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Wine Service in Restaurants

Page 1


Page 1: [The Wine List] [Sommelier or Waiter?] [Selecting a Wine] [Ordering Wine] [Verifying the Selection]

Page 2: [Dealing with the Cork] [Tasting the Wine] [Pouring the Wine]

Page 3: [Reordering Wine] [Pricing] [Corkage]

Wine is an integral part of a fine dining experience in a restaurant. This article will review the service that you should expect and the participation that will be expected of you. In many restaurants the wine service will be more relaxed than the formal service described below but the basics are still the same.

Wine List:
At some point after being seated the wine list will be presented. It may be given by the Maitre d, hostess, sommelier or waiter. If you want to look over the wine list and it has not yet been presented, ask for it.

Sommelier or Waiter:
You are more likely to find a sommelier in a very fine restaurant and especially in Europe. A sommelier, in simplified terms, is a wine waiter. He/She will have extra knowledge about wines, wine service, food pairings and the selections available at the restaurant. It is very possible that the sommelier will have had some level of control in selecting the wines that are on the wine list. If a restaurant has a sommelier, that person will work with you specifically with regard to the wines. A sommelier's attire will usually be different than the other wait staff members. It is common for a sommelier to have a 'tastevin' hanging from a sash around his neck. A tastevin is a shallow metal tasting cup that is a tool of the trade for most sommeliers. In restaurants without a sommelier, the waiter will handle both the food and wine selections and ordering.

Selecting Wine:
If you are having just one wine with your meal it is a good idea to match it with the main course of those at your table. If you or your guests will be having diverse foods, consider ordering a white wine to start the meal that will pair with the lighter main course selections and a fuller wine (presumably red) to match the other main course selection. Have the first wine poured lightly for everyone to start the meal. As the main course arrives, let those with the lighter foods continue with the first wine and let those with fuller flavored dishes move to the second wine. If you are not confident or comfortable selecting the wines, ask the sommelier or waiter for suggestions. It is helpful to give them an idea of wines or wine types that you have enjoyed in the past as well as a rough price range you want to spend. It is also common for a host to defer the wine selection to another member of the party who is more experienced. Just tell the sommelier or waiter that the individual will be making the wine decisions.

Ordering Wine:
Once you have selected a wine or wines to order, its a simple task to order. You may tell the waiter the name of the wine you want (be sure to include the vintage) or you can tell them the bin number of the wine. Using the bin number is especially convenient if you are not sure about the pronunciation of the wine. A bin number identifies where in the restaurant's storage area the wine is located. If bin numbers are not used on the list, you can point to the wine on the list to identify your selection. If you are not sure how the name of the wine is pronounced, point to it and ask the waiter to say it for you. That way you'll know the pronunciation for the next time. Ask to have the wine brought to the table as soon as possible.

Verifying the Selection:
Because some wine names are so similar and because wines of different vintages can vary in quality and value, it is traditional for the sommelier or waiter to bring the bottle to the wine host. This provides an opportunity to verify that the bottle is indeed the wine that was wanted before the cork is removed. Look at the winery name, the variety or type and the vintage of the wine. If everything matches up, nod or indicate to the waiter that it is correct. If there is an error, let the waiter know before the bottle is opened. The most common error will be the appearance of an incorrect vintage or wines of the correct variety but from the wrong winery. These are usually just innocent errors caused by mistakes in communication or vintage changes that were not updated on the wine list. Especially with more expensive bottles, the value of one vintage versus another can be extreme so be sure you are brought what is listed or make another wine selection.


Restaurant Services Page 2 Restaurant Services Page 3