Service Intro and Presentation

The sommelier will prepare or “mise en place” all of the necessary items for the service prior to bringing the wine to the table. Once the bottle arrives, service begins and should not be interrupted. An ice bucket must be prepared and at table side if the bottle selection is a white or sparkling wine. Glasses must have been examined and polished if necessary and already brought to the table. Ensure the bases of the glasses are polished as well as the bowls. A lint-free cloth should be used for polishing and a source of steam into the wine glass can help with removal of water spots. Decanters, filters, wine key, serviette, and cork plate if applicable should also be at the ready.

The glasses should be arranged in a neat and tidy manner. The hand that is not operating the corkscrew should have a napkin or serviette folded in a manner where it can drape over the arm with a 1 to 4 ratio. Fold the outside edges to the middle to hide the folds and present a nicer aesthetic.   

Formal Service requires the glasses, cork plate and bottle plate to move to and from tables on a tray or gueridon (bar cart). If using a gueridon, all items should be on the cart at arrival at the table. Glasses are placed on the table first starting with the guest on left of the host and continuing clockwise around the table to finish with the host. Cork plate follows and goes above and slightly to the left of the host’s wine glass, wine bottle plate goes to the right of the host’s wine glass.

Casual Service permits the glasses to be carried upside down or carried by the stem. Glasses are placed on the table in convenient fashion with the host receiving the last glass. Cork and bottle plates are not required.

Glasses should only ever be handled by the stem or base, NEVER by the bowl.

For both levels of service, glasses should only ever be handled by the stem or base, NEVER by the bowl. The correct wine glass position is to the right of the customer’s water glass and closer to the customer by half a glass. Glasses should be placed in exactly the same positions for each cover on the table unless the table layout prevents access. Glasses may be brought to the table prior to the arrival of the bottle in casual service, but you should never leave the wine at the table to retrieve glasses.

The bottle should be presented to whoever ordered it (host), with the label facing them. Ideally this should be done from the right side of the host as this is where the wine glass should be. In a booth or where it’s impractical to access the right side of the guest, presentation and serving may be done from the left but the left hand should be used to prevent reaching in front of the host with your back towards the host. State the name of the wine, vintage and producer. Wines that have arrived in an ice bucket should be wiped with the napkin prior to presentation.

Formal Service suggests waiting for eye contact prior to announcing the above and waiting for at least a sign of approval from the host prior to continuing with opening the bottle. Additionally, the napkin should be placed behind the bottle cradling the bottle.

Casual Service allows for presenting and continuing with opening the bottle without a clear signal from the host. The napkin can remain on the arm during this process.

In either case, the somm’s job is to determine the required interaction during this process by reading verbal and non-verbal cues from the host to minimize the intrusive nature of this process. Imparting additional information about the wine during opening can be welcome or it can be annoying.