Restaurant Wine Serving

We all know the waiter coming to your table with a selected bottle of wine, asking if you would like to taste it. But what is the proper way of serving wine in a restaurant?

1. After you have selected a bottle, the sommelier will present it to you. This way you can verify that it is from the vintage, winery and blend that you have selected from the chart.

2. The bottle will be opened on the table by the sommelier. Of course this is to be done with some dignity and style (In other words, the sommelier isn’t supposed to hold the bottle between his knees when opening it). In the early days there have been bars where people were shown a great bottle of wine and out of sight of the customer they were given something completely different.  That’s why the bottle should be opened above the table.

3. Before throwing away the cork, the sommelier should hand it to you. There are people who start smelling the cork, but this is useless since it will not tell you anything about the wine. If the wine is faulty, you can only tell by smelling and tasting the wine, not by sniffing on some ugly cork. So what to do with the cork? You should feel and slightly squeeze the cork. This way you can tell if it is in good condition and not dry. (If the cork dried out, air may have come in contact with the wine, destroying its taste.)

4. If you are the one who ordered, the sommelier will pour a small amount in a glass and present it to you for tasting. There is a small chance that the wine doesn’t taste as it should. It is estimated that 5-10% of the wines is corked or tainted. Or maybe it just isn’t to your likings! You can ask the sommelier to taste the wine and ask for his opinion. Don’t be afraid to ask or to send a bottle back if it seems faulty to you. You pay for it, so you deserve to get a good bottle.

5. After you have accepted the bottle of wine that was presented, the sommelier will pour for all of the guests on the table. If you ordered and tasted your glass will be filled last. Large (or even small) wine glasses are not to be filled to the edge, but only to the widest part of the bowl of the glass. This way it leaves enough room for you to slightly rotate your glass and smell it without accidentally spilling some. The rotating is done to let the wine breath and sometimes warm up a bit. This will enhance the taste.

6. Older, more matured wines or port might have thrown a sediment in the bottle. This is normal and the wine is still drinkable, it should however first be decanted. In more exclusive restaurants they can make a whole spectacle of this, using an expensive crystal decanter and candles and such. Not only older wines benefit of the decanting, but some younger wines as a Cabernet will taste better because the decanting will soften their tannins.
There is one thing to keep in mind (Well, it should be in the sommeliers mind) There are older wines which should not be decanted. They are often too fragile and exposing them to air too long will ruin their taste. Those wines are to be poured directly into the glass.

7. When the sommelier has completed his round and everyone has a full glass, the bottle (if not empty) can be left on the table or in a ice bucket if needed. Leaving it on the table can also provide you with some discussion topics if needed (think of sort, vintage, vinyards or the production year) Unless you have told the sommelier not to, he will have to keep an eye on your table and refill the glasses if needed. If the bottle is almost empty, the last wine is always to be poured in the glass of the person who ordered the wine. This way he or she will know the bottle is finished and can (if needed) order another one.

8. If the sommelier has done a good job serving you and your company, it is okay to tip him separately from the waiter. A suitable tip for good wine serving is 15 to 20 per cent of the cost of the wine.

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