The temperance movement has made great advance since the days when it was not considered etiquette for a man to leave the table sober, and also from recent times when men lingered at the table after the ladies had withdrawn, to partake of strong liquors with their cigars.
To-day there are some people who exclude wine entirely from their table, and many others who serve it only in moderation. It is common now to have but three kinds, such as sherry, claret and champagne, and sometimes only one. In this respect, therefore, one may follow his own conviction without fear of being considered peculiar.
The usual order of serving wines is as follows:
With the first course of the dinner there should be served a white wine of some kind, such as Niersteiner, Hochheimer, or Liebfrauenmilch amongst the Rhine wines; Zeltinger, Josephshofer, or Scharzberger Muscatel amongst the Moselle wines; Haut Barsac, Haut Sauterne, or Chateau Yquem amongst the white Bordeaux wines; and Chablis, Nuersault or Montrachet amongst the white Burgundies.
Sherry is served with soup. It should be light and dry, and should be chilled by being placed in the icebox for some time before dinner. Champagne is now served with the fish and continued all through dinner. Claret or Burgundy is served with the game. Pontet Canet, Larose, Leoville, Margaux, and Lafite are standard vintages amongst the clarets. Chambertin, Clos de Tart, Clos de Vougeot and Romanee amongst the Burgundies. Claret is sometimes, and very properly, served at the same time as champagne, as many people drink no other wine. In this case a higher grade of claret or a fine Burgundy should be served with the game. The white Bordeaux and Burgundy wines should be served cool.
Rhine and Moselle wines are best at a temperature of about 40° F.
The champagne should be very dry (brut) and served very cold. Half an hour in ice and salt before dinner will bring it to about the right temperature. Sweet champagnes are but seldom served nowadays, and are more appreciated, perhaps, at ladies' luncheons than at dinners. Sweet champagne cannot be too cold and should be frappe if convenient. Clarets and Burgundies should stand upright on the dining-room mantelpiece for at least twenty-four hours before they are required, in order that the wine may acquire the temperature of the room, as well as be prepared for decanting. Wines old in bottle will form more or less deposit, which, if shaken up with the wine, will injure it. After standing twenty-four hours the sediment will fall and the wine should then be decanted (with the aid of a candle), care being taken that no sediment passes into the decanter.
Neither claret nor Burgundy is good the second day after decanting. They contain too small a percentage of alcohol to keep their flavor more than a few hours after the bottle is opened, and what remains over from dinner should be put into the vinegar demijohn. Ports and Madeiras are but little used at dinners, but may still be served with the cheese at the end of dinner, or with the dessert. A glass of port with a biscuit at five o'clock is very popular in many quarters, and will be welcomed by those who are afraid of tea.
A fine Madeira may be served with the soup instead of sherry, and is the wine par excellence to drink with terrapin. A superior quality of brandy and various liqueurs are usually served with coffee. In buying wines it is always best to go directly to a reliable wine merchant and take his advice. Especially is this true when the buyer himself has no great knowledge of the different kinds of wines. It has been said that a man's wine merchant should stand in as close relation to him as his lawyer or his physician.