It is proper wine etiquette to examine the label to be sure the producer and vintage match what you ordered. When the bottle of wine is presented, it may not make any difference to you but it can happen that a restaurant might be out of a particular vintage and substitute a different year. However, if you wanted to enjoy a wine you have experienced previously and a substitution was made, there will certainly be a difference. You may wish to order a different wine in such case. A different vintage could be trivial if it's a simple Cotes du Rhone but it could be a significant difference if you were ordering a 2000 Bordeaux and received a 2002 instead.


White and rose wines are best slightly chilled, at 50 degrees. Check that temperature is satisfactory. It is better for the wine to be too cold than too warm for either red or white. It isn't improper wine etiquette to request an ice bucket to chill both whites and reds; so don't hesitate to do so if that is how you would prefer to enjoy the wine. However, placing the bottle in an ice bucket can compromise your experience; fine white wines will release more texture and bouquet as they warm up in the glass; try it. Drinking a modest wine on a hot day would be the exception. A red wine that is brought to the table slightly chilled would be an indication of good storage; you can always warm up the wine by cupping the glass in your hands and swirling.


It is proper wine etiquette for the sommelier to present the cork to the person who requested the wine when the bottle of wine is opened. The vintage on the cork should match the vintage on the bottle. A pristine looking cork can stopper a bad wine and a delicious wine can come from a cork that disintegrates as it's removed, so a visual inspection of the cork often reveals little. By sniffing the cork you're actually smelling the bark of a tree which may be the earthy aromas you are encountering. Many a good bottle of wine has been mistakenly returned because there is mold on the top end of the cork. This has no effect on the wine; it simply means the bottle was aged in the producer's damp cellar prior to release, which is a good thing.

Swirl & Sniff

Proper wine etiquette procedure dictates that the sommelier will pour a small amount of wine for the person that ordered the wine. The recipient should gently swirl the wine in the glass to release the aroma, give it a sniff, and then taste it. If there is an objectionable or unexpected aroma, the sommelier should recommend further aerating the wine in which case the "off odor" will dissipate, or replacing the bottle if called for. Unfortunately, it is sometimes difficult to differentiate between funky aromas that are inherent in certain wines and similar smells that are symptoms of a defect. Proper wine etiquette is to consult with the sommelier. A "corked" wine has been tainted by a moldy cork if you smell an aroma reminiscent of a "wet basement". Unfortunately, the mold is not visible nor does the cork necessarily smell moldy. Since there are varying levels of cork taint, a corked wine can be overtly stinky or the fruit character is slightly muted; send the bottle back immediately If you perceive this to be the situation. If you’re not quite sure, in keeping with proper wine etiquette, politely ask the sommelier for an opinion.


There are two reasons to decant a wine: (1) to separate the wine from the sediment in the case of a 20 year-old port or red wine; or (2) decanting and swirling the wine in the glass will do a far better job than opening the wine two hours prior and letting the wine "breathe," which is not practical in most restaurant settings. White and sparkling wines rarely need extra breathing time. It is not proper etiquette or an acceptable practice to return a wine simply because you do not like it as much as you thought you might. The proper etiquette is to nod, say “thank you,” "it's fine" or some signal for the sommelier to begin pouring after you have taken a sip. To allow enough space to swirl the wine, wine etiquette dictates that the glass is filled about one third full. Sparkling wines should be poured against or along the side of the glass to preserve the bubbles.

Wine etiquette may seem unnecessary, but following proper wine etiquette enhances the total wine drinking experience. Wine etiquette and all its subtleties are intended to slow the experience so the wine can be fully enjoyed and appreciated.

By: Stuart Jay

About the Author:

We created for the novice and seasoned wine lover interested in the art, science and psychology of wine tasting without pretension. brings exciting wines, more value and satisfaction than you'll find anywhere, including 8 DIFFERENT WINE CLUBS (for EVERY TASTE and BUDGET), the best of the elite Reds and Whites, Gift Baskets, Glassware, Wine Openers, Charms & a great selection of WINE RACKS.

Caffeinated Content

Permalink to ‘Wine Etiquette, Being Served, Serving and Tasting’

Click here for more information about 'Wine Etiquette, Being Served, Serving and Tasting'.