Wine service

As Americans grow more knowledgeable about wine, their demands become greater. But establishing a comprehensive wine program isn’t easy.

Even restaurants that have a sommelier or beverage manager to lead customers through the wine experience can’t expect them to be at every table, every meal period. All servers need to know something about wine—and how to present it. Here are some tips you may want to pass along to them before letting them loose on the dining room floor.


Show the bottle
Present the bottle to the person who ordered it (label up) and say the name of the wine and the year. This prevents opening a wine that the guest didn’t order.

Share the opening
Some restaurants place the bottle on the table to open, others have a side table. No matter which method you use, the guest should be able to see the bottle being opened.

Hand over the cork
Let the guest do what they will with the cork, but if they show no interest, remove it from the table.

Give the guest a taste
Always start the service with giving a tasting portion to the person who ordered the wine.

Refill the glass
Servers are responsible for pouring wines throughout the meal.


Leave debris on the table
Guests may want to keep the cork but they don’t want those plastic or metal bits scattered on the table.

Pop the corks
Popping corks is usually frowned upon. Whether it is a still wine or a sparkling wine, let the servers know that the goal is a smooth slide out of the bottle.

Assume all years are the same
Servers should never assume the guest would accept the substitution of one vintage for another.

Overfill a glass
The rule of thumb is to pour to the third or half level, though champagne glasses are usually filled to the three-fourths level.

Pour new wine in a used glass
When wines change so should the glass.

Consider the ice bucket an afterthought
With white or sparkling wines, an ice bucket or tabletop chiller should be in place and filled with ice and water (or chilled) when the wine is brought out.

Common Terms

Acidity: Tartness or sharpness (bite).

Balance: The pleasant harmony of the elements in the wine.

Barrel Aging: Process of aging wine in oak barrels.

Barrel Fermentation: Fermenting in barrels instead of stainless steel containers.

Beads: Bubbles rising in champagne.

Blush: The light pink color of some wines, from brief contact with red grape skins or by blending white and red wines.

Body: How the wine feels in your mouth.

Bouquet: Fragrance developed during the aging process.

Breathing: Letting air reach wine by un-corking, pouring (also known as aeration).

Brut: Champagne that is dry.

Clarity: Quality of brightness in a wine’s appearance.

Cooked: Wine that has been stored at too high a temperature.

Demi-sec: Slightly sweet champagne.

Dry: Wines that have no discernible sugar taste, and a pronounced acid level.

Earthy: Used to describe rocky, mineral or even mushroom-like aromas.

Herbaceous: Odors that are like grass, green vegetation or vegetables.

Hot: Highly alcoholic wines.

Lively: White wines that are young and have plenty of acidity, fruit and zest.

Luscious: Soft, sweet, fat, fruity wines.

Moldy: Smell of a wine spoiled by bacteria (also known as corked).

Nonvintage: Any wine blended from two or more vintages.

Oaky: Refers to the taste of oak from the oak barrels used for fermentation.

Off: A wine that has something wrong; a reason for the guest to send it back.

Robust: The flavor and mouth feel of a full-bodied wine.

Rough: A young, immature wine that is not balanced and astringent.

Soft: The mouth feel of smooth wine without harshness.

Spritz: Light effervescence caused by carbon dioxide in wine.

Steely: Mineral, metallic taste or aromas.

Tannins: Add complexity to wine.

Tart: The taste imparted by the acids.

Texture: The mouth-feel of a wine.

Thin: A lack of body.

Toasty: Smoky character of wines aged in wood barrels.

Vintage: The year grapes were picked.

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