Part 6: Please note: this article will be released in several sections. Each part will be a new FOR THE VIN blog post, and all the sections will be combined in their entirety as a booklet. It will be available to read online or download in Wine-A-Reads bookshop at wineville.net after all sections have been released.
Chapter 9: Finishing a Bottle
There are 26 ounces or 750 milliliters in a standard-sized bottle of wine. That divides into 5 glasses of 5+ ounces or 150 ml. Judging how much wine to pour into each glass becomes second nature after serving many bottles over time, but initially, it is important to remember not to over pour any one glass, because it will leave a deficit in someone else’s. Err on the side of caution, and under-pour just a little. If wine is a focal point of the group, chances are good that every person will want to sample some of every bottle so assume that, no matter the number of guests in the group (within reason), the wine must be divided into that many portions. If the wine is red, you may need to plan ahead for the next one, or even two or three bottles in advance, in order to allow oxygenation time before sampling. Keep the empty bottles as they collect, in case a guest wishes to revisit a label or in case of any doubts as to the number of bottles consumed. If it is a small group sampling, then there will be several top-ups from each bottle. Plan ahead and get permission from the host to have the next bottle chilled or opened or decanted, to provide maximum service, but of course, it is the responsibility of the server to not over-serve anyone, so maintain a count and a general awareness of the amounts being consumed. Being the only hand that pours the wine is not only providing a great service, it is also a control mechanism for alcohol consumption.
Clean wine glasses should be offered with every switch to a new wine and can be suggested with every bottle. Whether or not new glasses are employed with a new bottle, the new wine should not be mixed with the previous one. Guests will often finish their wine at differing rates, so new glasses may be required to set aside a sample pour from the new bottle; once again assuming that every guest wishes to sample every bottle. This practice is much less important if the bottles are the same label and are not cork stoppered.
Ordering a bottle of wine in a restaurant, or similar establishment is common practice and easy enough a task for anyone with a bit of experience. It does happen, however, that a guest has no experience choosing or sampling wine. Being a good somm, host, or server, requires a level of tact, and assisting an inexperienced winer and diner with wine choices and guiding them through the process can be a pleasant and helpful enterprise, or conversely, could leave them feeling embarrassed and insecure. It is important not to assume that the guest knows all the nuances of the ritual and has any prior knowledge of the wine they are ordering. Your job is to provide guidance in these matters, without condescension.
“Always render more and better service than is expected of you, no matter what your task may be.” Augustine "Og" Mandino