A Frequent Flighter's Tips for Drinking Wine Responsibly

During summertime many of you are icing down rosé and fizz for picnics,dinners, barbecues and other summer soirées. The heat and sun can take its toll if you slip up and sip too much. I'm sharing a few of my wine professional tips to make sure you stay focused and fabulous.
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My husband David Ransom and I call ourselves Frequent Flighters. We both work in the wine business and log many miles producing and attending professional wine events and visiting wine regions around the world. It sounds like a pretty delicious life, right? But sometimes it's tough, especially when the day involves tasting many wines at different events. As in all things, moderation is key. When we drink wine at tasting events we spit. It's the professionals' way to stay focused and in tip top shape.

During summertime many of you are icing down rosé and fizz for picnics, al fresco dinners, barbecues and other summer soirées. The heat and sun can take its toll if you slip up and sip too much. I'm sharing a few of my wine professional tips to make sure you stay focused and fabulous.

If you are attending an event:

1. Eat something ahead of time so your stomach is not empty. There may be a long cocktail hour before the meal is served. I suggest making a small sandwich, a cup of soup (hot or chilled) or (my favorite) avocado spread on whole grain toast with a little salt, pepper and lemon. This fills you up just enough and coats your stomach.

2. Take small sips, not large gulps, when you drink wine. Drink one glass of water for every glass of wine to ward off dehydration. Drinking water will also slow down your alcohol consumption.

3. Speaking of slowing down: It's not a race to the bottom of the bottle. Savor the wine. Inhale the aroma but not the liquid. Go slowly. Note: Waiters love to "top off your glass" so they can sell you more wine. We usually just ask if we can pour our own.

4. If you feel woozy in the heat, drink more water and back off the wine. Nibble on bread or soda crackers if your stomach is queasy. Find shade or go inside to lie down to cool off and stabilize.

5. Have a buddy system. It's always good to have a friend (or spouse) who knows to lean over and murmur these essential words in your ear: "You are slurring." It's as important as "Check your teeth."

6. If you are taking any medications, avoid consuming alcohol altogether. And of course, assign a designated driver to and from the event.

If you are serving wine at an event

All of above apply so you're not the Hostess with the Mostest hangover. But here are some other tips:

1. Offer spit buckets or plastic cups in case someone wants to taste. Professional wine events have them. I like having them as options for social events as well.

2. Six ounce pours are the norm, not to the lip of the glass. It's wine, not milk.

3. Serve wines with a lower alcohol by volume (ABV). The average alcohol by volume (ABV) is around 12 percent. Some examples of lower ABV wines include: Prosecco, Spanish cavas and French Champagne and rosé wines. Many red wines can be higher in ABV; some better options include French Beaujolais and some Riojas from Spain. Wine blogger Madeline Puckette,, offers a helpful infographic on ABV for beer and wine.

4. If dinner isn't going to be served for a few hours offer plenty of hearty hors d'oeuvres. In my opinion crudités and cheese have never worked well as food offerings at professional wine tastings, and I feel the same way for dinner parties.

5. Offer quality non alcohol options for anyone who cannot drink. fresh iced tea, sparkling water, fresh sodas and nothing artificial or too sugary. If you notice a guest is not drinking do not ask "Why aren't you drinking?" Just ask, "What can I offer you to drink?" A person's decision not to imbibe is a private matter.

6. Have a list of local taxi and car services on hand for anyone who may not be fit to drive home. If a guest has had one too many quietly offer to call a cab, ask a friend to drive her home or provide a sofa for her to stay overnight. Do not let her drive and do not let her argue with you about this important decision.

People have asked me if you are obligated to serve a wine a guest brings as a hostess gift. The answer is "not unless you want to." If you are a guest and want to bring wine, ask what kind of wine your hostess enjoys or bring something interesting for her to try or fun to share, such as a large format bottle. Be clear with your hostess if this is a gift you want her to serve at the event or enjoy later. I've seen occasions where a hostess left an expensive gift of wine on the kitchen counter that was generously poured by a guest who didn't know -- or appreciate -- what he was drinking.

Finally, alcohol affects each person in different ways. There are several influencing factors* including:

  • Age.
  • Gender.
  • Race or ethnicity.
  • Physical condition (weight, fitness level, etc).
  • Amount of food consumed before drinking.
  • How quickly the alcohol was consumed.
  • Use of drugs or prescription medicines.
  • Family history of alcohol problems.

Listen to your body and know your limits.