Pour relations

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 17 August, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 17 August, 2008, 12:00am

Pouring a glass of wine isn't nearly as complicated as pouring tea for your grandmother, but it does come with a few more traditions than are associated with serving Coca-Cola. At home, it is the host's duty to pour wine for guests - or at least ensure their glasses are never dry. As a rule of thumb, guests should always have one sip left in the glass. This does not mean that hosts - or servers - should top up glasses compulsively. Wine should be allowed to evolve - change temperature and breathe - in the glass before another serving is splashed on top. This is especially true with sparkling wine, which warms quickly in its slim stemware. If it's continually topped up, the guest never has a chance to sip a perfectly chilled glassful.

Typically, wine is served clockwise around the table. When pouring for guests, always stand near the right shoulder of each person as you pour. The logic of the right-side pour is indisputable because that's where the wine glass will be placed. Left-handers might want to practise pouring water out of a bottle until their right hands develop drip-free co-ordination. In a formal setting, women and senior guests are served first, but where walls, pillars and chairs make circumnavigation a challenge, waive the formality and go for convenience.

Before serving, wipe the mouth of the bottle and pour a splash into your own glass to check the wine's condition and remove any cork fragments. For still wines, grasp the base of the bottle and pour slowly and towards the centre of the glass to avoid splashing or spilling onto the table. Pour with the label facing guests, so they can admire or note the wine. When finishing a pour, quickly tilt the bottle slightly upwards; give the bottle a little twist (while still centred over the glass) by rotating your hand towards your body then pause before removing, to avoid dribbles. When finished, place the bottle on a coaster or a small mat to prevent stains. In the case of white wine, place the bottle in an ice bucket. It's not a party until something topples over, so have attractive cloths handy to mop up and cover spills.

Don't be too generous. Fill glasses about one-third or to slightly below the widest section of the glass to allow the wine to release its aromas into the bowl. This keeps the glass from being top-heavy and leaves room for guests to swirl the wine to release more aroma. A standard bottle holds a touch more than 24 ounces (less than 750ml when you allow for evaporation and sediment), a number that is easily divisible among four, six or eight guests. Oversized bordeaux glasses can easily guzzle 340ml, so keep pour levels lower in these monsters.

With experience, fill levels will become second nature, but if the wine supply is tight - say you are serving a one-of-a-kind precious vintage - consider measuring water into one of the glasses you plan to use to help gauge the pour level.

With sparkling wine, the bottle can also be held by placing one's thumb into the dimple, or punt, at the bottom then splaying one's fingers across the barrel. While initially a touch awkward, this can provide a firm grip on wide-bottomed bottles. Sparkling wines should be poured against the side of the glass, something easy to master for beer drinkers. Keep the glass on the table but tip it gently towards the bottle neck. Pour a small splash into the bottom of each glass, returning to fill each glass about three-quarters full. This helps prevent foaming and ensures the bubbles are retained in the wine. Some people prefer to balance the neck slightly on the rim of the glass before tipping and pouring, but be careful as sparkling-wine glasses are fragile.