Mastering the perfect pour

Brynn writes:

While dining at a newly opened restaurant on the other side of the water, my husband and I (along with a group of friends) experienced an over-eager server whose enthusiasm spilled over into everything she did — including our wine.

I won’t name the restaurant because I don’t want to deter anyone from going there, but the experience left everyone in our party talking about the fact that our young server didn’t realize the etiquette of the perfect pour. (This led my husband to suggest we address wine pouring on the blog).

Before we get to wine pouring guidelines, a little scene setting from the evening:

A group of 10 of us got together in January to meet a friend’s fiancée for the first time. We decided the best bet for our money would be to order wine by the bottle. Each couple would buy one bottle as the one we were drinking ran out.

The problem was, the server would pour about half of the bottle in one glass, instead of making it last between four glasses. While smart for her employer — hey if we drink the wine quicker we have to buy more, right? — it left us feeling like we were never going to see the bottom of our glasses.

One friend joked our server had just turned 21 so she was probably pouring like she would for herself — almost to the top of the glass.

But pouring a wine to the top prohibits swirling to get the full bouquet, and in my opinion takes away part of the enjoyment of drinking wine.

I mentioned to Mary the wine drama we experienced at dinner (our server also refilled my friend’s glass that still had Malbec in it with Rioja) and asked her if there was a “wine pouring protocol” that people should follow.

Here’s her advice:

Following protocol with friends may get you the raised eyebrow but it’s good for everyone to know how to serve wine.

Here are some steps to follow to pour each glass like a professional.

Appropriate Wine

Wine should be ready to go, meaning chill the white and sparkling wines; reds should be around 60 degrees. Temperature impacts a wine’s flavor. Chilled wine masks some imperfections — good for young or inexpensive white wines. However, a chilled red will accentuate the harsh tannins. If serving an old bottle of wine, stand it up for a day to let the sediment fall to the bottom.

Appropriate glassware

Everyone has a favorite glass shape. (Check out our post for further details on finding the perfect wine glass). With the appropriate glass picked out, make sure it’s clean – if it smells like the cupboards, or soap used after its last rinse, try air cleaning. Stand clear of counters, tables, chairs, etc. and dramatically ring the glass like a bell, throwing your arm up and down in the air. If that doesn’t do the trick, rinse it thoroughly with water.

Opening the bottle

If serving an older wine keep it upright and don’t jiggle it too much — remember sediment is on the bottom. Decant the wine by pouring it into a container. The wider the opening of the container, the easier it is for air to reach the wine. (This is good if the wine is young and tight, but not so good if the wine is old).
Decanting improves flavor of tight wines, because more air goes into the wine as you pour. (Remember to be gentle on the older wines).

How to pour

Leave each wine glass on the table. Pour toward the center of the glass, and fill it just under half way. Give the bottle a half twist at the end of the pour to prevent dripping. Face the label toward guests so they see what they’re drinking.
Serve women and older guests first, then men and end with yourself. Never fill the glass to the brim or the wine police will be notified.

How to enjoy

With the glass just about half full, you have room to swirl. Swirling aerates the wine. With base of the wine glass firmly on the table, make little circles. If the glass is too full you’ll make a mess, so while you might want to devour the wine right away, less is better in this case. Stick your nose in the glass and breathe in with your lips slightly parted — you pick up the scents better that way.

After enjoying the aroma, take a small taste — put your chin to your chest and try sucking air in through your lips with the wine in your mouth. It helps aerate the wine, and gives you more flavors.