If the things you learned in our recent post opened your appetite for even more information about the universe of wine, read further to find out everything you should know about opening a bottle of wine. Just like every other step of finding and serving the best wine, opening a bottle of wine requires following certain rules.
Whether you are a connoisseur or a beginner when it comes to the fascinating world of wine, there is always something new to learn about the proper etiquette and best practices, in order to have a truly unique experience. A true wine lover knows that choosing the best wine is useless if one doesn’t know the right way to store it, decant it, open and serve it.
In the following lines, you will learn more about presenting a bottle of wine to the table, the correct way to open it, as well as what tools should be used.
Steps to Take Before Opening a Bottle of Wine
There are some important things to know regarding what you should do before actually opening a bottle of wine. First of all, the wine that is being served should already be at the right temperature. As you may know, the temperature is a crucial factor to consider and the right temperature can’t be achieved if you open a bottle of wine straight away.
Therefore, after chilling or letting the wine sit at room temperature, according to its type, the wine is ready to be served. It is recommended that the person who will serve the wine should show it to all the guests, before opening it. For restaurants, this step is mandatory, but it is always recommendable to present the wine to your guests.
This is important, in order to make sure that everyone knows what wine is being served and whether they wish to taste it or not. When wine is served in a professional location, the staff member who opens the bottle should display the bottle before the guests, also announcing the vineyard, the type of grape and the location of that particular wine bottle.
Another important thing to consider before opening a bottle of wine is to make sure not only that you have already chosen the proper style of wine glass, but that each of your guests has the same type of glass. Trying to swap glasses or bring a different type of wine glass to the table is a sign of poor etiquette.
Tools That You Will Need for Opening a Bottle of Wine
Now that you’ve got the bottle ready and the proper glassware, it’s time to use those special tools you’ve been wanting to use. Before bringing the bottle to the table, check to see if you have everything that you need. The items you should have are the following: a wine key, a corkscrew, and a foil cutter (if you do not have a wine key), a napkin and a coaster.
A wine key, also known as a waiter’s friend or a sommelier knife, is a more complex type of corkscrew, that is integrated into a folding protective layer, which makes it similar to a pocket knife. This ingenious invention goes back to the nineteenth century when it was created by Wienke, a German, and this is how it got its name also.
The waiter’s friend is more practical to use because it also has a small knife blade that can easily cut the foil that is usually wrapped around wine bottles. There are also other types of wine keys, like a lever or an electrical type. But the waiter’s friend type is the most commonly used.
If you intend to use a classic corkscrew, you will also need a foil cutter. The traditional corkscrew is made of a metallic helix and a wooden handle, that helps you insert it into the cork and that pulls it in order to remove it from the bottle. Corkscrews go so far back in history, that their exact origin is not even known.
Throughout the decades, corkscrews have become an important symbol for wine lovers and a true connoisseur has at least several tools with a rich history and a special personal significance.
The napkin should be carefully folded and eventually have a damp corner. It is customary, but not mandatory, for the person who is serving the wine to drape the napkin over their forearm. After pouring in each glass, the bottle should be gently wiped with the napkin, then placed on the coaster.
A corner of the napkin also needs to sit between the person’s hand and the bottle, in order to prevent their own temperature from influencing the temperature of the wine bottle.
How to Properly Open a Bottle of Wine at the Table
Opening and serving a bottle of wine at the table is a different process than decanting when the wine bottle is opened away from the table and poured in a separate decanter.
The first step is cutting the foil. In order to do this correctly, you should be able to hold the bottle in one hand, with the label facing the guest. The bottle should not be set on the table when opening it. While you are holding the wine bottle, place the foil cutter or the knife blade in the wine key (depending on what you are using) under the lip of the bottle.
The foil should be cut smoothly, without turning the bottle. Cut the foil around the bottle, scrape it upward until it’s loose, then remove it with your hand. It should come off in one piece. The foil should not come in contact with the wine. After removing it, wipe the mouth of the bottle with one corner of the napkin.
The next step is to insert the corkscrew into the cork. Make sure it is inserted tightly in the center, in order to be able to remove it easily, and also that it is not inserted all the way – the bottom of the cork should not be pierced as well.
After setting the hinged notch of the wine key on the bottle’s mouth, raise the handle gently, until the cork comes out approximately three quarters. Then, in order to avoid an unpleasant loud noise, extract it with the lower notch (if using a wine key) or wiggle it with your hand, back and forth, until it comes out completely.
This step should be completed with a safe hand and without popping sounds.
The following step is taking care of the cork. A wine bottle’s cork is not simply removed and discarded. The cork top should be wiped, in order to remove any residual dust from storage. The cork is then presented to the guests, who can examine its aroma and detect the condition of the wine.
For wine connoisseurs, the cork holds clues regarding the condition of the wine. After examination, the cork can be placed on the coaster or kept as a souvenir, by one of the guests.
Serving the wine is the crowning moment of the wine bottle opening ritual. While holding the bottle in your right hand, always with the label towards the guest, make sure that the bottle’s neck does not touch the rim of the glass. If you want to go the extra mile, wrap the bottle in a linen napkin so that it does not come into contact with your hands, which have a higher temperature.
The glass should never be more than half full. If the cup is larger, it should be only one-third full. For wine tastings, the glass should not be filled more than half an inch. Filling each glass precisely, without fault, requires a certain level of mastery.
After each pour, the person who is serving the wine should give it a quick twist from the wrist, then tilt it back upright, in order to prevent dripping. Also, after pouring, the mouth of the bottle should be discreetly wiped.
Those who are unfamiliar with the protocol of wine serving might think that opening the bottle of wine is just a simple, uncomplicated step. However, knowing how to open a bottle of wine is crucial not just because it could influence the taste of the wine, but also because it can enhance the tasting experience if done correctly. Opening the bottle with grace, ease, and professionalism is the mark of a true wine master.