The Magazine for Restaurant Professionals
Step-by-Step Wine Service
The Sommelier Society of America had a regular column in the magazine towards the beginning, and I believe this was actually the first issue. Two of us from the society who were part of the Education Committee were asked to put this together – I did the writing and my recollection is that the lovely hand model was Joe Scalice.
There are many ways to open a bottle of wine, ranging from casual to very formal. Behind them is a tradition of “correct” service, which draws on decades of experience. Remember, the “host” is whomever ordered the wine, unless you are instructed that someone else will taste it.
❶ Carry the bottle carefully to the table and present it from the host’s right side. Cardle the bottle in a clean cloth and make sure the label is facing the host at an angle easy to read. Reconfirm the host’s order by stating the producer’s name, type of wine and vintage.
❷ With the blade of your corkscrew, cut the capsule below the lip of the bottle. This prevents contamination of the wine from residue under the capsule. Note: For steps 2 through 4, if you are serving in a more formal environment, place the bottle on a side table while opening it.
❸ Wipe the top of the bottle with a clean cloth. Insert the tip of your corkscrew into the center of the cork and twist in a clockwise direction. Insert the corkscrew deep enough to get good leverage, but be careful not to puncture through the bottom of the cork.
❹ Hold the corkscrew level securely against the bottle lip with your other hand. Slowly draw the cork out. You may need to rotate the corkscrew a quarter or half turn to help draw the cork out evenly. At the end, grasp and gently push the cork from the side with your thumb to remove it.
❺ Wipe the outside and inside of the lip of the bottle with a clean cloth. Make sure to clean away any residue or bits of cork that may be left behind. It helps if you dampen a corner of the cloth with water.
❻ Present the cork to the host on a small plate or underliner for his or her inspection. If you have opened the bottle away from the table, present it again.
❼ Pour a taste of the wine for the host. A proper taste (approximately one ounce) should be enough for the host to get a true sense of the wine. While the host is tasting, hold the bottle so he or she can read the label.
❽ Have a clean cloth in hand to wipe the lip of the bottle after each pour. This prevents drips on the table or streaks down the side of the bottle.
❾ After the host accepts the wine, pour for the others at the table, always from the right side. Serve in a clockwise direction, beginning with the person to the hosts’s left. In a more formal setting, pour all women at the table first, then a second time around for the men.
❿ The host is always poured last, regardless of gender. Fill glasses only to between ⅓ and ½ full. This allows room for the bouquet of the wine to develop in the glass.
⓫ White, sparkling and most dessert wines should be place in an ice bucket on or near the customers’ table. The bottle should be easily visible to the host.
⓬ Red wines (or others at the host’s request) should be placed on an underliner or small plate on or near the table. Again, the bottle and label should be easily visible to the host.
Santé is a glossy format trade magazine for restaurant wine buyers and educators. I wrote as a freelancer for them on and off from the first issue in November 1996 until November 2002 when they decided to stop using freelance writers.