Proper Wine Service Can Be Daunting But Is An Invaluable Skill To Have On The Floor – Here Are The Standard Steps To Serve Wine Like a Pro
With the accessibility of different wine varietals available today, delicious wine has become more approachable to the average diner. A strong wine list is just as appreciated at casual concepts as in fine dining establishments. While not every server needs to have a Sommelier-level knowledge of viticulture, being comfortable performing proper wine service is an essential skill to have.
Though the levels of formality will depend entirely on your dining room– we’ll walk you through the standard steps of wine service to help you present, open, and pour wines for a seamless experience for your guests.
5 Steps to Wine Service
- Take the order
- Mise en place
- Present the bottle
- Open the bottle
How to Take a Wine Order
To offer great wine service, you don’t need to know all the long-standing traditions and rituals of the wine world. Start by becoming familiar with your wine menu so you can describe the wines on your lists to guests confidently. Be prepared to answer common questions they may have about the varietal, quality, and potential pairings. If your restaurant offers a larger selection, have a recommendation ready to pair with the signature dishes.
Provide expressive tasting notes so the diners have an idea of what to expect. Use terms like dry, earthy, or full-bodied to describe the wines to guests. Understanding your wine list will give you the foundation to sell more bottles, which in turn will increase your sales and tip out!
After your guests have ordered a bottle, always repeat the order back to them to confirm vintage, vineyard, and varietal.
Mise En Place For Wine Service
Mise en place is important in every station, preparation and organization are key. It’s no different in wine service.
You will need to gather your tools:
- Wine key
- Wine bottle
When delivering glasses to the table, always place them to the right of the guest. Be sure only to touch the stems, never the bowl.
Take extra care with the stemware, as each glass for the table should match and be polished with a clean microfiber cloth to remove all fingerprints, smudges, and odors.
Your serviette should be folded and ready to wipe up any drips off the bottle as you pour between guests.
Perfectly polished glassware showcases the restaurant’s (or the server’s) attention to detail to offer a higher quality experience for their guests.
Presenting the Bottle with Standard Service Techniques
After the polished glassware is delivered to the table comes the presentation of the bottle to the host (A.K.A., the person who ordered it).
Approach the host from the right, cradling the bottle in the serviette, and present the bottle with the label facing out while restating the varietal, vintage, and vineyard of the wine. Once you get the nod of approval from the host, you can begin to uncork.
Repeating the wine information to the guest seems redundant, but misprints, misplacements, or honest mistakes do happen, so this is an easy way to avoid them. In more casual places where different servers may be taking orders and opening wines, this is an extra step to confirm the right bottle is at the right table.
How to Open a Wine Bottle
Now comes the most intimidating part if you aren’t comfortable with a wine key– opening the bottle. It could take away from the guest experience if you struggle with the foil or break the cork. Since this is an essential skill to have on the floor, practice at home, or ask your bartender if you can help open glass pour bottles when they need it to get the technique down.
Steps to Open a Wine Bottle:
- With the blade of the wine key, make two cuts below the lip of the bottle so you can pull the foil up to remove and access the cork. Be sure to place the foil in your apron pocket—not on the table.
- Then, insert the worm of the wine key into the cork.
- Use the double hinge of the wine key on the lip of the bottle for leverage, then pull up. Be careful not to break the cork, this move is all about leverage– not strength.
- Once the cork is removed, place to the right of the host’s table setting, dry side down.
- Then wipe the mouth of the bottle with the serviette to remove any dust or debris.
If you did study up on the particular bottle or maker, this is a great opportunity to share that story with your table. Wine always tastes better when you have a little context to it. Read your table, if they seem interested, share what excites you about the wine– but be conscious not to flood them with too much information they don’t need or want.
How to Properly Pour Wine for a Table
After opening the bottle, offer a generous taste to the host, so they can get a true sense of the wine. Once approved, start with the guest of honor, then pour clockwise from the right with the right hand, serving the host last. Ensure the bottle will completely make it around the table, and take care not to over-pour the glasses.
Be mindful to twist the bottle slightly at the end of each pour, then wipe the lip with your serviette to prevent drips onto the table or down the bottle.
Wine service offers professionalism and a higher level of attention to detail, elevating the dining experience for your guests and leaving a lasting impression!
For a more comprehensive guide to proper wine service, check out the Court of Master Sommelier’s Service Standards. Many guests rely on their server to guide them in the right direction to suggest, present, and serve the right wine for their meal. Building up your wine service skill is crucial to making yourself an invaluable member of the team!