Correct wine etiquette makes tasting experience more comfortable and enjoyable. Like most interests, there is a set of protocol that most wine lovers adhere to. Good taste dictates that tasting at wineries, ordering wine at restaurants, and hosting a dinner party all require certain formalities.
Tasting Room Etiquette
In a winery's tasting room, white wines are generally tasted first, followed by reds, and then dessert wines. Within these categories, lighter-bodied wines preceed fuller-bodied ones. Water and crackers may be offered to cleanse palate between each wine. Correct wine etiquette does not require that you must finish every glass. Winery tasting rooms provide jars to dispose of excess wine. Do not feel that you need to sample every wine offered- taste what appeals to you.
If you ask for a second tasting of a particular wine, it is in good taste to buy a bottle. Many wineries charge tasting fees which are generally applied to any purchase. It is not mandatory that you buy wine; purchase only what you desire. That being said, if you have made an appointment at a small winery, it is in good taste to make a purchase.
General Restaurant Wine Etiquette
Wine service at a nice restaurant can be an unneccessarily difficult ordeal. The following tips will allow you to follow customs of wine service with ease and confidence.
When choosing a wine from a restaurant's wine list, main goal is to accomplish a suitable pairing with entrees of your party. If food orders are too different to generalize with one wine, consider purchasing splits or ordering by glass. Waiters and sommeliers are there to answer your questions, but availing yourself to their services and advice will be much more beneficial if your questions are relatively specific.
For example, don't ask sommelier, "What goes well with a rack of lamb?" Rather, ask, "I'd like to balance spiciness of lamb with a full-bodied, Syrah-based Rhone. Do you have any favorites?" Your effort will be appreciated and service and interaction will be more seamless. I guarentee you will be pleased with outcome.
After ordering, waiter/sommelier will retrieve your selection, and then present it, label forward, to host of party. This is merely to verify it is correct wine. The cork is removed and placed on table. Unless it is clearly tainted, (the waiter/sommelier should notice if it is) do not touch or smell it, as it means nothing.
A small amount will then be poured for host. Swirl wine in glass, smell, then taste. This is to make sure wine is not spoiled and it is not an opportunity to send back a sound wine that you are not crazy about. After approval, wine will be poured clockwise to right, ladies first. The host's glass will be topped last.