When you think of the broad concept of “enjoying wine,” or at least when I think of it, it’s hard not to imagine a glass being raised. Sometimes it’s a person raising a glass in a gesture of “Cheers,” and other times, it’s a bottoms-up raising of the glass as someone takes a sip or a whiff of wine. But just as often, that glass is being raised slightly — at the end of an extended arm — to move it closer to the opening of a bottle that is about to be poured.
The word “bounty” springs to mind in every scenario. The people are reaching for more wine and raising it up. It is a celebration. Let the wine flow, let the trumpets blare — clothing and the clock be damned. I have nothing against whooping it up. In fact, I’m all for it. But you can do that at a measured pace. Don’t limit yourself by over-pouring.
I suggest getting into the habit of pouring yourself (and your guests) just enough to be able to smell and taste the wine. You don’t have to use an eye-dropper — just be mindful of the fact that we all have our limits. And we have lots of wines to try. In some aspects of wine enjoyment — particularly the pouring aspect — being miserly usually pays greater dividends than the so-called “healthy pour” does.
Let us count the ways. For one, when there is less wine in your glass, you can taste a bigger variety of wines. If you are at home with family or friends, and you have six bottles open and want to have a taste of each, a standard 5-ounce pour (which you would get in most restaurants) might not allow you to reach bottle No. 6 and, furthermore, might give you regrets the next day.
Reason No. 2 in favor of miserly pours is, if you determine a favorite among the open bottles, you’ll still have room in your belly and brain to return to it for another glass — a proper pour of 5 ounces (or 6 ounces if it’s your birthday) — after everyone has already tasted it. If you have nine bottles open, your test pours are going to have to be even smaller than they were on that night when there were six bottles open. And you might even consider spitting some of those tastes — especially if you can tell right away that you don’t like them.
Reason No. 3 comes to us courtesy of kindergarten. Sharing is good. When you don’t have 5 or 6 ounces in your glass, there can be a few ounces in someone else’s, and you’ll all get to taste all of the wines together, without people holding up an empty bottle and saying how much they loved it, as others stand by wishing they’d had a taste. Once everyone has tasted a bottle, it’s open season.
Reason No. 4 is for your well-being. When you have less wine in your glass, you will drink more slowly, which for obvious reasons is good for everyone involved, especially you.
Reason No. 5 is for confidence and pleasure. It depends on the glass, but if your glass has tall sides, its base is on the table, and your wine is below the halfway mark, you will be able to swirl with ease. Aromas will open up to you as your wine whirls, and you will not have to worry about sending a tornado of red liquid onto your cousin’s white drapes or up the sleeve of your shirt.
This is not a rapid-fire strategy. Go ahead and enjoy your under-pour as you would any other pour. And if you are totally convinced that all you want is another glass of that wine, make your feelings known and ask if anyone would mind if you give yourself a real pour. If people haven’t tried it and still want to, your interest will push them into action.
For a regular pour, after the preliminary tastes are complete (or even if it’s just the two of you and you’re splitting a bottle), fill your glass to just below its widest point — at the very highest. Don’t pour more than 5 or 6 ounces at a time because, come on, you don’t have to put it all in your glass at once. There’s more in the bottle, and it’s only an arm’s length away. Plus there’s something seductive and hopeful about refilling glasses. Give yourself those opportunities.
One tip on pouring. You know that little twist of the wrist that wine servers do the moment they finish each pour? That’s to prevent dribbling. Give it a try. You could go whole hog and give the lip of the bottle a wipe with a cloth after each twist too. But the twist alone should be good enough for home. Save the cloth treatment for when you get hired at a restaurant.
Another tip on pouring: The French and Italians each have a phrase for pouring a little splash of wine into a clean glass, and then swirling it and pouring it out. It’s a seasoning of sorts, a warmup for the glass. You don’t have to do it, of course, but it’s a nice little ritual. It is especially helpful when you are switching from one style of wine to another — sort of the wine-glass equivalent of a palate cleanser. These little splashes should be even smaller than the miserly pours I am advocating for. Don’t use this trick to try and mask unsavory odors in the glass. In those cases, wash the glass — and then give it that preliminary wine splash. Pour the splash down the drain or just drink it. If you like it, maybe you can return to it later for a real pour.
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