WINE ETIQUETTE

I can't tell you how thrilled I was when the photo of Her Majesty the Queen touching up her lippy at the Commonwealth Games first circulated. Having been derided for years by my husband for the very same thing as he felt it wasn't really 'the done thing', I now feel that I can adopt a more carefree and casual attitude towards the re-application of my favourite colour going forwards. Hurrah.

Photo Credit: David Levenson
Photo Credit: David Levenson

The perceived etiquette regarding make-up got me thinking about all the huff, puff and general frippery that surrounds wine and conspires to overwhelm and intimidate. So below are 10 of my favourite Do's and Don'ts surrounding wine:

Cooking with wine

Do not leave an opened bottle of red standing around on your kitchen side for like, forever, and then think you can cook with it. Despite knowing a thing or two about wine I nearly ruined a beautiful risotto my husband had made by putting a dash of wine in it only to realise on tasting the now marginally sullied food that the bottle had pretty much turned to vinegar. Thankfully it didn't totally ruin the meal but you could just about taste it. Am still gutted about this one (my excuse is I was tired as had a very young baby at the time).

Gifting wine

I read that it is now acceptable (it used to be considered very middle class) to take a bottle of wine to someone's house for a dinner party. Apparently taking bubbles is the best thing to take along with the expectation that your host might not open the bottle anyway as they will probably (not in the case of my friends) have worked out the wine to match the food already and unless you have called ahead, you won't know the menu. If you don't take chilled fizz, it is clearly a gift for them to enjoy another time.

Food & Wine Matching

A veritable mine field. I try and follow really simple rules such as white wine tastes better with fish and poultry, and red with meat, as there is SO much complexity involved here. I read a fascinating book by Tim Hanni MW (Why You Like the Wines You Like) that essentially suggested that you can match any food to any wine as long as the food itself is balanced i.e. with enough acidity (lemon) and salt. Fully flavoured dishes need full-flavoured wines and the weight of both needs to be equal so a delicate meat or fish dish requires a subtle red or white wine.

Opening Fizz

Twist the bottle, not the cork. I still loathe opening fizzy wines and (see temperature below) make sure the bottle is cold as the warmer it is, the livelier the bubbles and the more likely you are to poke someone's eye out. More people die a year from errant flying corks than poisonous spiders. Apparently.

Ordering wine at a restaurant

If it is a smart restaurant and a special occasion and a sommelier is on hand to help you, use them. They will without a shadow of a doubt know their list better than you. I tend to tell my sommelier our budget and then what we are planning to eat and leave it to them.

Price

With wine you do often get what you pay for so if you can afford it, spend a little bit more a bottle as once you have paid for Duty, shipping, VAT, CCT etc if you are buying wine for £5 a bottle, there ain't much left in the price of the bottle for wine. Trading up from £5 -- to £10 should buy you something immeasurably better
Promotions -- be savvy about wine promotions. Some are genuine deals and are on the shelf for a certain RRP (recommended retail price) and occasionally have money off (probably a modest amount like 25% or £2). Others are not. If a wine is half price or less the chances are that the quality of the wine in the bottle is nearer to the cheaper price, regardless of the smart label or the punt (the dip under the bottle -- no dip = usually means cheap wine, deep punt = usually means snazzy wine).

Read my wine recommendations here.

Temperature

It is advisable to follow this general rule of thumb regarding serving your vino. Whites and sparklings are best off chilled (at fridge temperature), though not so cold that the aromas are totally dumbed down unless you are serving something a bit cheap and indistinct in which case chill it to within an inch of its life. Reds are good at room temperature though in winter in our house this can be quite Arctic so a quick visit to the radiator, or even on occasion, the microwave (decant into a jug first) helps to loosen/warm the wine up a bit. Don't overheat though or the fruit can feel a bit 'jammy' when too warm and conversely the colder the wine the tighter the tannins seem so the wine might feel a bit closed and ungenerous. If it's scorching outside a gentle dip in the fridge for a red isn't a bad idea. Personally I am a bit sniffy about ice cubes in wine as they just dilute it but desperate times can call for desperate measures and if there is no other way to chill the wine then so be it. Decanting wine (both red and white) also really helps open it up nicely.

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