There is a lot of ritual around wine drinking. Some of it is for good reason (the way you hold a glass, sniff the aroma, and taste the wine does matter, especially if it’s an expensive wine with a complex character like those listed on BurgundyWine.com by Elden Selections).
But can it be taken too far? All the elaborate etiquette can threaten to crowd out the enjoyment of the actual occasion. It can distract us, cloud our judgement, not to mention make arguments arise between even good friends. Here we look at some of the ways in which wine etiquette has evolved, and why we do certain things when we drink wine. But remember: above all, do what you enjoy, and enjoy what you do!
Trying the test pour: the idea here is that when a waiter pours a small amount of your chosen wine into a glass, you should sniff it but not taste it. This is because you are checking that the wine has not been ‘corked’ (tainted by the odour of the cork or bacteria on the cork). You will still be paying for the wine whether you like it or not, so some argue that tasting it to see if you like it is not the idea. However, at the end of the day you’ve spent good money on the wine, it’s up to you how you choose to drink it. (For more information on how you can experience the pleasure of tasting wines in the Domaine de Cromey tasting room, read our article here).
Sniffing the cork: in good restaurants, the waiter may present you with the cork after opening your chosen bottle (if it has a real cork). This serves two purposes; you can see if the cork is stamped with the name of the winery, consistent with the label and what you expect to be drinking, and you can also inspect the cork to check it was sealing the bottle correctly. If its broken, stained or soggy, it might not have been a good seal and the wine’s taste may be affected. The reason some people smell the cork is to check for musty, wet-cardboard aromas that can be caused by bacteria on the cork.
Storing the bottle horizontally: people generally store wine like this because it ensures the wine stays in contact with the cork and retains a good, firm seal in the mouth of the bottle (assuming your wine has a cork — and if you’re laying it down, it’s probably of sufficient value to have one). If the cork dries up, it can shrink and allow air into the bottle, so common wisdom is to store bottles on their sides (for both still and sparkling wines), allowing the cork to remain damp and in contact with the wine. (For screw-capped bottles, the angle doesn’t matter so much).
Using the right glass: If you’re going to be enjoying rich, complex and full-flavored red wines, like those in Elden Selection’s range, then your glass should be bigger and wider than for sparkling or white wines. Why? Because a wider ‘bowl’ allows the bolder and more pronounced flavors of red wine to reach your nose, and aerates the wine as you sip it. If white wines are more your thing, you’ll want a smaller-bowled glass. This is because it will concentrate the aromas, which in white wines tend to be more subtle. It will also decrease the surface area of glass in contact with the wine, keeping it cooler – better for whites than reds. (There is always an exception to the rule though – in Burgundy, a particularly strong, oak-aged Chardonnay for example could be enhanced by a glass with a large bowl). A third type of glass is needed for sparkling wines, one that is smaller and narrower still – the flute. This will stop the carbonation (bubbles) from dissipating too quickly from your wine. (To read a fuller explanation about choosing great wine glasses, read our article here).
Ultimately though, if you have a glass you prefer because it is aesthetically pleasing, or has sentimental value, then use that – these tips simply exist for guidance. Salut!
To get full tasting notes for all our wines, as well as specially hand-selected wines from the best of our small appellations and producers, why not become a member of our Burgundy Wine Club? You also get free entry into a draw for a 4-day/3-night stay at Domaine de Cromey. And to read more blog articles about your favorite wines, head over to the blog at BurgundyWine.com.