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Restaurant Wine Service Guide | How to Serve Wine | Waiter SOP

restaurant wine service guide


As the old saying goes, ‘good food and good wine go together’, many restaurants patrons go to restaurants to enjoy food and wine. Some restaurants employ a wine sommelier or wine steward to serve wine while in other restaurants, it is the duty of the waiter or waitress to serve wine to customers.

Your customers expect you to know how to serve wine when you are working in a restaurant. As a waiter, you should know the 10 steps of service in order for you to be successful in your job.

In this post, we will be helping those who wish to learn the proper etiquette in serving wine in a restaurant. We will discuss the following:

  • Serving wine step by step
  • Serving two or more bottles of wine to the same table
  • Serving wine with screwcap bottles
  • Serving sparkling wine and Champagne

Serving Wine Step by Step

  • The wine list is presented on the right side of the host. Hold the list with the right hand at the top. When the guest takes it from you, let it go. The wine is presented after the food order has been taken, because the selection of wine depends on the choice of food.
  • Remain near the guest whilst he/ she is deciding, so that you can give advice when requested, and so that you can take the order without delay.
  • Repeat the order and say “Thank you sir or madam”.
  • Check that there are enough glasses, that the correct glasses are set. If necessary, replace the dirty ashtray before you fetch the order.
  • Fetch the order from the service bar.
  • Before returning with the bottle(s), check that the wine is the same as the one order, that the temperature is correct, that the bottle is in good order and presentable, and that the price charged is the same as the one on the wine list.
  • Carry the wine on a tray. For sparkling wine or champagne, place the bottle in a wine cooler and take it to the table.
  • Place the tray, with the wine, on the sideboard or on an empty table nearby. If you are serving sparkling wine or champagne, take the wine cooler and the bottle to the table concerned.
  • Present the wine: Fold the service cloth and place it in your right hand. Place the bottle on top of the cloth and tilt it slightly, with the label facing outwards. Present the wine to the host on the right-hand side, ensuring that the top of the bottle is held steady with two fingers of your left hand.
  • Stand at a distance where the host can easily see that you have brought the correct wine, and where he/ she can feel the temperature of the bottle.
  • When presenting sparkling wine or champagne, allow excess water to dip off (after you have taken it out of the wine cooler) before placing the bottle on your right hand.
  • When presenting the bottle, you must say, “Excuse me sir/ madam, your wine order”.
  • When presenting a bottle of red wine in a wine basket, ensure that the label is facing upwards in the basket.
  • When two bottles, of the same wines, are ordered, it is necessary to show only one bottle to the host, unless the host indicates otherwise. The second bottle is presented later, when it is ready to be served.
  • Continue to hold the bottle until the host gives his/ her approval, then say, “Thank you sir/ madam”.
  • The bottle must be opened in full view and in the vicinity of the host. Always ensure that your corkscrew is available for use at all times.
  • With the knife of the corkscrew, cut the top of the foil covering the cork, unless there is a pre-cut or perforated tear-off.
  • Remove the piece of foil completely and put it into your pocket.
  • Wipe the mouth of the bottle and the top of the cork with your service cloth. Always keep the bottle upright.
  • Insert the corkscrew at the centre of the cork and screw it well in, but ensure you do not pierce the bottom of the cork. If this happens, bits of the broken cork will fall into the wine in the bottle.
  • Place the lever of the corkscrew on the lid of the bottle, then pull the cork out straight but slowly, and without a “pop” (bad manners!!!).
  • Remove the cork from the corkscrew, smell it to check if it is not “off” and place it on the right hand of the host’s glass.
  • Wipe the inside of the bottle’s neck to remove the bits of cork, sediment and mould.
  • Fold your service cloth and place it on your left hand, and place the bottle in your right hand with your index finger over the neck of the bottle to steady it. The label should be on the side facing the host i.e. facing away from your hand. Pour the wine into the host’s glass for tasting, only a third of the glass.
  • Wait for the host’s approval. If he/ she does not approve of the wine, remove the cork from the table and return the bottle to the service bar without any discussion with the guest. Get another bottle and start the service again, from the beginning.
  • When the host approves, remove the cork from the table and put it in your pocket.
  • Starting with the first lady on the right of the host, pour the wine into her glass, making sure that the bottle does not touch the rim of the glass (the glass may tip over).
  • As a general guideline: when pouring white, rose and blanc de noir wines, fill the glass ¾ full. When pouring red wine, fill the glass 2/3 full.
  • Gently twist the bottle after pouring to avoid to avoid any dripping, then wipe the neck of the bottle after leaning back from serving the guest.
  • Continue to serve the ladies anti-clockwise. When all the ladies sitting have been served, go past the host and served the first gentleman on his/ her right.
  • Continue to serve the gentlemen at the table, moving once again anti-clockwise around the table. Lastly, after you have served the last gentleman, pour the wine the host’s glass.
  • After pouring red wine, place the bottle on the right of the host’s glass, with the label facing him/ her. (If the wine is in a basket, place the basket in the same position with the neck of the bottle away from the host.
  • After pouring white, rose or blanc de noir wines, place the bottle in the wine cooler, the bottle’s neck must be facing to the right of the Host. Drape a clean service cloth over the cooler and the bottle neck. Place the cooler on the right of the host.
  • Do not replace the cork on the bottle.
  • After sales service: The ideal time to refill a wine glass is when the glass is about a third full. Assume that all guests would like some more wine, unless they indicate negatively. Always serve in the correct order, that is ladies first, then the gentlemen and lastly the host. Should a guest be holding his/ her glass, wait until they place it back to the table.
  • Re-ordering: When you have poured the last drop of the wine into the host’s or guest’s glass, ask the host whether they would like to order a second bottle. If they indicate that they would like to order a second bottle, ask them whether they would like to see the wine list again.
  • Whether the orders the same wine as the first one or a different brand, you must bring a clean glass for them to taste the second wine.
  • If the second order is the same as the first one, it is not necessary to change the other guest’s glasses. However, if the host orders a different wine from the first one, everybody’s glasses must be exchanged for clean one. The service procedure then starts from the beginning.
  • Empty bottles are removed at the first opportunity.
  • Wine glasses are only removed once everybody has finished their wine, or when the guests have changed to a different wine, or when the guests do not want wine from the start of the meal.

Serving two or More Bottles of Wine to the Same Table

When the host orders two or more bottles of wine:

  • Both them both (or all) to the table.
  • If they are both the same wine, ask the host whether they would like both bottles opened immediately.
  • If they are different bottles, ask the host which one he/ she would like to taste, and who will taste the second one.
  • Proceed to serve the wine according to the service procedures.

Serving Wine with Screwcap Bottles

Most wines which are served in the small 250 ml bottle (dinky) have a screwcap instead of a cork. There are also cheaper 750 ml bottles which have screwcap. This means that the wine in the bottle is sealed off from air and it is almost impossible for the wine to get oxidized.

Due to this difference, the does change because it is not necessary for the host to taste the wine (though you should ask the host if they wish to do so). Furthermore, the same care is usually not expected as for the larger or more expensive wines. It is not necessary (unless requested) to bring a wine cooler to the table. As with corked wine, you must leave the top on the right-hand side of the host’s glass and leave the bottle in the same place with the label facing towards the host, unless the bottle is empty.

Serving Sparkling Wine or Champagne

Due to the type of wine and the way it is produced. Sparkling wine and Champagne is served in a slightly different way from that of still wines. Check here if you would like to know the difference between champagne and mcc/ sparkling wine.

  • After the wine order has been given, the order must be brought to the table in a wine cooler on a tray, plus the required amount of glasses. If the cooler is attached to a stand, the glasses are brought to the table either before or after; the wine has been placed on the right of the host.


  • Place the glasses on the table for all the guests, and place a glass near the bottle, in case of accidental overflow.


  • Remove the Sparkling wine/ Champagne from the cooler, let the water drip off, and allow the host to give their approval.


  • After approval, hold the bottle firmly around the neck with the left hand. With your right hand, remove the foil (usually there is a tab to pull) then unwind the wire cage and remove it. (Do not release your grip whilst you are doing this procedure!!!). Hold the cork in you right hand and gently push and twist the cork. Remove the cork without letting it “pop” or shooting across the room.


  • Angle the bottle slightly and wait for the foaming to subside. There will be more foam if the bottle has been shaken before opening or if the bottle if too warm.


  • Wipe the mouth of the bottle without your service cloth or serviette.


  • Place the cork to the right of the host’s glass.


  • Follow the same service procedure as for still wines. It is preferable to pour one third of the glass and wait for the bubbles to subside before filling the glass. Do not try to pour Sparkling wine/ Champagne into the glass too quickly; if you do the wine will overflow to the table.


  • Only remove the cork from the host’s side if he/ she does not want to keep it.


  • It is not necessary to let the host taste the wine, unless they request to do so. Do not place your service cloth around the bottle when you are pouring the wine; the bottle may slip out of your grasp! Once you have finished serving a Sparkling wine or Champagne, place the bottle back into the wine cooler, together with a service cloth draped over the top.


Fun fact: Always carry your waiter’s friend at work: You do not have time to be running around when your customers order wine. LOL


Are you working in the food & beverage department? Where are you based? Did you find this article helpful? We would like to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.


Kindest Regards,


Sam Nkwanyane

Hospitality Business Turnaround Strategist • Customer Experience Optimization • Coach • Speaker & Consultant