Why do restaurants pour a small amount of wine into your glass when bringing a new bottle to your table?

Dining out at a nice restaurant can often be a challenging experience for those unaccustomed to a sommelier presenting a new bottle of wine to your table.

Especially when they open the bottle in your presence, present you with the cork, and then pour a miniscule amount of wine into your glass. If you have ever looked at that cork, or the small amount of wine in the glass and wondered what to do next, then keep reading for the very simple answer that will turn you into a wine pro in no time at all.

When you dine at an establishment that takes pride in its wine as much as they do in the meal being presented, you will often find they employ a wine steward, or sommelier.

That person will be very knowledgeable in all matters concerning their wine on offer, and will be able to answer all your wine questions about which wine you should drink with your meal.

Once you have made your decision that person will generally bring a bottle to you and get your approval to open it.

They may present the bottle to you firstly so that you can check it is the correct wine being requested. If you wish you can touch the bottle to ensure it is the correct temperature for serving (i.e. it has not been sitting outside in the sun for instance or hiding in the bottom of the freezer).

If it is a corked wine, they will then normally open the wine at your table and hand you the cork or place it on the table in front of you. Pick it up and smell it.

Are there any funny or unpleasant odors? Is the cork wet and mouldy, or dry and crumbly? Each of these factors may indicate how the wine has been stored, and for how long.

If you have any questions or have doubts about the quality of the wine, raise them now with the sommelier.

If the bottle and the cork pass the test, you will then find a small amount of wine being poured into your glass only (you being the person who ordered it).

Pick the glass up and swirl the wine around (without spilling it preferably!). Smell and taste the wine to assure yourself that it is suitable to drink. If you have concerns, or if the smell and taste confirm what you felt when you saw and smelt the cork, then discuss it with the sommelier.

He or she may agree and fetch another bottle for your inspection.

Please don’t protest just because you have never tried that type of wine before and may be unaccustomed to its aroma or taste.

This process at your table has occurred so you can check the quality of the wine, not determine what you do or don’t like to drink. If you order a wine and the bottle is opened and found to be fine to drink, you will be expected to pay for it.

If you do get a bad bottle and the sommelier agrees, please do not be put off.

No one can guarantee that every bottle from a vintage will cellar well over a number of years. Occasionally a wine will go bad and it should simply be discarded in favour of one that has aged correctly.

Go through the routine again with the next bottle and if all is well, indicate your approval to proceed.

At this point all wine glasses at your table will be filled and you can enjoy your meal with your chosen wine.

And armed with your recent knowledge, you will find the next fine dining experience to be much easier and more enjoyable.

Bon Appetite!

Living each adventure, 
Christine and Trevor

Empowering people to live a healthy, active, authentic and fulfilling lifestyle.
Adelaide, South Australia.


DISCLAIMER: This article is written for informational purposes only and is based on Christine and Trevor’s own life experiences. No food or wine featured on this site should ever be consumed or handled if known or suspected allergies exist. Nothing featured here should be taken as medical, professional or legal advice. It is always recommended that you consult the appropriate professional before changing any routine or adopting any new procedure.

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Why do restaurants pour a small amount of wine into your glass when bringing a new bottle to your table?

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