“The first rule of wine service is to always approach a table with a smile and a friendly, humble demeanor.” - Dustin Wilson, MS and Co-Owner of Verve Wine in New York City
While ordering wine with your meal can be an intimidating process, wine anxiety is not just for guests. If we’re being honest, we know many service professionals find wine service nerve-racking, especially when in front of a captive, live audience of diners. In hopes of easing the angst and setting you and your guests up for a successful experience, we’ve ask Dustin Wilson, a Master Sommelier and Co-Owner of Verve Wine in New York City, for guidance.
Tips for Helping Guests Select Wine:
- Make the guests feel at ease, comfortable, and confident in their final choice.
- Consider your guests’ personal tastes and the food they are ordering. Asking them what they normally like to drink is a good place to start. Grapes, regions, or specific wines that they like will help you to learn a bit about their palate so that you can make a better recommendation.
- Strive to select a wine that you know they will like when they take the first sip.
- Provide just enough information to explain the wine and why you think it will work for them, avoid using it as an opportunity to show off how much you know. Stay humble.
The Basics of Wine Service at the Table:
- Repeat the order to the host (person who is ordering).
- Set the table with the proper stemware as well as a cork tray for when you present the cork.
- Bring the wine to the table at the proper temperature:
- Always have a serviette in hand, properly folded. Use the serviette to frame the bottle when presenting the wine to the guest.
- Present the wine to the guest and confirm the producer name, vintage, grape or cuvée name.
- Uncork and open the bottle using the appropriate method, depending on the type of wine (e.g., sparkling, white, red).
- Pour a taste of the wine for the host with the label facing him/her and allow him/her to smell and taste the wine. Wait for his/her approval before continuing to pour.
- Once approved, move clockwise around the table, pouring for guests of honor first (e.g., birthday person, etc.), otherwise pour for the ladies first, gentlemen second, and the host last. Ensure the label faces the guest each time the wine is poured.
- After finishing the pours, offer to remove the cork from the table and ask if the guest would prefer to keep the wine on ice or on the table (for sparkling and white) and respond appropriately.
- Ask politely if there is anything else that you can help the guests with at that time.
- Check in periodically to top up and make sure they are enjoying the bottle.
About Dustin Wilson, MS:
With a work history that spans top restaurants across the US – Frasca Food & Wine (Boulder, CO); The Little Nell (Aspen) and RN74 (San Francisco), Dustin is best known for his position as Wine Director of the 3 Michelin-starred restaurant, Eleven Madison Park. His expertise is also showcased in the critically acclaimed wine documentary, SOMM, and the film’s sequel, SOMM: Into the Bottle. In 2017, he opened Verve Wine in the downtown Manhattan neighborhood of Tribeca.