There’s a lot of pomp and ceremony around pouring wine in a restaurant setting. Some of it comes down to simple social tradition and etiquette, while other elements of the pageantry are actually designed to enrich the taste of the wine itself. You don’t need to perform silver service in your own home, of course, but drawing on professional know-how will make sure your guests have a memorable, enjoyable visit next time you open a bottle.
1. Start by decanting
Decanting should, ideally, take place before you even think about offering your guests a glass. The act of decanting serves two functions. Firstly, to stop naturally-occurring sediment from reaching your glass, and secondly, to help the wine aerate and ‘open up’ before it’s drunk. And with the advent of such beautiful and curiously-shaped decanters, the process has an aesthetic purpose, too.
Learn how to decant different types of wine properly here.
2. Choose the right glass
Your home, your rules, so really you can serve your wine however you wish, but wine experts largely agree that the proper style of wine glass, paired with the right wine, will make all the difference to your tasting experience. There are dozens of glass styles to choose from, and for the seasoned wine drinker that can add up to a requirement for a lot of cupboard space. Fortunately, there are many attractive ‘universal’ glass options on the market, as well as those designed for specific varieties.
Read our simple guide to wine glasses here.
3. Go around the group
In a casual setting or among close friends, it doesn’t really matter who gets served first or how, but if you want to do things ‘by the book’, etiquette dictates that women are served first, and glasses should always be filled from the guest’s right-hand side.
Check out these other wine faux pas you really should avoid.
4. Getting down to business
Now it’s time to pour the wine! Open the bottle cleanly and quietly (if not decanting) and, leaving the glass on the table, hold the bottle towards its bottom (never by the neck) and gently pour the wine into the glass – whereabouts exactly within the glass doesn’t matter too much, as long as you avoid splashing. Take particular care if it’s a sparkling wine – pour a small amount into the flute, let the bubbles settle and then finish pouring until the glass is three-quarters full.
For red and white wines, the usual measure is about 125ml for a smaller serving or 175ml for an average-sized serving. This is pretty tricky to do by sight, so usually your best bet is to fill to the widest part of the glass, or at least a couple of inches from the rim – this gives the wine the best opportunity to breathe.
5. The final flourish
No-one likes a sloppy pourer, and even if you observe the above advice to the letter your efforts could easily be undone by an errant dribble at the end. Once you’ve finished pouring, just before pulling the bottle away, give it a quick quarter-turn with your wrist and then tilt it upright. You might also keep a crisp white cloth nearby to wipe the mouth of the bottle afterwards, just in case.
Voilà! The perfect pour.