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Oct 1, 2009 05:11 PM

Wine serving protocol

This is more of a general complaint and I was wondering if any one else has the same feelings, or am I just a whiner. I personally do not appreciate a server pouring my wine other than the tasting ceremony. To me it is intrusive to the dining process. In Europe they serve the meal and only come back if requested. They actually get paid well and do not depend on tips like here, service is included in the price of the meal. I was surprised by the space in their resteurants and that they were usually not filled to capacity. After a while I came to the conclusion that dinner is something that can take the evening and they need room to accommodate all and plan for the maximum patrons. Here it is turn over. This appears to be one reason to keep people moving along and out as well as trying to sell more wine. I am tempted to say," leave my wine alone if you want a tip", but then my wife would give me a kick in a sensative area.

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  1. The wine people will surely respond but I'll just offer my advice. Simply speak up and say (something like) "thank you but we'll take care of this."

    1 Reply
    1. re: c oliver

      I seldom take it this far, but I do agree that communication is the order of the day. I have no qualm with the server doing the pouring - matter of fact, I appreciate it, as I am often in deep conversation. Still, if they are not getting it right, a few whispers takes care of it.

      With most of our dinners, we are hosting at restaurant that we know, and that know us. Even then, I'll have a word, or two, with the servers in that room, letting them know what I consider the right pour, the order of the wines, who might want only white, or red, and how to handle things, should we be running low on a particular wine. The server knows to come to me, should there be any questions.

      In my experiences, they usually sneak in and pour, and no one even knows that they were there. For me, that is the way it should be. Same with my flatware. If it needs replacing (a pet peeve with me), this should happen with zero fanfare, and I should miss it half the time - silent and transparent.


    2. I agree with c oliver. If you don't want the wine poured for you, just say so.

      The only problem I have with it is that is presumes that everyone wants more. Particularly annoying when I'm enjoying a special bottle and others at the table couldn't care if it was Two-Buck-Chuck. There's no polite way to tell the server to pour me more but don't pour more for so-and-so because they won't drink it or appreciate it. :o)

      14 Replies
      1. re: Midlife

        I simply do as c oliver suggests. Remember, most servers are told by their managment to pour, so don't blame them, just politely let them know that you would prefer to pour for the table.

        1. re: Midlife

          I am in agreement with midlife from which rises the intent of the post for comments. Let's face it, I should change my handle to whiner2, I think there is a whiner1 already. I know the wait staff is only trying to be helpful and probably most people like the service. My feeling is that if I have wine in the glass, I do not need or want more at that time. But then when I want more, the remaining has already been poured into someone elses glass. The solution is buy by the glass which is what my wife and I do as a couple. She likes white and I like red, no problem.

          1. re: dgris

            "The solution is buy by the glass..."

            This doesn't work for me, as (and I'm making generalities here) most btg pours aren't that good. I mean, yeah, some are decent, but paying $12 a glass for Hess Cab isn't my bag.

            As a sommelier, pouring wine is part of our service. If you don't want this service, simply let your server/somm know. We don't take it personally. ;)

            1. re: invinotheresverde

              At some places every restaurant employee who passes the table wants to pour the wine, so you're going to tell all 15 people?

              When that happens, I hide the bottle.

              1. re: crw77

                My strategy:

                "If you touch my bottle again, I'm going to chop your hand off" , said in a very nice and polite way of course.

                Wording guarantees the word will spread around in no time.

                1. re: RicRios

                  I'm glad I'm not alone out there, my wife says I am a born complainer. I say I learned it from my son who learned it from my grandson.

                  1. re: RicRios

                    I've never needed this action, but then as the host (most often), I have other things to concern myself with.


                  2. re: crw77

                    No. I tell the service captain, and he/she tells the rest of the crew. Or, I tell the sommelier, or the cellar master and the same thing happens.

                    It's about communication.


                  3. re: invinotheresverde

                    Now, I am both a big BTG and also half-bottle fan, but I do see your point.

                    I anticipate that the wines for the table will be poured for me/us. If the servers are otherwise occupied, and a guest is out of wine, I stand, seize the bottle and do the pour. OTOH, I would rather stay in conversation with my guests, and allow the staff to do the pouring, whether the sommelier, the server, or one of the service group.

                    As stated, if things are not to my liking, then a whisper will always do nicely. Gotta' let the staff know what one needs/'wants. This has only failed once in decades, and a letter to the GM took care of that.


                2. re: Midlife

                  There is a lot to be said for that argurment; one guest may not appreciate a good bottle as much as another diner at the table. In such cases, I tend to have a quiet word with the person who booked the table on the matter of topping up. Quite often the answer is that they are happy enough to refill as required (perhaps out to please a client) or for a celebratory occasion where a white and a red would suffice and nobody is too bothered as long as they have something to toast with.

                  On a personal note, I prefer to pour my own wine at a restaurant. Presentation and quality check aside - I have no problem about looking after the bottle myself. Everyone gets that they want without the bother of telling a server when and how much to serve to each person. In some ways, it is almost more intimate if the waiter leaves the post-presentation service to the customers; a practice I always employ on nights like St Valentines.

                  1. re: Steve_K

                    Should it just be my wife and I dining, I have no problem pouring our wines. In most cases, we have many guests, and I should not be bothered to pour the wines. I have to disengage from conversation, rise, grasp the bottle and then walk about the table. As the host, I am not keen on this.

                    Just personal observations,


                  2. re: Midlife


                    In the stated case, I point out to our server that my wife is the designated driver, and that I am the host - and I want more of the Ch. X. I'll look around the table, picking out the folk, who are getting off on it, and whisper that diner Y, Z and C should also get more.

                    Communication is the key.

                    Now, my peeve is when I have six half-filled glasses of the earlier wines, and some busser tries to take these glasses! "You can have my wine glasses when they are empty, and you pry them from my cold, dead hands... " [Grin]


                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                      I have never had the problem of telling the busser of server that I want to finish the wine, even if I have ordered coffee or an after dinner drink.

                      1. re: dgris

                        I have encountered this most often with "sommelier's pairings," where my wife and I might have 6-8 glasses of wine in front of us. I know that they see just a little left and want to clear the table, but we try to hold onto our earlier wines, to try with the later courses, regardless of what that chosen wine might be.

                        Again, a whispered comment that we'll put empties to the side, and it will be obvious. Next time that they drop by, they then quietly ask if that glass can be removed. Seldom a problem twice, and I've had bussers tell others to leave our wine.


                        BTW - it seems that there is a split on the subject of your post, as to how people like the wines poured at the table. Interesting thread and thanks for starting it.

                  3. I agree with C Oliver, et al. One should take control of the situation if it gets annoying. If it is just the two of us at dinner, and both our glasses are nearly empty, I usually do not mind the server pouring for both of us. However, I would still prefer to pour our own. Most servers are only doing what they think is expected and have been told to do. It does annoy me when an inexperienced server overfills glasses, as if it were iced tea and should be filled close to the brim. (I experience this infrequently, but definitely take control of the bottle in such situations.)

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: scrappydog

                      Yes, inexperienced or clueless servers who try to fill up the glass are a pain, but that rarely happens at a good restaurant.

                      Since we often have 6 ormore people at dinner, and often open at least a bottle each, pouring the wine by ourselves is much preferred. I am much better situated to know when and how much to pour in the glasses. I can't guess how many times my wife's glass was refilled when she really didn't want any more. by simply telling the server that once the inital pour is made, we will take care of the rest of it, the problem is not a problem. Of course, when there are 6 people at the table, there isn't anything left in the bottle to pour after the inital pour from that bottle.

                      1. re: dinwiddie

                        "inexperienced or clueless servers who try to fill up the glass are a pain, but that rarely happens at a good restaurant."

                        For me, this happens once only. A tug of the jacket, or a wave, and a whisper always (or almost always) takes care of it.


                    2. >> I personally do not appreciate a server pouring my wine other than the tasting ceremony. <<

                      HERE HERE!

                      I just tell the server that we will take care of the wine and it is never an issue.

                      7 Replies
                      1. re: whiner

                        The lesson here is; just speak up. I will try that next time. May be have my wife do it for me! Not only am I a whiner but also a wimp.

                        1. re: dgris

                          To me, it's a question of situation. With a group of 2-6 people who I know, of mixed sex/weight and designated driver status, I'll often ask the server to let us handle the wine after the initial opening/pouring so we can better match individual preference and capacity for consumption without wasting wine at the end of the meal. In a celebration or business situation, I think there is something of an obligation of the host to treat each guest equally, and the onus is on individual guests to communicate to servers and the host when they have had enough, in a way that recognizes the host's generosity.

                          If I'm among friends, nothing pains me more than seeing a glass of amazing wine sitting full as we get up to leave, because someone was over-served by unobservant wait staff.

                          1. re: SteveG

                            We have a winner !!!!!!!

                            Business dinner....... Chateaux Margaux being poured............. One guy never touches his glass, which is left that way at the end of dinner.................. what an incredible waste!!! :o) Truth: the guy who paid for dinner snuck back to the table and finished the glass before the staff got to it. Tacky........ but understandable. I wouldn't have had the cajones to do that.

                            1. re: Midlife

                              "cajones" = drawers

                              "Cojones" is what you probably meant.

                              1. re: RicRios

                                When you're right, you're right! :o)

                                1. re: RicRios

                                  Well, they ARE close, in most cases... [Grin]


                                2. re: Midlife


                                  I have done similar, but ONLY at my home. I would bite my wino tongue and not do so outside of my compound.

                                  Now, some many years back, we were at a major tasting, and a wonderful Sauternes was served early in the day. This was a 98 pt. offering, and my wife noticed that the two ladies to her left did not touch theirs. She inquired and got the same answer from each, "oh, I never drink any sweet wine." My wife asked for their pours and was rewarded with each. I had to put in a case of this wine, and do not regret having done so.


                          2. I do not find this to be a problem. We entertain many at dinner. I greatly appreciate the server pouring for me. If the pours are not good ones, I'll pull the server aside and instruct them on a "proper pour."

                            A good server can pour the wines, and the diners should never really know that they have done so. That is the sign of good wine service.

                            Should the pours come too quickly, again, a whispered comment will instruct the server that I, and my guests, are allowing the wine to breath in the glass. It's about the communications.