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I finally had somebody explain this to me on the weekend. I work as a server at a fairly casual pub, but I had no serving experience before this job. Since most of the wine drinking I have done in my life has been - ahem - fairly lowbrow, I had been concerned about serving bottles of wine properly and now feel alot more comfortable.

The following is a mix of what I've learned through my work, through asking more informed servers than I, and information on-line. I've tried to write it so that it applies to both restaurant service and personal entertaining. This started small - now it's big. I hope it helps.

Choosing the Proper Wine Glass
This may not always be applicable to you, but should you be presented with a variety of options to choose from, you should know your stuff. The shape of the wine glass can actually affect the taste. m_turner has informed me that wine glasses are shaped the way they are to deliver the wine to a specific spot on the tongue.

There are three main types of wine glasses:

  1. Standard white wine glasses (tulip shaped)
  2. Red wine (larger bowl, more rounded)
  3. Flutes for sparkling wine (tall and thin)

Your standard all-purpose wine glass holds between 9 and 10 oz. White wine glasses are okay for serving red wine, but apparently you shouldn't serve red wine in a white wine glass.

Carrying the wine to the Table

  1. It has been suggested to me that carrying the wine and glasses out on a tray may not be the best idea. An example was cited of a server in Alberta somewhere serving a bottle of wine - as it was very fancy, he decided to carry it out on a silver platter. Silver is slippery. The wine dropped.

    That guy dropped a ten thousand dollar bottle of wine.

    So - use your hands.

  2. When carrying glasses, also use your hands. You should be able to carry up to seven glasses by holding the stems in between your fingers. Hold all the glasses by the stems - this keeps your fingerprints off the bowl, and prevents your fingers from heating the glass (and changing the taste of the wine). This being said, if you think you're going to drop something, don't do it. Better to make two trips than to drop a glass onto somebody.

Decanting the wine
Now we're getting really fancy. This should only be done for older wines and ports that contain sediment. This is usually done for aesthetic purposes, but can also improve the taste of the wine, letting it "breathe". However the wine should be drunk soon after it is decanted as the taste will gradually decline.

Let the wine sit upright, allowing the sediment to settle at the bottom. Then slowly pour the wine into a decanter, keeping the bottle at an angle. You can use a cheesecloth or other sort of filter, but of course, not in front of the customer or your guests.

Temperature of the Wine
On its most basic level, red wine should be served at room temperature, and white wine should be served chilled. However, if you want to get complicated, lighter, fruitier wines should be very chilled, while fuller whites can be less cool. For reds, the same rule applies - fruitier reds can be slightly more cool.

Generally, for whites, a half hour in the fridge is enough. Too much more than that and the aroma and taste of the wine can be affected.

Opening the Bottle
This information is mostly helpful for a work setting:
Before going to the table, prepping the bottle a little bit will help make the wine opening at the table go smoother. Cut half of the foil so that you can cut the other half at the table without having to spin the bottle - when serving wine to a customer the label should always be facing them.

Present the wine by holding it by the "punt" (bottom) and laying the neck up the inside of your forearm, label out. This should be presented to the head of the table - usually whoever ordered the wine. Don't just go for the oldest looking male at the table - my mom gets so offended when she orders a bottle and it's presented to her boyfriend.

Cut the capsule off, keeping the label out. If you have a cloth handy wipe the top of the cork to remove any dust or what have you.

Be careful to put the point of the corkscrew into the center of the cork, and spin the corkscrew, not the bottle. Otherwise you will probably end up ripping the cork when you try to remove it.

Present the cork to the taster so that they can see whether it is dry or moist. Brainwave nicely told me that another main reason it is presented to the customer is so they can smell it, checking for "cork taint". They are also checking to see that the red wine will have stained the bottom of the cork, indicating that the bottle was properly stored on its side.

Testing and Pouring the Wine
For testing, pour a little bit into the tester's glass, twisting the bottle to the left at the end of the pour to catch drips. Once it's been approved, serve the wine in small portions to the table, about 2-3 ounces per person. Better to have leftovers than to run out halfway through. Cordelia says that you should start serving with the lady to the left of the tester, going clockwise, and for additional style, serve the ladies first. She also mentioned that you can usually pour with a hidden grip - thumb inside the base of the bottle, fingers cupping the bottle.

If you are serving a table of guests, be sure to serve everyone else before yourself.

Happy drinking! Thank you to noders who msged me with notes and additions.

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