You have everything lined up. There are flowers on the table, the guests have boozy drinks in their hands and your charming guest of honor (mine is usually clad in a Battlestar Galactica T-shirt) is ready to move this whole party to the next level. It’s time for wine-ing and dining.
When you’re at a table that’s not orchestrated by hospitality staff, how do you handle the social rules of wine serving? For instance, who gets refills first? How should wine be presented? And what about showing each wine in its best light? Believe it or not, wine serving temperatures really matter!
Below are 4 reliable wine serving tips you can trust. They are respected by serious winos and etiquette hounds alike. Believe me, I know what it feels like to receive Tiffany’s Table Manners for Teenagers from my grandmother as a birthday present. A gift like that is a deprecating reminder that your family knows you fail at social etiquette.
This guide covers: wine serving order, wine serving temperature, wine serving social etiquette and opening/serving bottles during dinner.
I know you can drink a whole bottle, but can your grandmother?
Sparkling wine is served first, in lieu of a cocktail, before people sit down. I usually start with Champagne and then a cocktail… Anyone can keep drinking bubbles throughout dinner, but it’s more traditional to switch to a red wine with the meal. Follow this logic if you want to fly in undetected. But if you want to be remembered, be the guy drinking good Champagne with steak.
(90 ml – 120 ml) A full glass is 5-6 ounces, but a proper pour is actually half-of-that. There are two good reasons for this. First, you don’t want to over serve people. I know you have great drinking habits, but your mother-in-law may not. Also, if you’re serving full pours to a party of more than five, you’ll polish off a whole bottle before the 6th person! Sucks for them, I guess.
A serious wine dinner will step-up one by one from light whites, to rich whites, to rosés, to light reds, to high tannin reds and finally to dessert wine. With the listed variety of wines above, you can easily consume close to a whole bottle of wine with just 3 oz servings. Sound like fun? Host one yourself. Oh, and… if you’re polite, you won’t pull out your phone to take pictures. But if you’re like me, you’ll always have an ipad handy. Sorry grandmother.
Does the wine taste too ‘hot’ aka alcoholic? Try cooling it down. It doesn’t have any flavor? Try warming it up! Wine serving temperature greatly affects what flavors and aromas of the wine you’ll smell. Personal preference also matters. Generally speaking, wine snobs don’t like white wines to be too cold or reds to be too hot.
Without a wine server or sommelier managing your booze, what should you do? Here are the basics of wine etiquette.
Start with your grandmother, end with your teenage niece… errrr, I mean 21 year-old niece. Then, serve old fogies to young bucks. Walk clockwise around the table to serve your guests until you are dizzy. Ladies get first option because they usually peeter out first (unless they are my girlfriends; then you’re in trouble).
Ask your seat neighbors if they’d like a fill ‘er up before hitting your own glass. Don’t worry about your across-the-table neighbors unless they perk up. If this happens, get up from your seat and pour them more. You’ll get hero status if you do this.
Just like with food, if there is a last pour of wine that you really want, ask. Do something like this: “Would anyone like to share this last pour with me?” More than likely, other guests with social manners will insist you enjoy it all. Aren’t you are such a gentleperson!
Some of the finest restaurants in the world don’t actually open wine at the table. They have a seperateguéridon or side table to do the dirty work. You can emulate this proper technique by opening your wine bottles before dinner.
The usual rule is that 1 guest will drink an entire bottle of wine throughout a proper meal. However, there’s more to it than that. Take a look around at the scene. Is it a long table? You should make it easy for people to drink and have a bottle within reach.