Wine Etiquette
Yacht Investor|Issue 21

How to avoid a faux-pas while sipping a Châteauneuf-du-Pape.Tom Harrow takes an informative and humourous look at the king of grapes.

Knowledge of fine wine is an arbiter of taste and sophistication, an easy plot device in books and films to demonstrate the protagonist’s urbane epicurean credentials. In reality it’s just as essential for impressing your lovers, clients, and any potential fathers-in-law. Perhaps like the right school, a respectable golf handicap, or conversational French, wine appreciation should not be a necessary social skill - but it is. Get it right and you can effortlessly lubricate a room full of strangers in to easy conversation: Get it wrong and you look as gauche as the Connecticut housewife who seats a dinner guest next to his long-established mistress.

The lessons below are primarily concerned with wine whilst out and about; exploring the etiquette of ordering from an unfamiliar list or for guests whose tastes you have yet to establish; examining the delicate interaction with one’s sommelier; and such tribulations as dealing with a suspected corked wine or inebriated companion or even worse one who does not drink at all.

RULE 1: A little preparation goes a long way. 

Request the wine list in advance to have a few selections in mind prior to arrival at the restaurant – and importantly their page numbers. Ideally choose the wine in advance and have the bottle/s decanted on your table beforehand. Your guests will be awed by such organisational prowess and immediately grant you exclusive mining rights/happily agree to their daughter’s betrothal/invite you to bed without a murmur. Also given the preponderance of hard to spell wines from regions like Sauternes or Burgundy – Chateaux Doisy Daene and Lafaurie-Peyraguey, or the vineyards of Auxey-Duresses and Pernand Vergelesses respectively – ensure you choose something you can pronounce.

RULE 2: Be inclusive 

Restaurants are usually where we dine with people we don’t know. One of your guests might be a recovering alcoholic or vegan or like heavily-oaked Chardonnay or prefer fruit juice at breakfast so your wine choice becomes trickier. In such instances choose a Maconnais white - ideally a good Pouilly Fuisse (unfined) and for a red - a top but restrained Chateauneuf du Pape (i.e. less than 14% alcohol) or a Super Tuscan Bordeaux blend. All have the benefit of impeccable old world credentials and élan to please patrician Europeans of retirement age but the ripe fruit and warm, hedonistic character that fun guests with a New World palate will enjoy. You can also convince the non-drinkers that this is not so much an alcoholic beverage as a noble exploration of ancient terroirs - a cultural journey and they must join in, despite the restrictions of their religion or parole terms.

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