No bowties and bullshit guide to wine etiquette

Nikki Michaels
By Nikki Michaels
6 months ago
6 min read

The glorious interwebs host a horde of wine etiquette guides dedicated to elevating your drinking game to 'expert' level — and although that’s a worthy pursuit, we’ve got a somewhat different goal here at the 'fo: elevating your drinking game to 'maximum enjoyment' levels.

To that end, here's our 'no bowties and bullshit guide to wine enjoyment'.

What it isn't: fancy-schmancy nonsense on the 'proper way' to serve and drink wine. As far as we’re concerned, the only proper way is whatever way you damn well please.

What it is: simple steps and tips to help you get the most out of your vino. We promise they’ll make you love wine even more than you already do.

Tip 1: The glassware

Okay, okay, we’re well aware that drinking different wines from different types of glasses veers dangerously close to Wine Snob Territory, but stick with us here, y’all!

First off, you can drink whatever wine you want out of whatever vessel you want. Mason jar? Sure. Solo cup? Absolutely. The bottle itself? You do you. The only thing that matters is that you enjoy the experience.

That being said, there’s a reason that companies like Riedel and Spiegelau and Plumm make pinot noir glasses and cabernet sauvignon glasses and chardonnay glasses and riesling glasses. They're designed to enhance the particular characteristics of any given varietal — so pinot glasses showcase the wine's classic aromatics, cabernet sauvignon glasses highlight bold structure, and on and on.

If you're so inclined, sipping a shiraz out of a shiraz glass (or just a glass made for bolder reds) or a viognier out of a viognier glass (or a glass made for aromatic whites) will unequivocally help you squeeze more juice out of your drinking experience. But if not? Live your life, mofo. We're not here to judge.

Tip 2: The bottle

An education and a hack here. We don't see many corks down here, but when we do, they’re usually covered by a wine capsule. Capsules came about way back in the day to prevent lil' rodents and insects from nibbling their merry way through a cork and ruining the wine in the bottle, but today, they’re mostly decorative — and they’re also pretty bad for the environment.

So on the relatively rare occasion that you do find yourself confronted by a capsule, you’ll probably think you need to make like waiters at nice restaurants and use a foil cutter to cut just around the lip of the bottle so the capsule's top pops off, revealing the cork below. And you can totally do that if you want.

But you can also grip the capsule in your hand and literally just pull it off. #hacked.

Tip 3: The pour.

Ain't nobody got time to actually measure a 'typical' wine pour. Fill your glass just under halfway (i.e. where it curves back) so you can swirl without spilling (see tip #5) — and if you’re drinking con amigos, just make sure everyone’s glass is fairly level.

And now, how to pour without getting those annoying drips: hold the bottle near the base, and rotate it away from you as bring it back upright. They key here? Move quickly and decisively. No dilly-dallying. And practice makes perfect, if you need that excuse.

Tip 4: The hold

We’ll be quick with this one. Don't hold your glass by the bulb, because the heat from your hand will warm up your wine. Also: fingerprints. (The only exception to this is if your wine is too cold, then you can cup it like a warm mug of cocoa in the snow, and help it warm up.)

Hold your glass by the stem instead, and you’ll be able to successfully execute our next tip…

Tip 5: The swirl

Much fuss is made in the wine world about the all-important swirl. The swirl helps to get oxygen all up, in, and around your wine, which enhances both the aromas and the flavours — and, in turn, your vino enjoyment. 

Here’s how to do it: Using the aforementioned stem hold, gently toss your wrist in small circular motions. This might take a bit of practice at first, but once you’ve got it down, you’ll notice the wine making a whirly little tornado in your glass.

Tip 6: The sniff

Post-swirl, shove your nose in the glass — like, really get in there — and inhale the scents your swirling will have released. Sniffing your wine isn’t about being able to identify every last obscure note of candied rose petal or freshly turned earth or wet grass; it’s honestly just about adding to the sensory experience of drinking vino.

A good swirl-and-sniff = heightened flavour = more joy.

And a quick pro tip: if you’ve ever been around a wine snob, you’ve almost certainly heard them refer to a wine's 'legs' as an indicator of quality. We strongly suggest you don’t follow their example, since legs and quality have an approximate correlation of zero. The only thing wine legs can actually tell you? If a wine is higher or lower in total viscosity, of which alcohol is a factor, and so is sugar – so no, more legs don't even always mean more alcohol. Now you know. Bring that next wine snob down a notch with your newfound wine wisdom.

Tip 7: The sip

You've swirled and you've sniffed, and now it's high time to get to sipping. You've been alive for awhile now, so we're betting you're fairly good at drinking liquids — and you can employ your own time-tested technique here, for sure.

But if you'd like to really wring that wine for all it's worth, then do a little aeration along with your first sip. In other words, take in some extra air with your vino, and sort of swish it around in your mouth. This way, you'll get a better sense of the wine as a whole: is it heavier or lighter? Drier or smoother? Red or white? (Kidding. Hopefully you already know the answer to that last one.)

Tip 8: The experience

The last tip we have for you is to ignore every tip we have for you — or not, depending on your style. Like we said at the beginning, the most important thing is that you enjoy the experience. So start with that in mind, and drink your wine however you think you'll enjoy it most!