I can’t think of anything more nerve wracking than being called upon to select and order wine for clients and guests. You’ll need to please everyone. Not to worry! Here are the basics. Just follow these steps below:
- Selecting wine with some help: Both sommeliers (knowledgeable wine professionals) and servers are there to assist you in choosing a wine. The sommelier will pair foods with the complementary flavors, aromas, and textures found in specific wines.
- Ordering wine on your own: If no sommelier is available, ask your server for assistance in choosing one wine that will work with the variety of entrees ordered by the table. This may not be possible if there are a number of very different entrees. Your options are to order two bottles, or two or more splits of wine. One standard bottle of wine holds about four to six glasses. Ordering a split is like ordering a half bottle of wine. A half bottle pours two to three glasses.
- What about a “house wine?”: Most restaurants have a nice house white wine and red wine. If there are a number of different entrees, you may want to order one of each of these wines for the table. If some guests are drinking and others are not, suggest that each guest orders what he or she wishes, by the glass.
- What’s a classic and safe choice?: When in doubt, California Cabernets are a classic choice. If you are dining with sophisticated clients or guests, you will need to consult your sommelier well in advance and you may need to consider a French wine.
- I have a wine lover in the group: Find out who the wine lover is in your group. Let this person make the choice. Say “Bob, I’m going to bow to your superior knowledge as a collector of fine wines.” Just remember that Bob does not know your price restraints.
- How much should I spend? When the sommelier gives you the wine list, you can communicate your price range by pointing to a wine in that range. Say “Something in this area is good.” Or “Something like this.” He or she will understand your meaning.
- Presentation of the wine bottle: Your server or the sommelier will present your selection with the label facing you as the host of the group. You will look at the label and nod as you are just verifying that this is the wine and the vintage which you ordered. The vintage is the year that the grapes were harvested.
- Inspection of the cork: After uncorking the wine, the server will place the cork on the table. Feel the cork in between your thumb and first finger. It should be moist on one end. It should never be all wet or all dry. Nod to the server. You will not ever need to say anything at this point unless the cork is dry and brittle or completely wet. These conditions mean that your bottle was not stored properly. Unless you are a learned expert, never sniff the cork.
- Tasting the Wine: Because you are the host, you will be offered a small sample of the wine. Swirl your glass a bit to release the bouquet of the wine. Rest your glass on the table as you swirl. Raise your glass and sniff the wine, then taste it to make sure that the wine has not spoiled. Is there a pleasant, lingering aftertaste? This is called the “finish.” Many aficionados (people who know about and appreciate a particular subject) do not taste the wine; they only smell the wine because the sense of smell is more dependable than the sense of taste. Not being an aficionado myself, I always taste the wine. Not liking your selection is never a reason to send back the wine. The wine is only sent back if it is “off.” An “off” wine is one that has a very moldy, musty, or vinegarlike scent and taste. When the wine has been overexposed to air, the taste of the wine is altered unpleasantly and the wine becomes “off.”
- I’ve Approved It. Now What? After you’ve approved the wine, the server will pour for your guests. Ladies are served first and the host’s or hostess’s glass is poured last.
- Corkage Manners: Often guests wish to bring to a restaurant a wine that they enjoy and that is their own. This is particularly true in certain parts of North America. Restaurants generally charge a “corkage fee” for uncorking and serving your private bottle. The corkage fee covers both the service and some of the revenue lost from not selling you the wine. Please remember that the gratuity for serving you this wine is not added to the corkage fee.
- Corkage Fees: Before bringing your own wine to a restaurant, telephone the restaurant to make sure that this practice is allowed. Ask what the corkage fee is. A very high fee may not make it reasonable for you to bring in your own wine. Corkage fees in North America can range anywhere from fifteen dollars to fifty dollars per bottle. If this is a restaurant where you are well known or which you frequent often, the fee may be waived. If you are also ordering wine during your meal, the corkage fee for the bottle which you brought with you may be waived. When you telephone the restaurant, ask if your wine is on the menu. If it is, even if the vintage is different, it would be considered poor manners to bring to the restaurant a wine which is already served there.
- Gratuity for the Wine Steward or Sommelier: A male wine steward is called a sommelier and a female wine steward is called a sommelière. Remember that the gratuity (tip) for serving you this wine is not added to the corkage fee. It is suggested that the wine steward receives 15% to 20% of the cost of the wine. If he or she has simply taken your order for the wine and only poured the first glass, the suggested tip left is 10%. If there is no wine steward, you add the cost of the wine into the tip that you leave to your server and/or captain.
- What if my Group is Large?: You will want to increase the standard wine steward tip if your group has ordered several bottles of wine and/or if the sommelier has paid special attention to you and/or your group. There may be a line on your bill where you can fill in the wine steward’s tip. It is customary to pay the sommelier in cash as you are exiting the restaurant.
People will notice both your professional and personal behavior, especially at the table. Follow these simple guidelines and you will always appear polished and competent in business and social manners.
Excerpts of blog may have been taken from the book: Hospitality Management – People Skills & Manners on and off the Job. Copyright © 2015 Lyn Pont, Ph.D.
“Pont’s book is a must-read for anyone considering a career in hospitality.”
— Isadore Sharp, chairman and founder, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts
See the book at: www.HospitalityManners.com
Visit Lyn at: www.MannersForBusiness.com
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