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Waiter, Waiter: Please Stop Pouring Wine in My Glass!

It's an age-old conundrum: Is the glass half full or half empty?
It's an age-old conundrum: Is the glass half full or half empty?
Photo by Jeremy Parzen

Click here for "how to prepare your stemware" and here for "how to open a bottle of wine."

The "overpour" is one of the most troubling things you see in restaurants, especially today, when so many restaurants are serving fine wine without properly training their staff on how to appropriately serve it.

Don't blame the servers: In many cases, just like the backwaiters who endlessly fill up your water glass with Houston's finest, they have been instructed by their bosses to fill your wine glass at every opportunity.

According to conventional wisdom, the sooner the bottle is empty, the sooner you'll want to order another one.

What many restaurateurs don't realize is that wine needs proper aeration in the glass to achieve the full expression of its aromas and flavors.

In other words, if a few ounces of wine has been aerating for 5-10 minutes in the glass and more wine is poured into it, the aeration process has to begin all over again. This is just one of the reasons you should never hesitate to ask your server, politely, to refrain from pouring more wine into your glass when you already have wine in your glass.

This story continues on the next page.

 

On New Year's Eve, we served Bollinger Champagne Rosé. Note how I used a red wine glass and filled it to the greatest aperture. I wanted this tannic wine to aerate.
On New Year's Eve, we served Bollinger Champagne Rosé. Note how I used a red wine glass and filled it to the greatest aperture. I wanted this tannic wine to aerate.
Photo by Jeremy Parzen

There's a saying in Europe: A glass should never be full and it should never be empty. The adage refers to the tenets of hospitality. If the glass remains full, it means the guest doesn't like the wine. If the glass remains empty, the host isn't doing her or his job.

How you prepare your stemware and how much wine you pour (and how often) are equally important elements in correct wine service.

The wine glass -- whether a classic white wine "stem" or a classic red, often called a Bordeaux glass -- gives you a crystal-clear indication (pun intended) of how much wine to pour: The glass should be filled to the vessel's widest aperture. This will allow the wine to aerate, to "breathe," to the greatest extent.

If you were to fill the glass to the brim, for example, not only would the glass be challenging to handle, it would also reduce the wine surface area-to-oxygen ratio. Wine aerates and "evolves" by coming into contact with air. The more you limit that contact, the longer the wine will take to "come around," as some in the business like to say.

Aeration also helps the wine to be rid of unpleasant odors that can be present when it's first opened. Even some of the finest wines in the world can have a bit of volatile acidity, a flaw or defect that some describe as "acetone" or "nail polish remover." With proper aeration, it will generally "blow off."

So, when serving wine, pour to the widest aperture and then let your guests finish the glass before you offer to pour more.

Sometimes, especially when you're entertaining a larger group, it's helpful to "pre-pour" the wine before your guests arrive. Everyone loves to be greeted with a glass of wine when they get to a dinner party, and the aeration will only help the wine come into balance and focus.

And never forget to have a clean napkin on hand when pouring wine for accidental spillage (anyone who serves wine regularly will appreciate this nugget of wisdom).

Next in the "how-to wine" series: How to choose your stemware and "to decant or not to decant," the age-old rub.


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