There are really no hard and fast rules for wine drinking, but there are some conventions that, when followed, do allow for more enjoyment of the wine you are drinking.
Stem glasses are best if you want to enjoy all aspects of appreciating a wine, though wine tumblers seem to be enjoying some favor these days. In general the red wines belong in a rounder bowl stem glass, while whites do better in a traditional tulip-shaped stem glass. On all wineglasses the rim is generally narrower than the widest part of the bowl, which concentrates the wine’s nose or bouquet. Stem glasses are meant to be held by the stem, which keeps fingerprints off the bowl of the glass, allowing for visual appreciation of the clarity and hue of the wine you’re enjoying.
In choosing wine glasses, you want a wine glass that is weighted enough at the foot to be well balanced when filled. The glass should never be filled more than halfway, and when it’s filled, it should feel stable in your hand when held by the stem, and not have a tendency to tilt or tip, even when you swirl the wine.
There are special wineglasses for specific wines, ie bordeaux and burgundy. Champagne is served in a champagne flute. If you enjoy wine you might consider acquiring a variety of wine glasses. Blown glass is preferable to cut glass. Lead crystal is a good choice for two reasons. The glass is heavier, making it more stable. Lead crystal also has a different refraction than ordinary glass, which makes it easier to appreciate the visual aspects of wine. The light coming through leaded crystal enhances the appearance of the wine.
The convention is to pair more delicate white wines with white meats such as chicken and fish, and to pair more hearty red wines with red meats such as beef, pork and lamb. While in general this is a good convention, understanding the reasoning behind it is, in this instance, far more important, especially given the variety of wines available today, and the differences in our diets.
When pairing wine with food, the wine you choose should be slightly sweeter and the nose slightly fuller than that of the food you’re serving. This will ensure that your food and your wine are paired nicely. Though in general red wines are more robust, on a case by case basis this isn’t always so. Following a convention blindly without realizing why it’s a convention might lead you into some mismatches. It’s good to try a variety of wines in the week or two prior to that dinner party you’re hosting, so that you’ll make a more informed wine choice to complement your menu.
The other convention is to start the meal with a lighter wine and end with a heavier wine. The reasoning behind this convention is simple. Most meals end in dessert, most desserts contain sugar, and sugar stays on the palate for a very long time. So a heavier wine will stand up to that end of meal treat better than a light wine will, with a sweeter dessert wine being the best choice. Also, if you serve a heavier, more robust wine at the beginning of a meal, it will overwhelm the palate and make the rest of the meal less enjoyable.
In general, white wines are served chilled and red wines are served at room temperature, though in truth many red wines could stand to be a few degrees below room temperature, especially on a warm summer day. For your white wines, a couple hours of refrigeration prior to serving is sufficient.
Letting a red wine breathe for twenty minutes or so prior to serving is generally a good idea. This brings out the flavor.
Some wines, such as Port, will do better when decanted, since they are wines that have heavy sedimentation. Decanting is the process of slowly and carefully pouring the wine from the bottle into the decanter without stirring up the sediment. You keep pouring until you see the sediment enter the neck of the bottle.