What's the Proper Etiquette When Serving Wine?

School's in session, on your terms: We're asking the Valley's top wine gurus to answer all your wine-related queries, tackling them one at a time each Wednesday, so we can all stress less and pour more. Today's teacher: Lizbeth Congiusti, the Sassy Sommelier. UNCORK THE ISSUE: What's the proper etiquette when serving wine?

SPILL THE JUICE: The Sassy Sommelier Lizbeth Congiusti gives us her step-by-step table tips on serving wine: Cut the foil, smell the glass, serve the ladies first, and never EVER pour too much. Just call her Emily Post, with a sassy twist.

With the holidays just around the corner it's time to start practicing your manners...

NOTE THE COMPLEXITIES: "You always wine to remove the foil, it just makes a prettier bottle - and makes it easier," Congiusti says. "I know some people just dig in with their wine opener, and they make it so much harder for themselves."

Test the bottle's temperature before uncorking. "If a white wine is too warm, chill it first, and if a red wine is too cold, let it sit out on the table," Congiusti recommends.

Use clean wine glasses. "I smell my wine glasses before I use them," Congiusti says. "You can put them in the dishwasher, but you want to be sure that you don't have any residual smell from the previous washing." She recommends storing your glasses right side up to avoid chipping the fragile rims and trapping unwanted odors.

Click through for the Sassy Sommelier's complete wine etiquette lesson...

"Don't pick up the glass!" Congiusti says. Don't even tip it. In a casual setting, you might be able to get away with it, but she says, "Especially in a fine dining situation, they should be able to leave the glass on the table and pour into it."

Serve the ladies first, then the gentleman, and the host last. "You would normally serve going to the right of host, starting with the oldest woman first," Congiusti says. "This can get kind of scary because if they know that and you choose the oldest woman, eek!" (Our advice: Just start with the lady nearest the host's right. That way you're not in hot water with your mother-in-law, boss's wife, etc.)

"When you serve, you don't want to pour more than 2/3 of a glass," Congiusti says. "You want to give your guests the opportunity to give it a little bit of a swirl, which adds air molecules to the wine to help it breathe and liven things up a little bit." This gives your guests a chance to smell the wine, which is a key step in tasting. "With wine, smelling it is just as important as eating it," Congiusti explains. "We eat with our noses: If you don't like the way it smells, you probably won't like the way it tastes."

You should get about five 5-ounce pours from a 750mL bottle of wine, Congiusti says, but it depends on your size of glass: "If you're using those big Riedel glasses, then you need a lot more wine"

Don't put ice in your wine! "If you want to put ice in your wine to chill it, freeze a couple strawberries or some blueberries and put those in your wine instead," "It will cool it down for you, and it doesn't look as tacky."

SWALLOW THIS: "Don't EVER fill a wine glass full," Congiusti re-emphasizes. Even if you leave on the foil, pick up the glasses, and serve yourself first, do not fill the glass.

To get the benefits of red wine, you don't even need to have a full glass a day - but what fun is that?! - "You really only need to drink two to three ounces of wine a day to reap some of the health benefits, and you should drink that while having your meal," Congiusti says.

Come back for class next Wednesday for a special edition of wine school: A wine breakfast with America's oldest wine-making family's David Mirassou. He shares his family stories as well as his tips for holiday entertaining and gift giving. Leave your questions for our wine gurus in the comments below, no hand-raising necessary.

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Hannah E Williams