Close Menu

Top 10 wine faux pas

 The world of wine needn’t be an intimidating gauntlet of unexplainable terms and stuffy etiquette, but being aware of some common pitfalls can’t hurt.

How do you take your wine?

Society is awash with perceived expectations and etiquette when it comes to drinking wine, many of which are wholly off the mark.

The wine world has undoubtedly endured its fair share of often misplaced snobbery throughout the years, a trend that those in the trade have long fought to quash.

Wine is to be enjoyed by all, whether you choose to drink from a crystal cut Lalique glass or a plastic cup at a barbecue.

However superfluous rules for drinking wine should not be confused with practical advice.

While we do not wish to add to the rule book, this collection of tips should make for a more fulfilling wine experience.

Click through for some of the most common wine pitfalls….

Heating red wine on a radiator

There is nothing wrong with taking the chill off a red wine, in fact it’s advised. When time is an issue the radiator might look like the best solution. However rapidly changing the temperature of a wine is a bit of a no no with extreme heat capable of irretrievably damaging wine. Red wines in excess of 18°C will lose their freshness and the flavours will become muddled. The best way to warm a red wine is to allow the bottle to warm up slowly to room temperature, or by holding the bowl of the glass in you hands.

Holding your glass by its bowl

Unless you are warming up a wine, (see previous) holding your wine by its bowl is generally not advised. Of course how you hold you wine glass is no ones business but your own. However it seems obvious that when served a Champagne or sweet wine for example at a temperature suited to the style, grasping a glass by its bowl and warming it beyond its intended temperature is not the most appropriate course of action. Instead hold it by its stem.

Ostentatious swirling

There is nothing wrong with a necessary spot of swirling to release the aromas of a wine, but do refrain engaging in any over-enthusiastic circular motions. You will at best lose much of the aroma and at worse inadvertently spill the lot over yourself. A gentle swirl is all that is needed.


A snobbish attitude toward wine does no one any favours, consumers and trade alike. If you find yourself fighting the temptation to admonish someone for not knowing their Beaujolais from their Bordeaux, or to describe a wine as a cacophony of sweet vanilla truffles on a summer’s day, stop. For further guidance on how not to be a wine snob check out amusing these videos.

Letting the neck of the bottle touch the wine glass

We aren’t too sure about this one. Apparently there is a camp that believes allowing a wine bottle to touch the rim of your glass while pouring is a verifiable vino sin. Instead, its contents should fall through the air and into the centre of the glass aiding its aeration and releasing its aroma, which might well do some good. Another sensible suggestion when pouring sparkling wines is to tilt your glass and allow the liquid to pour down the side of the glass, thus limiting the loss of bubbles.

Putting ice in your white wine

As with many of these ‘rules’, their use can be adjusted according to both your surroundings and the quality of the wine you are imbibing. If quaffing a bottle with friends feel free to load your glass with ice. But if you’ve paid a decent penny for a bottle, it would be wise not to add ice. Winemakers slave over the composition of their wine and diluting it with ice cubes is not only likely to cause offence, but throw off the delicate balance of a wine.

Wine talk

The world of wine offers a rich tapestry of descriptors intended to appeal to even the most jaded of wine lovers. However tasting notes can sometimes read more like the inventory of an English country garden than a helpful indication as to whether you will enjoy a wine. Quite often the meaning of otherwise perfectly valid terms is undermined by their misuse or overuse within the wine trade, resulting in descriptors that are not only remarkably ineffectual but simply irritating. Terroir, Burgundian and icon are a few which spring to mind. For more on the topsy-turvy world of wine terms check out our top 10 most irritating wine terms. 

Filling your glass to the top

Much of the experience of wine tasting is olfactory with swirling, in moderation (see above), a necessary part. By filling your glass to the top you will not only limit your ability to swirl and release its aromas, but increase your chances of causing a spillage if you do. As a general rule fill a glass by no more than half allowing the aromas to be released and captured.

Storing wine sealed with a cork vertically

In times of screw caps, storing your wine in the traditional horizontal position is becoming less of a concern. However if your wine is sealed by cork, don’t even think about storing it standing up. Always store wines sealed with a cork on their side ensuring that the cork remains in contact with the wine. If the cork dries out it can let in air, and the air will oxidise the wine, impacting its flavour and in some cases causing wine of go off and lose its freshness.

Mixing wine with coca cola

Mixing wine with coke is actually quite popular throughout a number of countries, China, Spain and Greece among them. In Greece the local wine Retsina is commonly mixed with coke, for some actually improving its flavour. In other cases adding coke could perhaps turn a bad bottle of wine into something slightly more drinkable? Clearly how you choose to consume your wine is your own business, but restraint should be exercised should you find yourself in the company of a fine wine. Mixing coke with wine may well cause a winemaker to hang his head in despair, but if that’s what gets consumers drinking their wines, so be it. Just don’t try it with a Petrus.

It looks like you're in Asia, would you like to be redirected to the Drinks Business Asia edition?

Yes, take me to the Asia edition No