We all know that once we enter restaurants, and are ordering wines, we will end up paying for the same wines at 100 to 200 percent higher than its usual retail prices. This is an absolute given and an accepted fact. It is therefore imperative that we expect an impeccable service for the enjoyment of these wines.
Unlike restaurant foods that are aptly prepared and created by chefs, wines come from the wineries “as is”, so there is no value add-on from the establishment side other than the wine services.
Wine service in this case pertains to everything from the offer of a wine list, the suggestion of wines for chosen entrees, the use of proper wine stemware glasses, to decanting if necessary, and the proper wine servicing procedures. Of course, all of these are premised on the assumption that these establishments have good storage condition that keeps their wines at its optimum level.
Below are the correct procedures and sequencing in wine servicing by the assigned waitstaff, right after a wine has been chosen off the wine list:
1. Present the chosen wine bottle to the right of the host who ordered the wine. Upon approval, place bottle gingerly at the corner of the table in view of the other guests. The wine can be placed on a coaster, plate or adjacent stand if table has space constraint; an ice bucket is necessary for white, rosé, and sparkling wines.
2. Open the wine at the table top. Do not turn the bottle or remove from the table. Cut the foil using the small knife of the corkscrew, from the lower rim portion of the bottle lip, circling the lower lip rim portion until the top foil portion is totally disengaged. Afterwards, pocket this top foil; the foil cut has to be neat and complete. (This comes with practice).
3. To open the bottle, insert the screw-edge pointer of the typical bartender’s corkscrew into a fraction off center of the cork. Turn it downwards until the spiral is buried inside the cork. Then lever the cork out of the bottle slowly.
4. If wine is of a screw cap closure, then simply twist the cap and forego both procedures No. 2 and No. 3.
5. With champagnes and other sparkling wines, be more careful as a wire would have to be removed first. Follow this by the removal of the cork. There should be enough pressure on the cork when twisting to open to avoid sudden uncontrolled explosion of the wine. With sparkling wines, always make the wine hiss during the opening, and not pop out loudly – contrary to what most waitstaff would do. It is generally considered rude to pop sparkling wines in fine dining establishments.
6. Use cloth napkin properly. Use the cloth napkin to wipe the bottle lip after opening, and to remove cork remnants (if any). Always return the cloth napkin back to the forearm, with the stained spots folded and invisible to the customers.
7. The cork should be left at the right of the host, who is also the de facto taster. It can be placed either on a small plate or saucer.
8. Pour an estimated ounce of wine in the taster’s glass, and stand back to the right, and await taster’s approval, normally via simple nod or thumbs up gesture. Pouring sequence: a) If there is a guest of honor, he/she will be served first regardless of seating arrangement; b) If in a typical group situation, the guests will be served clockwise around the table from the host, starting with women first, then the men; c) The host is always served last.
9. In pouring, the glasses should be filled no more than 1/3 full (depends on the glassware, but for bigger ballooned type burgundy glasses, 1/4 probably enough, if smaller glasses, probably up to 1/2 at most). This ample space in the glass is to allow swirling and other wine routines people do with their wines. It is also important to note the number of guests to share a bottle of wine. The more the guests, the less the pour (especially if different bottles of wines are ordered per course); try to be consistent in pour from one glass to another. If there is difficulty in gauging your pour, step backwards and get a better view. Always remember to ask if a re-order or new order is needed upon emptying of a bottle.
10. Be attentive to glasses being emptied by guests, and be ready to refill. Always ask the host if more wines are needed, and if new wines are taken off the winelist, start from procedure No. 1 again.
Proper wine service adds to the enjoyment of fine wines and provides a wonderful backdrop to the sophistication and serene appreciation of these idyllic drinks. And may I add too, that tipping by appreciative wine customers is also more generous too!