Is there a “right” way to drink wine? I’m not sure. But there are wrong ways.

Some might want to deny this because we don’t want to be exposed as wine snobs. But the prevailing American culture around wine is far more prescriptive than that.W. Blake Gray

The food media constantly tells us wine must go with food. A flotilla of wine appreciation schools teaches us to swirl and sniff and distinguish Chardonnay from Sauvignon Blanc while blindfolded.

I googled “How to drink wine” and came up with a variety of helpful instructions. The first tip in the  first link explained, “a proper glass will make any wine taste better,” and provided a chart of 18 different kinds of glasses.

Then I got a 10-part process on tasting wine, with photos. Don’t forget step 3, “Note the wine’s viscosity.” Must I?

Eric Asimov stirred this right-wrong pot last month when he wrote in the New York Times about how characters on TV drink wine. His column was intended to be an evenhanded cultural analysis, but these paragraphs stood out:

First: “Many Americans regard wine as booze. They go to a bar for a topped-up glass of wine, or drink a glass on the deck at home before sitting down to dinner with a soda. Such a utilitarian view is anathema to classic wine culture, which puts wine at the center of the table, to be savored as a vital component of a meal rather than a stand-alone drink.”

And this: “But if she is an expert, Olivia treats even the finest wine as if it were a can of beer. She habitually grabs goblets by the bulb rather than the stem, as a wine lover would. She never swirls and sniffs, the ritual that non-wine drinkers alternately find amusing, affected or annoying. She guzzles rather than sips.”

His point was that red wine is a TV prop for women, and might be used to denote power. But the redness wasn’t Asimov’s only point. Is there a right time to drink wine? A correct way to hold the glass? A proper consumption rate?

Part of me wants to say no. I’ve been known to grab the “bowl” myself. (I’m pretty sure “bulb” was a vocabulary error, and besides a gentleman never grabs the bulb in public.) I usually swirl and sniff at the beginning, but after the first few sips, not so much.

It’s America, I’m tempted to say. Go ahead and drink Screaming Eagle out of the bottle. Better yet, pour it on your date’s chest and lick it off. I love a note of salinity in wine. What a country.

This is the easiest, most populist position. A lot of the prescriptiveness of wine culture bothers me. I’ve probably had 500 bottles of wine since the last time I noted a wine’s viscosity.

But at the same time, recently at a trendy restaurant near my house I ordered a glass of Tempranillo Blanco and was disappointed when it was served in a water glass. I wouldn’t want to say there’s a “right” glass for Tempranillo Blanco — I’d only had one in my entire life — but to me, that was the “wrong” glass.

So I’m going to wade into this. I’m not going to tell you the “right” way to drink wine because I don’t think there is one. It especially gets under my skin when writers claim wine shouldn’t be drunk without food when I’ll bet more than half the wine in the U.S. is consumed that way, and why not? If it tastes good, drink it.

But there are some “wrong” ways to drink wine — and even more so, wrong ways to serve it. Counting down from least to most egregious, here are:

The 8 Wrong Ways To Drink, Serve And Enjoy Wine

8. Chugging wine

Because that’s just greedy.

7. Mixing two wines together

This is OK at home alone, but don’t do it with other people’s wines.

6. Drinking straight out of the bottle

What are you, shooting a porn film? Get a glass. Speaking of which …

5. Serving wine in anything other than a wine glass

I’ve enjoyed wine from water glasses and plastic cups in cheap hotel rooms, and from a metal coffee mug while camping. Are you camping? In a cheap hotel room? No? Get a damn wine glass

4. Serving wine too warm

Wine that’s too cold will warm up, but a glass of red wine at 75 degrees tastes flabby and is only going to get worse

3. Telling other people the wine they most enjoy isn’t any good

Happens all the time on the Internet, and is probably the most obnoxious thing wine writers do. You like Rombauer Chardonnay? Moscato? Super Tuscans? Sweet! Another glass?

2. Drinking wine when you don’t like it

This happens a lot. People order or buy something, dislike it, but slug it down because they feel they must. Life’s too short to drink bad wine. Dump it or push it aside and get something else. If you just need the alcohol, order a Martini.

1. Drinking wine to show off

If you’re trying to impress us with your wealth and taste, you’re only going to succeed at half.

 

About The Author

W. Blake Gray
Staff Writer

Wine writer W. Blake Gray is Chairman of the Electoral College of the Vintners Hall of Fame. Previously wine writer/editor for the San Francisco Chronicle, he has contributed articles on wine and sake to The Los Angeles Times, Food & Wine, Wine & Spirits, Wine Review Online, and a variety of other publications. He travels frequently to wine regions and enjoys coming home to San Francisco.

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