Set your watches to wine o’clock


IF YOU’RE a wine lover, it’s more than likely that you’ll have used the expression ‘wine o’ clock’ on more than one occasion.

After all, it’s the perfect phrase to describe the perfect moment to pour yourself a glass of your favourite vino blanco, tinto or collapso.

But it’s actually a real thing. So much so, the Oxford English Dictionary officially recognised the phrase in 2015 as ‘an appropriate time of day for starting to drink wine.’

However, the dictionary doesn’t specify a time, meaning that wine o’clock has been left open to interpretation, having a different significance for different people, depending on occasion, celebration and mood.

So wine experts were consulted to help us uncover the precise time of wine o’clock.

Contributing editor at Decanter magazine, Jane Anson, says wine o’clock varies depending on the circumstance, primarily focusing on drinking with food.

“A lazy Sunday brunch wine o’clock could be 11am with a mimosa, while a summer beach holiday could call for wine o’clock at lunchtime with a cold glass of rosé,’ she told us.

“For me, the rules for a normal working day back at home is whoever is cooking that night gets to open whatever wine goes best with the food.”

And this concept of drinking wine with dinner is something that has developed throughout history. Food historian Dr Annie Gray explained that throughout time, the most popular time to drink wine has changed depending on the set eating times.

“It was only wine o’clock if you could afford it, and then it depended on the era. The Tudors ate their main meal at 10am, the Stuarts at 2pm and the Victorians at 8pm. Historically, therefore, wine o clock is whenever you want it to be!’

But what if tasting wine is your full-time job…

For Joe Fattorini, presenter of ITV programme The Wine Show, wine o’clock has no correlation with mealtimes, and is in fact between the hours of 11 in the morning and one in the afternoon.

This is because it’s the perfect time to properly taste wine, when your mouth is drier and not obscured by the lingering taste of food.

“For wine tasters, 11am to one pm is the optimum time to actually drink wine because your mouth is drier. The saliva that builds up in your mouth throughout the day can dramatically change the taste of wine. It doesn’t make it taste worse, just different.”

However, he says for non-professional wine tasters, five to six o’clock in the evening is a great time to drink wine “because you’re hungry before dinner, thus building up your appetite for a glass.”


And when we posed the question on social media, you all agreed, with 43 per cent believing wine o’clock started at 5pm.

This was compared to 24 per cent who said it was 7pm with dinner; four per cent that thought it was anytime past one in the afternoon and 29 per cent that believe it’s whenever you want.

And there’s actually a huge psychological meaning behind our desire to drink wine post-5pm.

It’s called ‘anchoring,’ a term used to describe the association between a specific state and a specific stimulus. In this instance, the stimulus being wine, and the state being relaxation.

‘An anchor can be a sound (the glugging of wine in a glass), a sight (a bottle of wine), a feeling (holding a cold glass in your hand), or a smell,’ says Jo Blakeley, a Neuro-Linguistic Programming trainer and author of Blokes, Beers & Burritos.

‘What happens, is that outside your conscious awareness – you come to associate these sensory stimuli with a particular state, in this instance, relaxation.’

‘Because wine o’clock at 5pm usually signifies the line between work and leisure, you immediately feel relaxed upon hearing a glug of wine, or seeing a glass of wine etc.’

‘It’s like when you smell something that immediately takes you back to a particularly memory – such as a specific aftershave, or freshly cut grass. It takes you back to a certain time in your life without any conscious knowledge of it happening.’

So there you go. While there’s no specific time to celebrate wine o’clock, it seems that the most popular choice is around 5-6pm, when we can shirk our responsibilities for the day, pop that cork and unwind to the sound of Pinot splashing in the glass.