What's the proper way to pour wine?

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

What’s the proper way to pour wine?

—Dave, Rancho Mirage, Calif.

Dear Dave,

I’ll go over the standard etiquette practices, but if you’re serving wine in a professional setting, you should check with the hospitality standards your employer expects of you.

When I pour wine as a host, I never pick up the wineglass with my hand; just leave it on a flat surface when pouring. One of my personal pet peeves is too much wine in a glass—I need plenty of room to swirl without spilling. A standard wine pour is about 5 ounces (150 milliliters), and it takes some practice to accurately judge that; it helps to keep in mind that a 750ml bottle will yield about five 5-ounce glasses of wine.

Professional wine servers are taught to pour the bottle in their dominant hand, with the label facing out, so your guests can see what’s being poured, and I do the same—let people see what’s going on. Pour without touching or resting the bottle against the rim of the glass.

Pour slowly to avoid splashes. One trick to avoid spills? Just before pulling the bottle away, give it a quick little twist with your wrist and immediately tilt it upright. I’m right-handed, and I find it easiest to rotate the bottle away from me to do this with the most control. If you’re very nervous, or if there’s a white tablecloth underneath the wineglass, you can have a cloth napkin in your other hand to wipe away drips between pours. Pro tip: Use a dark-colored napkin so that the wine stains aren’t visible.

The traditional method of serving the oldest woman first and then the rest of the women before moving on to men has become outdated, so it’s perfectly fine to serve in a clockwise pattern around a table—I usually start to my left and work my way around the table, pouring from their right side, with the host typically served last. And if someone is celebrating a special event, I might start with them, and acknowledge that when I give them a pour.

—Dr. Vinny

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