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Restaurant Service

Page 2


Dealing with the Cork:
Once the bottle has been approved, the waiter will remove the cork with a corkscrew. It is acceptable for the bottle to be placed on your table for stability or a more accomplished waiter may hold the bottle in the air. In either instance, the waiter is usually standing to the right of the wine host. Once the cork is removed, it will be placed next to the wine host for inspection. There are very few things you can tell from inspecting the cork that will not be evident from smelling and tasting the wine but the cork can give you clues of potential problems with the wine. There is no need to smell the cork. There is nothing you can smell that you will not smell when it is time to taste the wine. You may also get mislead with moldy or musty aromas from the outside end of the cork. It is very common for a little mould to develop on a cork just under the capsule. It does not affect the wine in the bottle. Smelling the cork will mark you as a rookie. Look for the name of the winery on the cork. Nearly every winery of quality has their name branded on the cork to keep from having their labels applied to less expensive wines and sold as counterfeits. If the name on the cork does not match the name on the label of an expensive wine, be suspicious. With high quality (and high priced) wines, the vintage is also often branded on the cork. If there is no vintage on the cork, don't worry; but, if there is a vintage on the cork that does not match the vintage on the label, be suspicious. Bottled wines are stored in winery cellars without labels until the wine is prepared for shipment (because a wine going to the U.S. will have different label requirements than a wine going to Belgium) so mistakes in labeling can (rarely) occur. Finally, look to see if there is a stain that runs the entire length of the cork on one side (especially visible with red wines). This can indicate that the seal of the cork was faulty and that wine was able to leak out and air able to leak in. It could indicate that the wine was stored at too high a temperature or stood upright for too long at some point in its life. This will not tell you that the wine is bad or good, but it should raise a red flag for you to inspect the wine more closely when you taste.

Tasting the Wine:
Once the bottle has been opened, the waiter will pour a small portion for the wine host. This is an opportunity for the bottle to be approved or rejected for cause. It is possible for a wine to be 'corked', oxidized, lightstruck or have some other flaw that would make it unsuitable for consumption. These conditions rarely occur with most wines but can increase in older or poorly stored wines. If the wine host should detect one of these conditions, the waiter should be informed and the bottle rejected. If you are not familiar with the characteristics of these flaws, taste the wine and if it tastes 'off', tell the waiter. This is not an opportunity to send a bottle back just because you ordered badly or find you just don't care for the taste. If a bottle is rejected, it will be removed and either replaced with another bottle of the same wine or a different wine could be suggested by the waiter. In the great majority of cases, the wine will be perfect and that should be communicated to the waiter. Depending on the wine and the point in the meal, the wine will should be poured, decanted, placed on the table or set in an ice bucket. Wines that are old and likely to have sediment should be decanted by the waiter or sommelier. Wines that are not fully mature or are 'closed' will benefit from exposure to oxygen. This is known as letting a wine 'breath' and can be accomplished by decanting the wine or by pouring it in the glasses of the guests with the understanding that it is poured early and should not be consumed until later in the meal. For instance, a big red wine that is scheduled to accompany the main course might be opened and poured during the appetizer or soup course while the guests are enjoying a white wine with the early courses. If a wine needs to breath, it should be removed from its bottle. Just pulling the cork and placing the bottle on the table does not allow enough contact with the air to have much effect. Wines that are ready to serve but are for use later in the meal may be placed on the table or in an ice bucket depending on the preferred serving temperature.

Pouring the Wine:
When it is time to pour the wine, proper etiquette is for the waiter to pour the wine for the ladies first clockwise from the wine host, then the men in the same clockwise manner with the wine host last. An exception is that a guest of honor should be poured before other guests regardless of gender. In a banquet setting (eight or more guests at a table), the waiter may pour around the table clockwise from the wine host to all guests regardless of gender. If the number of guests is greater than 5 or 6, the waiter may suggest to the host that another bottle is in order. Whatever the decision of the host, the waiter should ensure that all guests receive a nearly equal amount even if it means that guests receive less than a normal pour. Only a very poor waiter will run out of wine before making it around the table.

 

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