How to Serve Wine in a Restaurant

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When a guest pays a 300 percent markup to drink a nice bottle of wine in a restaurant, he expects a bit of pomp and circumstance to help him justify the decision. That is where you, the server, come into the equation. Don't be nervous that all eyes are on you, fumbling with the cork. Having a smooth pouring technique helps you make the meal more memorable. Read on to learn more.

  • Bring the appropriate number of clean glasses to the table. If you are bringing them from the bar, check each glass for spots and lipstick around the rim before you go. If you serve the glasses first, you can get rid of your tray before coming back with the wine, leaving both hands free to open the bottle.

  • Present the bottle to the person who ordered it, referred to as the "host." Cup your hand under the punt, or the dented bottom of the bottle, and allow the neck to rest in your forearm with the label facing outward. Holding the wine in this cradled position, stand near the host and announce the vintage, name and varietal of the wine.

  • Open the bottle using your wine key.

  • Offer the cork to the guest. Some customers like to examine the cork to make sure it is not damaged or sniff it. Others will decline, in which case you can set the cork on the edge of the table.

  • Pour 1 oz. in the host's glass for her to taste. At this point in the proceedings, the host will probably swirl and sniff the wine to make sure it is good to drink. Most of the time, it will be. As the host tastes, take a step back from the table and hold the wine with the label still facing outward.

  • Move clockwise around the table, pouring ladies first. Then, move around the table the second time to pour the gentlemen, always ending with the host. When pouring, hold the bottle by the bottom and tip the neck down to the glass. After pouring each glass, gently wipe the lip of the bottle with a cloth napkin to prevent drips.

  • Leave the bottle with the table if there is still wine left. For red wine, place it on the table with the label facing outward, towards the rest of the restaurant. White wine, place it in a chiller with a napkin hanging over the edge.

Tips & Warnings

  • A small percentage of wines are "corked," meaning that the cork didn't go in properly or was infected with a bacteria that causes the wine to taste like your grandma's basement. The 1 oz. tasting is the guest's chance reject a bad bottle.
  • Remember that the "host" refers to the person who ordered the wine, not the oldest person at the table.
  • When pouring wine, make sure you have enough to go around. A normal 750 ml bottle of wine is enough for five full pours. If you need to make the bottle stretch for seven, you would be wise to start with a half pour for each person. Better to have wine left over than run out before you get to the host.

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