There was a great debate last night at work about whether you cut the foil above or below the lip on a bottle of red wine. I did some research online which proved inconclusive. Then I remembered that I at least five certified sommeliers in my phone. Want to know the answer? Read on.
I will not contend this is the definitive way to serve a bottle of wine. This is how I do it. There are rules on what not to do, but beyond that you can add a little flair. Instead of writing this all up from scratch I decided to raid the hard drive and pull a section from my hopefully soon to be published book. Knowing how to present and serve a bottle of wine is imperative to make the jump to higher end restaurants. Like anything else it requires knowledge and practice to build confidence. Hopefully this knowledge will help you gain the opportunity to practice more.
Expert Wine Service
Perhaps not greater ritual exists in the dining experience than the presentation of a bottle of wine. As consumer tastes have changed and dining has become more casual, many of the traditions of dining out have changed. Men are no longer expected to wear ties. Dancing is no longer common place in fine restaurants. Meals are expected faster and with shorter delays between courses. Yet through all of these other changes, the presentation of a bottle of wine remains virtually unchanged.
Regardless of the type of restaurant you work at, when you sell a bottle of wine a full presentation will be expected. Whether you serve three bottles a night or three bottles a year, you need to be a master of this ritual. When a guest does not receive the full presentation it confirms that they are not at the caliber of restaurant where they should have ordered a bottle of wine. Selling a bottle of wine will considerably raise your table’s check. They will pay for the bottle, but they will tip based on the presentation.
This process unnecessarily intimidates many servers, but following these steps will ensure every guest will be impressed by your presentation.
Glasses and Folds: If you do not already have wine glasses on the table, make sure the glasses you bring to the table are free of water spots. A cloth napkin folded in thirds should be brought as well to collect any drips from the bottle. Every guest (of legal age) should be offered a glass. Place a glass in front of each guest that will be partaking.
The Presentation: The bottle should always be carried like a baby. It should never be carried by the neck or below your waist. Place your napkin along your forearm and the bottle on top of it with the label facing the guest. Show the guest who ordered the wine the bottle and read the vineyard, varietal, and year (example: “This is our 2004 Burton Vineyards Chardonnay”). Wait for the guest to confirm that it is they ordered.
Open the Bottle: With the bottle upright and the label facing the guest at all times, remove the foil from the bottle below the lip. This should be done below the lip to prevent contamination from the foil. Hold the bottle underneath or at the lower part of the body. Never hold the bottle by the neck. Place the foil in your pocket and remove the cork. Once the cork is out place it next to the guest who ordered the wine. Never turn or tilt the bottle when opening. This may require some practice, but failing to do this with precision will make you look unprofessional in the guest’s eyes.
Pour the Taste: A pour of approximately one ounce should be poured in the glass of the guest who ordered the bottle. Return the bottle to the “presentation” position and wait for them to taste the wine and approve the bottle.
Pour for the Table: Pour the wine for the other guests at the table beginning with the women, then the men, and finally the person who ordered the bottle of wine. Regardless of how many glasses are on the table, all guests should receive and equal pour. Never pour more than 5 ounces (or slightly less than one fourth of the bottle) in any glass. Between pouring wipe the mouth of the bottle against the cloth draped over your arm to prevent drips. When completed, set the bottle approximately 4 -6 inches in from of the guest who ordered the bottle.
Being able to execute the presentation of a bottle of wine for a guest requires proficiency and a bit of showmanship. Following these steps will not only impress your guests, but will also improve your tip. People want to feel important when they come into your restaurant and very few things validate this feeling better than a great wine presentation. The ritual is part of the experience. Provide it with expertise and you will be rewarded far beyond your effort.
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