What should you expect from a wait staff who brings your wine? Just as food should be served from a dinner guest’s left and removed from the right (unless it is not physically possible due to seating arrangements), the protocol for wine is to pour wine from the guest’s right and move counter clockwise around the table pouring glasses for the females and then clockwise pouring glasses for the males and finishing with the host whether male or female. Wait staff should stand over the right shoulder of each person as they pour. They should not invade a guest’s personal space, but should be as unobtrusive as possible. There are exceptions to this due to table and chair arrangements against the wall, booths and other obstructions so the primary rule is just not to invade the guest’s space.
How much to pour
There is no one authority on how much wine to pour into each glass. In the scientific literature when experts compare the amount of alcohol in beer, wine and distilled spirits, they assign equivalent drinks at containing 0.6 oz of pure alcohol. This would be 12 ounces of beer at 5% alcohol, 5 oz of wine at 12% alcohol, and 1.5 oz of 80 proof spirits (40% alcohol ). Thus a 5 ounce wine pour is about equivalent to a 12 oz. beer or a drink of liquor containing an ounce and a half (a shot) of spirits. Of course wine alcohol content can vary from about 10-15% as can beer (4-7%) or spirits (35-45%) so there is no “standard” amount of alcohol by volume (ABV) that is ever poured.
A standard wine bottle contains 750 ml of fluid which is about 25 ounces. This would mean there are about 5 – 5oz glasses in a bottle or about 4 – 6 oz glasses. In practice, most restaurant pours are 5 – 6 oz and you will get whatever the management considers their standard pour. If you are pouring the wine rather than a wait staff, you have less restrictions. We suggest that you initially pour 1/2 – 2/3’s of the bottle into guest’s glasses. That way you will still have some wine to top off the glasses of those guest’s who consume their wine faster. This would mean perhaps a 6 oz pour for two people sharing a bottle; a 5 oz pour for 3; a 4 oz pour for 4 people and a 3 oz pour for 6 people. Don’t be afraid to let the wait staff know that you will pour the wine (if you order by the bottle) if it seems they are just trying to empty the bottle.
Refilling wine glasses is different than refilling a water glass. In the case of the water glass, you expect it to be kept full and usually are not afraid of wasting water unless it is bottled. If a wait staff frequently fills yours or a guest’s wine glass with large amounts, it appears they are just trying to get you to buy another bottle. Look at it from your point of view. Some at your table will only drink one glass of wine in the same time another guest will drink 2 or 3 glasses. If my spouse and I are dining with wine and her glass is half full (3 oz left) and mine is near the bottom (less than 1 oz left) should both of our glasses be filled to the 6 oz mark? I might not get irritated with a waiter who does that with the first refill out of the bottle but if you do that near the end of the bottle and I know that my wife will leave most of that 6 ounces unconsumed, I would be unhappy with that wine pouring strategy whether I am paying $30 or $130 for that bottle.
Pouring a subsequent wine bottle
For a subsequent bottle of wine at the table, you should taste the wine before pouring for the other guests even if the bottle is the same brand that you poured the first time. Bottles can vary within cases and it is not that rare to find one bottle of a vintage with off tastes while another bottle from the same case will taste perfectly fine.
A new glass should be used for the taste of any subsequent bottle. Never pour the sample taste from the second bottle on top of wine from the first bottle still present in the glass. If the guest approves the wine, the same glasses used for the first wine may still be used for the second wine. If the bottle is a different brand or vintage, new glasses should be provided and poured for all guests.