Serving wine is probably more intimidating than ordering them in the first place. Not only must you be knowledgeable about an ever increasing selection of wines and varietals, you should be aware of your role in this age-old ritual.
Things You Will NeedA bottle of wine, appropriate wine glasses (wider for red wines, narrower for white wines, fluted for iced wines and champagne), a linen towel, a cloth napkin, waiter's corkscrew (with knife).
Recommending the WineWhile a good dinner host will know what kind of wines go well with the food he or she has ordered, it is your job to provide guidance. Good product knowledge of the different kind of wines is critical here. It is a good idea to know your varietals (the type of grapes used in a wine) and how they differ in taste. In particular, learn to distinguish wines by their weight (light, medium and full) and how they were aged (in stainless steel or oak).
If the dinner host you are serving has limited experience with wines or wine tasting, suggest a white wine such as Pinot Grigio (which is light bodied with hints of citrus / gooseberry) or a Riesling.
Be sure to compare the wine with the food ordered. As a rule of thumb, you want to match the colour of the wine to the colour of the protein (or sauce). For example, pair chicken, seafood or tofu with a white wine. Pair steak, veal and tomato sauce dishes with red.
You will also want to match the weight of the wine with the weight of the food. Pair steak with a full bodied wine, like a Cabernet Sauvignon. If your guest is eating a salad, a riesling would do wonderfully.
Setting the serving temperatureMost red wines are best served near room temperature. New World wines (like Australian, Chilean or American wines) are optimal at 21 â 23 degrees celsius (70 â 73 degrees F). If your red wine is Old World (from France, Italy or Spain), you will want to serve it between 16 â 19 degrees celsius (60 â 66 degrees F). Put the wine bottle in a fridge for about 20 minutes to achieve this.
White wines are served at lower temperatures, between 7 to 11 degrees celsius (45 â 52 degrees F). If the white wine has been stored in a cellar, you can serve it right away. Otherwise, it will benefit from 40 â 50 minutes in the fridge.
Be careful not to cool the wine too rapidly, as you can damage the flavour. Warming up the wine that has gone too far will also damage the complexity.
Your establishment will likely have temperature controlled wine coolers so you don't have to worry too much. But if not, you may want to anticipate what the host will order and begin the cooling preemptively.
Choosing the GlasswearMake sure you pick the right glass for the right wine. Wine glasses have different shapes to concentrate the flavour and aroma of different varietals. Red wine glasses are rounder, with a wider bowl. This increases oxidation - where the air interacts with the wine to alter the flavour and smell. In red wines, many sharp flavours are smoothed out in this airing process.
White wines have a wide range of accompanying wine glasses, but generally they have a narrower bowl than red wines to prevent the delicate nuances from being smoothed over in oxidation.
If you are serving Champagne, be sure to use a Champagne flute, which has a long stem and a narrow bowl. The narrow fluted glass helps preserve the bubbles and carbonation in the Champagne.
Once you've identified the right glasswear, make sure you wash it! Rinse the glasses in clean, warm water and dry them immediately with a linen towel. If you let the glass dry naturally or rinse with cold water, you will end up with ugly looking water stains.
Opening the Bottle (The Wine Tasting Ritual)With the glasses set on the table you are ready to open the bottle.
Approach the table with the corked bottle of wine cradled in your forearm. Drape a cloth napkin over your arm to prevent heat transfer from your body to the wine. As you approach the host, make sure the label of the bottle is facing up. Once the host has made sure that it is the right wine, use the knife from your waiter's corkscrew to remove the foil wrapper that covers the cork. Cut the foil under the top of the bottleneck to avoid damaging the cork. Once you've peeled the foil away, put it in your apron or pocket.
Wipe the neck of the bottle with your napkin.
With your non-dominant hand, grasp the bottle. With the waiter's corkscrew in your dominant hand, jab the top of the cork with your corkscrew and turn once. Make sure the corkscrew is continuing into the cork vertically, and not at an angle.
Continue to twist the corkscrew until 1 cm of the corkscrew is left out of the cork. Bend the lever on your corkscrew down and place the the lever on the lip of the wine bottle. With the bottle neck still firmly grasped, use the lever to draw the cork 2/3 of the way out. Remove the cork the rest of the way by hand. Place the cork next to the host.
Your host may inspect the cork to make sure it isn't dry or cracked.
Pouring (The Wine Tasting Continued)Wipe the mouth of the bottle with your cloth and then pour a tiny bit into the host's glass for him to sample.
After the host or hostess gives approval, begin to serve the lady of the table, followed by all of the ladies to her right. If there are no ladies, serve the guest to the right of the host and continue counter clockwise until all the glasses are filled. The host should be served last.
When pouring, make sure you end by twisting the bottle and lifting up. This prevents wine from dripping down the side. You will also want to pour the wine glass half full. A good rule of thumb is to pour until you've reached the widest part of the wine glass.
Step 6: RefillReturn to the table frequently and offer to refill the guests' glasses.
The first time you serve wine can be daunting, and the steps to serving wine well may seem like an intricate dance with the guests at your table. However, a little bit of practice will help your muscle memory, and you will find yourself moving with confidence.
And don't forget, after all your professional service, to reward yourself with a glass of wine once in a while!
Tips & WarningsIf a wine is an older vintage, there may be sediment that has built up inside the bottle. If you suspect this to be the case, you may want to decant the wine and serve it in a carafe. This keeps any sediment or other particles in the wine bottle.
If you are serving Champagne, place the bottle in an ice bucket to the right of the host.