Last night, whilst dining with the bel ragazzo and my colleague in Trastevere - the old Jewish ghetto in Rome - io ho fatto una brutta figura...I made a bad impression. (By accident of course as I am still a rather ignorant foreigner.)
We were enjoying a pizza and some house wine (very nice) when I noticed that bel ragazzo's glass was near empty. He was sitting on my right, and the bottle of wine was near me so I went to pour him a glass but rather then pour in the normal fashion (where as your hand is on top of the bottle) I poured him some wine backwards (I was feeling a little lazy and just tipped the bottle over so that my hand was on the under part and I just flicked my wrist a bit.)
Have you guessed what I did to make this brutta figura? I had no idea but when I started to pour the wine both bel ragazzo and the colleague gasped saying that I could not do that!
Do what? Could I not pour the wine? Should I have filled my colleagues glass first as she is a female? Should I have waited until all our glasses were actually empty?NO - none of the above. I had been very disrespectful by the way I poured the wine as my hand was below the bottle and not on the top.
Wine etiquette has many unspoken rules that become more strict the further south you go. My colleague is from the north (up near Milan) and she said it is considered bad manners to pour wine backwards in her village, however it does not have such a strong implication as in the south.
In the south if you pour wine backyards you are being openly (and knowingly) offensive. It is as though you are challenging that person, or trying to make a fool of them. For example if the table is full and I pour one persons wine correctly and then the other persons wine backwards, then the whole table knows what I think of this person who I have insulted by pouring his wine backwards.
Now I am a little paranoid thinking back to how many times I have created this brutta figura by pouring wine backwards... Not to worry as from now on it will be bella figura all the way!