How to Do the Wine Right at a Dinner Party


“What table manners or etiquette do you see broken all the time, which makes you quietly crazy?”

I posed that question on Facebook recently, inspired by decades of hideously poor manners and etiquette seen in restaurants and at dinner parties.

A flurry of responses ensued including knife-licking (I know, who does that?), talking with a full mouth (chew, swallow, THEN converse), cell phone use (still happens all the time). Then, one friend replied with this request:

“Carolyn, for those of us who lack proper etiquette in serving, pouring and presenting wine at a dinner party (read: me), please set us in the proper direction.”

You probably know all the rules already, but I thought I’d list them here in case you wanted to print them off and post them anonymously to your pompous neighbor / infuriating ex-lover / obnoxious boss.


  1. When bringing wine to someone’s home, it is not the host/ess’s duty to pour it with dinner. It is a gift. Full stop. It is inappropriate to assume – unless otherwise discussed – that the bottle you brought would be ideally suited to the menu being served.
  1. If you as the host/ess don’t know the exact temperature at which to serve a bottle, serve the red slightly below room temp and the white, rosé and dessert wines chilled.
  1. When pouring, never fill glasses more than half way. This leaves room for the aromas to be captured.
  1. Never take your first sip before the host/ess has had his or hers.
  1. If you need of a refill, wait for the host/ess to pour or offer rather than helping yourself. Please.
  1. If you’re the host/ess, pour and refill the women’s glasses first, then the men’s, and yourself last. And when refilling wine glasses, top up them all – never just the guests whose glasses are empty.
  1. The caveat to #7: If there’s only a dribble of wine left, give it to the guest of honor or share among the women present.
  1. Wine should be served from lightest to fullest-bodied, starting with sparkling dry whites through to big, bold reds. And sweet wines are always served last at a meal.
  1. A good host/ess always includes a glass of water at each guest’s place setting. It’s perfectly polite for a guest to help him or herself to the water.‬


About Carolyn

CH1_204LCarolyn is the wine columnist for The Toronto Star newspaper and Star Touch. Her work is syndicated through a number of other daily newspapers; she also critiques wine every Wednesday on her video blog, The Wine Find at; and she contributes seasonally to Taste Magazine in British Columbia.

Carolyn received her formal sommelier qualifications from the Wine and Spirit Trust in London, has written two best-selling wine books, and is a longstanding member of the Circle of Wine Writers. She is a seasoned wine educator, judge, and media personality with 20 years of journalism experience. She has appeared on Canada AM, CITY-TV, BON TV and, and her reviews and articles have appeared in such eminent publications as Decanter, Wine Spectator, Wine & Spirit International, The Times (London), Maclean’s, Taste magazine and others. In short, she has earned her street cred. Now she spends her time tasting wine (on your behalf, of course) and telling it like it is.

Finding you your next great wine is her calling. Along the way, she has shown living well doesn’t have to be pricey or pretentious. Just takes a little know-how, and maybe a corkscrew.

Contact her at

Twitter: @thewinefind

Instagram: carolynevanshammond


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