A Beginner’s Guide to Serving Wine Like a Pro

If you’re planning a dinner party and are going to be offering wine to your guests, part of your duty as host will be to select suitable wines and serve them correctly. If you’ve ever watched an experienced sommelier at work, you’ll understand that this is something of an art, a skill practiced and polished over years.

However, as an amateur, you don’t need to aspire to such heights of perfection to serve wine like a pro. Bear in mind a few simple guidelines and you’ll be able to impress your guests not only with your wine-serving know-how but with your good manners and concern for their enjoyment of the entire dining experience.

So here are 9 essential details to help you serve wine like a

Store bottles horizontally

Why is this? Because if they’re stored vertically, there’s a risk that, with time, the corks will dry out and shrink. This will allow air to enter the bottle and spoil the wine. Placing wine bottles on their side helps to prevent this: the corks stay moist and the seal stays intact.  If you don’t tend to keep bottles long enough for the corks to dry, it’s not a problem, but if you’re building a wine cellar, it will be better to store your wine on its side. Also, when you’re purchasing wine, keep an eye open and notice how the shelves are arranged. If all the bottles are upright and appear to be stored like that for long periods, then shrinkage may have already taken place.

Polish Your Wine Glasses

What could be more off-putting than realizing you’re drinking from a dirty glass. Don’t neglect this small step before you pour the wine, as it could make all the difference to how your guests enjoy the wine you’re offering them

Wiping the glass with a clean linen cloth will remove any dust, fingermarks, detergent stains, or, heaven forbid, traces of lipstick.

Once polished, handle the glass by the stem, rather than the bowl.

Share the background of the wine you serve

You may find your guests will appreciate a little background about the wine you’re serving. No need to blind them with science or bore them with too much detail.  Just mention where the wine’s from, which grapes it’s made from, and any special story about it.  Is the vineyard interesting for any reason? Does this particular wine hold a special meaning for you?  Being armed with a few facts can help to spark your guest’s interest and curiosity, as well as open up the conversation.

Let the corkscrew turn

When opening a wine bottle, a beginner will often hold the corkscrew in position, then rotate the bottle. There’s actually nothing wrong with this – it works perfectly well – but sommeliers will always hold the bottle firmly, and twist the opener instead. One advantage of this is that the label remains visible to the guest at all times. So, if you want to look like a pro this is a technique to practice. With time it will become second nature.

There are lots of complicated corkscrew designs on the market, but you won’t often see professionals using them. They stick with the time-honored traditional design, which they know will serve them well, and don’t need the fancy technology.

And if you ever find yourself in a situation where you don’t even have access to a corkscrew – for example on a picnic in the wilds of nature – you’ll impress your companions if you know how to open a wine bottle without a corkscrew!

Less is more when pouring wine

Avoid the rookie’s mistake of filling a wine glass almost to the brim. As a rule of thumb, a wine glass should be between one and two-thirds full. Wine glasses are shaped to capture and enhance the aroma of the wine, and this can’t be enjoyed when the glass is overfilled.

Limiting the amount of wine in the glass also allows your guest more control over the amount they drink before you top up – ideal for anyone who wants a taste but is limiting their intake of alcohol.

Wipe the mouth of your bottle

There are several impressive techniques that sommeliers use when pouring the wine, but there’s no real reason to learn them – just hold the bottle in a way that makes you feel comfortable. One useful sommelier’s tip though. Keep a clean cloth in the hand you’re not using to pour. Occasionally a few drops may get spilled onto the tablecloth or even onto a guest. To prevent this, after each time you pour, wipe the mouth of the bottle.

Learn to savor your wine

Wine isn’t meant to be drunk in the same way as water. When you gulp it down, you’ll miss most of the complex flavors and the delicious aroma. Instead, take a medium sip, and hold it in your mouth for anything between 10 and 30 seconds before swallowing. You’ll feel the texture and bouquet of the wine being released, offering the greatest number of pleasurable sensations from the experience. Practicing in this way will help your palate to develop and you’ll become more discerning in terms of the wines you appreciate.

Offering Refills

As a host, the evening isn’t only about your pleasure –it’s all about your guests and their enjoyment. Keep an eye on how your guests are enjoying the wine, and offer to refill the glass of anyone who’s running low. If someone declines your offer- check whether they’d like something else.  Another type of wine, or some sparkling water perhaps?

Wine pro, yes! Wine snob – never!

A final word of advice. Aim to serve wine like a pro, not like a snob. Wine is one of life’s great pleasures and will add to the enjoyment of any social gathering. Let everyone share your passion, and be guided by your knowledge, without becoming a wine bore. Everyone will enjoy themselves more, including you!

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