The rules of first date wine etiquette
First dates can be a minefield of decisions – when to meet, what to wear, where to go – and that’s before you’ve even settled into the evening itself, which can also be fraught with choices. Going for drinks is usually a safe bet, though, and wine – with all of its romance and charm – is the perfect jumping-off point for making a good first impression. These dos and don’ts will help keep the evening ticking along nicely.
Order by the glass to start
If you’re meeting only for drinks, play it safe by ordering wine by the glass to begin with. That way, if you’re obviously not compatible it’s easy enough to make your excuses after the first round. Only go for a bottle if you’re both on the same page about prolonging the date.
Ask your date if it’s okay to order wine for the table
Tradition stipulates that a man orders and samples the wine, but things are (quite rightly) changing. Ask your date if they know much about wine, or have a preference, and let them take the lead if they’re more knowledgeable than you.
Go for the good stuff
We’re not suggesting you stump up for a bottle of Romanée-Conti, but you should definitely not be uttering the words ‘house white’ or ‘house red’. Consider what you might drink during a meet-up with trusted friends and aim to go one better than that.
Ask the waiter for a recommendation
If wine isn’t your forte, ask for advice from your bartender or sommelier – especially if you’ll be drinking it alongside food. You want your date to have a nice time, and asking questions shows that you’re both curious and down-to-earth. Taking a wild stab at the ‘right wine’ could backfire.
Pour your date’s wine first
If you’ve ordered a bottle, offer the wine to your date before serving yourself. Keep an eye on their glass and offer to top them up when a mouthful or so remains. But be sure to top your own glass up, too – you don’t want to look like you’re pushing alcohol onto them.
Make a note of the first wine you drink together
Obviously you don’t want to get ahead of yourself – it is a first date after all – but if you feel like things are going well, make a note of the wine label and vintage. If you’re still together in a month, a year or a decade’s time, a bottle of the first wine you enjoyed together makes for a wonderful romantic gift.
Drink before your date
…especially if you intend on using the evening’s wine to showcase your good manners and knowledge. It’s certainly tempting to have one or two for a bit of Dutch courage, but don’t forget how potent wine can be. You don’t want to be a slurring mess before your date finishes their first glass.
Discuss the price of the wine
Unless your date is eager to order a bottle of something well out of your price range, there’s no need to discuss the cost, or even the wine itself beyond a few words of opinion after tasting. Save the conversation for more personal topics.
Swirl the wine before sniffing it
Sniff the wine once first poured, then swirl it and sniff again to enjoy its aromas. Swirling can mask evidence of corking, which is what you’re looking for during that first sample pour. Learn more about the art of tasting wine here.
Neck the wine
Wine is not intended for speedy consumption, so take your time with each glass. If you decide to move on elsewhere (or you just want to make a quick exit yourself) either wait until you’ve finished the wine at a reasonable speed, or leave it on the table. Throwing it back and gulping it down is rather uncouth.