s elegant set of scents, or the “nose” of the wine. Secondly, it has a stem for a reason. A stem not only looks elegant, but it serves two key functions: 1) It enables you to more easily swirl the glass and examine the wine’s color, key steps to take when wine tasting, and 2) It provides you something to hold other than the bulb of the glass. Putting your hands on the bulb of the glass not only leaves ugly fingerprints but serves to heat the wine, which is undesirable for white and red wines alike. So when enjoying a glass of wine next, please avoid this wine faux pas and hold the stem, or even the base of the glass instead.

2) Putting Ice Cubes in a Glass of Wine White Wine

It pains me greatly to see someone, often women, pop ice cubs into their white wine. For one, the winemaker has gone to great lengths to create a wine with body, balance, and a beginning, middle, and end that is totally disrupted when a wine is literally “watered down.” Secondly, if the goal is to chill a glass of wine more, the most time-efficient way to do so is to pop it into a freezer for 10 minutes, or better yet, put it in a tub of ice WITH some cold water in it (so the bottle is in a freezing bath). Within a matter of minutes the whole bottle will be further chilled- and the composition of the wine preserved.

3) Pouring or Consuming a Glass of Wine That’s About to Spill

Since so much (80%!) of the wine tasting experience is olfactory, the best way to enhance your wine tasting experience on a day-to-day basis is to take the time to let a wine aerate before you start drinking it, either by letting an open bottle sit on the counter for 15-20 minutes before consuming it, decanting it, or letting it aerate in the wine glass itself. If a glass of wine is poured half-full (or less), it is most readily swirled without creating spillage. If a glass of wine is poured too full, not only does it inhibit your ability to swirl the wine, thus maximizing your personal enjoyment, but it looks a bit sloppy, can more easily spill on you, making anyone look and feel like a lush. All tasting-tips aside, no one likes to look like a lush. So next time you are serving a glass of wine, or being served one, be conscientious to pour or ask for a glass to only be poured half-full. A secret of mine is to ask for a single glass on a restaurant wine list to be split into two glasses. In so doing, you avoid feeling “cheated” and can even more readily share your wine with your wine-tasting partner, adding to the fun of the experience.

In short, if you hold the glass by the stem or base, avoid chilling down white wine with ice cubes, and consciously only serve or ask to receive wine in glasses that are half-full, you’ll be well on your way to faux-pas-free wine tasting. Cheers!