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Modern Manners + Etiquette: Handling Wine Snobs + More

Saturday, March 24, 2012


What to do when he or she is running the show when you're out to dinner?

There is much March madness about savvy wine etiquette and protocol at Newportmanners.com this week, as well as much ado about flu sickies and how to stop them from spreading germs in the workplace and at home!

Dear Didi,
The other evening we were out with friends for dinner (actually Ruth's Chris Steakhouse) and one of the group ordered a bottle of wine. They brought it to the table, uncorked it, and poured a bit in her glass which she tasted and said she didn't like it. Now my question is this; when you order a bottle of wine, I always thought they had you taste it to be sure it wasn't 'spoiled', not to decide whether if you like the wine to begin with. It's not a 'wine tasting' situation? Or is it? What is proper wine protocol?
J.C.B., Providence

Dear J.C.B.,
It is a wine tasting when the bottle is opened and tasted. Did she read the label to make sure it was the name and year that she ordered? The wine protocol is that she should have checked to see it the wine was the brand and year that was ordered before the waiter (we rarely have sommeliers in America) opened the bottle of wine. The person who is tasting the wine tastes using "The three S's": 1.) Swivel the wine to open it up by placing the glass flat on the table and watching to see the tails of the wine run down the inside of the glass, 2.) Sniff the wine to be sure it doesn't exude a vinegar odor, 3.) Sip the wine to taste if it is palatable or if it has too much acidity.

By following those three steps, you show the waiter that you know how to "taste" wine. Then if you don't like the wine, you ask to see the bottle (if you hadn't remembered to check the label before he opened the bottle) to make sure it is the brand and year you ordered. If it is a fine wine you might be given the cork to examine for mold. Along the way, at any point, the person who ordered the bottle can say, 1.) "This is not the wine I ordered." 2.) "This wine smells of vinegar or/and has too much acidity." For either of those two reasons, the waiter would take back the bottle after discussing the problem with you in the hope that he can sell you another wine. By the way, usually if there is mold on the cork the waiter will have noticed it first and replaced it with a different bottle. I agree with you that your friend should have been more savvy about tasting the wine and sending it back by checking to see if it was the one she ordered. ~Didi

Dear Didi,
What is wine etiquette? My girlfriend's father is a wine snob. He's always talking about wine etiquette. Being a beer drinker, I know nothing about wine. The other night he was so high on the wine we were drinking at dinner that I wasn't sure if I shouldn't just let the man and his wife drink the bottle themselves. I don't get intimidated by much, but I need a crash course in wine etiquette. A.W., Seekonk

Dear A.W.,
As I'm not a wine snob and will happily share a bottle of French plonc in any price range, this is a general answer that has more to do with etiquette than the quality of wines. There are unspoken rules one should be mindful of when trying to impress - and not offend - your girlfriend's father. Most of which I've learned at wine tastings. I would recommend that you take your girlfriend to a local vineyard this summer for a wine tasting. You might even invite her dad to come along. ~Didi

Wine Etiquette
When you know someone drinks red, have red on hand, order red, or take them red.
When you don't know their preference, bring red wine in winter and white or rose in summer.
When bringing white wine or rose it can be tricky, because if you bring it chilled, they'll expect you want them to serve it, so it is best to ask, or say, "You don't have to open this now."
When you know ahead of time what's for dinner, ask their local liquor store to recommend a wine in your price range, say, $12-$20.

Wine Pairings
Cabernet Sauvignon - red meats, barbequed steak, grilled and smoked foods
Chardonnay - grilled chicken, salmon, shellfish, and grilled fish
Merlot - pasta, red meat, duck, smoked or grilled foods
Pinot Noir - light meats, chicken, grilled anything, salmon
Rose - pasta, light meats, chicken, grilled anything, salmon
Sauvignon Blanc - white or light fish, mild cheese, fruit
Syrah - red meats, spicy pizzas, curries, herbed sauces, turkey
Zinfandel - tomato pasta dishes, pesto, red meats, chicken in a thick sauce

Tips to remember
Remove the tin foil before pulling out the cork.
Check the cork for mold, if there's mold, take it back.
Wine needs to breathe for ten to twenty minutes.
Pour wine until the glass is half filled.
Before taking that first sip, remember the three Ss: Swivel after resting the glass on the table and watch for the tails running down the inside of the glass, pause before taking a Sniff, pause again and Sip. (At an actual wine tasting, there is a fourth S for Spit, because you would spit most of the wine into a small "bucket.")
Don't forget to toast the hostess or the cook for their dinner.

Dear Didi,
Our company is suffering a bout of the flu. Employees are asking what we can do about containing it because coworkers are afraid they'll be laid off if they're out sick, so they basically are asleep at their desk when they aren't sneezing, wheezing and coughing. One bout of the flu can wipe out all their sick days. We don't want employees to lose their sick days, but we would rather they didn't come in with the flu and give it to the rest of us. A.P., Warwick

Dear A.P.,
Lobby your human resources staff for "flu days." Also, ask that hand sanitizers be installed in restrooms as well as in the halls near doors and elevators, because elevator buttons and door handles are bus stops for germs. Lastly, if you don't have it, initiate anti-bacterial soap in the restrooms along with a typewritten gentle reminder to wash hands well. Recommend that next season a reminder be sent to "get a flu shoot once a year at your pharmacy because flu strains change from year to year." ~Didi

Dear Didi,
The lady who cleans for us comes to work when she's sick. When I hear her in the kitchen sneezing and coughing while she's unloading clean dishes and glasses from the dishwasher, I cringe thinking of the germs. I tell her that she can go home, but she won't. She works by the hour and needs the money. My husband and I are elderly and don't get out much, so when we get sick we know how we got it. She lives with her daughter and small grandchildren, so we understand why she's sick all the time. How do we tell her to not come in when she's sick? She comes once a week, she needs the money, we need the help! However, we don't like overusing antibiotics.
H.L., Watch Hill

Dear H.L.,
This is not a win-win situation for any of you. Let's turn it around. Etiquette is often about compromise. Sit down with your cleaning lady and have a face to face conversation. Tell her that when she comes to work sick, you and your husband inevitably get sick. Assure her that you need her help in taking care of the house, but you would rather pay her for half a day and have her stay home and get well rather than having her coming in sick. Offer to pay for a half a day, if she stays home when she's sick. Or she can work another day the following week to catch up. Let her choose. If she's sick, she'll opt to make it up when she's well. By giving her the option to make up the lost time or paying her for half a day not to come in, you are showing good faith. In return, she will begin to understand that there is a problem and that she has to compromise too. ~Didi

Didi Lorillard follows trends in etiquette as it applies to relationships at home and in the workplace. Explore her Web site Newport Manners.com, or find Didi on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn after reading earlier GoLocal columns listed below.


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