What Is The Proper Etiquette When Serving Wine?

I had an enlightening conversation with one of the servers at St Kilda last night, and I’d like to share it with you. Besides servers and bartenders, I think anyone who has ever ordered a bottle of wine at a restaurant, or will do so in the future, will appreciate this info.

What is the proper etiquette when serving wine? By watching this talented server in action, and asking him some clarifying questions after, I was able to pick up a few cool pointers on how to properly do it.

When you approach a table, you will need to carry the bottle of wine, a wine key, and a serviette. A serviette is like a bar napkin that you will use if there are any wine drips. The serviette usually hangs neatly folded just above the wrist. This particular server holds the wine bottle in his right hand, with the serviette on his left wrist.

When you open the wine, the label should always be facing the customer who ordered the wine. The BOTTLE never moves. You twist the wine key. And here’s an interesting fact. When you pop the cork off, you should do it so there is NO SOUND when it comes off. I’m still trying to perfect this technique. It’s actually kind of difficult to master.

Now once you’ve got the cork off, many of you know, you pour a taste of it to the person who ordered it. At this point, stand up-right, almost aloof, with the bottle of wine in your right hand, and the left with the serviette behind your back. If the person says, “it’s not acceptable,” there’s no hesitancy or question. You figure out the next step, whether to get them a new bottle of the same, or something different. Wine does in fact “turn” so there is a chance this could happen. As the server, you should be ready for this to happen. Never ASSUME that the wine is going to be acceptable.

Here’s a cool part I did not know. When the taster gives you the nod that the wine is good, you always pour everybody else’s FIRST, then the person who ordered the wine and tasted it, LAST. This is one of those traditions I’m sure you could look up for the reasoning behind it, but it’s basically a show of respect via the person who ordered the wine.

And when you pour the first glass, always pour only a half glass in each glass, but when you come to “the taster” at the end, you give them a little more. With this technique, it gives everyone at the table the impression that they’re getting more than just one glass of wine out of the bottle. Usually, there are four glasses of wine in a bottle.

When you pour the wine, you pour, twist, then subtly wipe the bottle with the serviette.

Of course, the twist top bottle is becoming more and more popular, and will change a bit of the ritual. But you can always play off of that, and have fun with it.

One last thing. If there is a cork, you don’t put it back in the bottle. You casually place it by the person who ordered the wine. I believe most wine’s names are also on the corks, so they can take the cork home with them. The perfect way to remember a delicious bottle of wine for future reference.  I remember speaking with a couple a few months back, and they actually write a date on the cork, then keep them all in a glass container in their kitchen.  Once a month, they’ll pull one of the corks out at random, and reminisce about the evening the cork came from.  A ritual I found endearing.




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