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Does Temperature Really Matter? Wine Serving Survival Guide

July 22, 2013 Blog » Wine Tips & Tricks » Does Temperature Really Matter? Wine Serving Survival Guide

You have everything lined up. There are flowers on the table, the guests have boozy drinks in their hands and your charming guest of honor (mine is usually clad in a Battlestar Galactica T-shirt) is ready to move this whole party to the next level. It’s time for wine-ing and dining.
When you’re at a table that’s not orchestrated by hospitality staff, how do you handle the social rules of wine serving? For instance, who gets refills first? How should wine be presented? And what about showing each wine in its best light? Believe it or not, wine serving temperatures really matter!
Below are 4 reliable wine serving tips you can trust. They are respected by serious winos and etiquette hounds alike. Believe me, I know what it feels like to receive Tiffany’s Table Manners for Teenagers from my grandmother as a birthday present. A gift like that is a deprecating reminder that your family knows you fail at social etiquette.

Wine Serving Temperature Chart


Does the wine taste too ‘hot’ aka alcoholic? Try cooling it down. It doesn’t have any flavor? Try warming it up! Wine serving temperature greatly affects what flavors and aromas of the wine you’ll smell. Personal preference also matters. Generally speaking, wine snobs don’t like white wines to be too cold or reds to be too hot.

QUICK TIP Lower quality wines are better cooler. Keep in mind the cooler the wine, the less aromatics it will have. Bubbles are great ice-cold, unless they are very expensive and worth sniffing.

Wine Serving Survival Guide

This guide covers: wine serving order, wine serving temperature, wine serving social etiquette and opening/serving bottles during dinner.

Wine Serving Order and How Much to Pour

I know you can drink a whole bottle, but can your grandmother?

  • Champagne First

    Sparkling wine is served first, in lieu of a cocktail, before people sit down. I usually start with Champagne and then a cocktail… Anyone can keep drinking bubbles throughout dinner, but it’s more traditional to switch to a red wine with the meal. Follow this logic if you want to fly in undetected. But if you want to be remembered, be the guy drinking good Champagne with steak.

  • 3 – 4 oz. per Pour

    (90 ml – 120 ml) A full glass is 5-6 ounces, but a proper pour is actually half-of-that. There are two good reasons for this. First, you don’t want to over serve people. I know you have great drinking habits, but your mother-in-law may not. Also, if you’re serving full pours to a party of more than five, you’ll polish off a whole bottle before the 6th person! Sucks for them, I guess.

  • White, Then Red, Then Sweet, Try Not to Tweet!

    A serious wine dinner will step-up one by one from light whites, to rich whites, to rosés, to light reds, to high tannin reds and finally to dessert wine. With the listed variety of wines above, you can easily consume close to a whole bottle of wine with just 3 oz servings. Sound like fun? Host one yourself. Oh, and… if you’re polite, you won’t pull out your phone to take pictures. But if you’re like me, you’ll always have an ipad handy. Sorry grandmother.

Get the glassware lowdown. Having too many wine glasses and not enough water glasses is not really a problem. Find out what types of wine glasses are out there.

Good Wine Etiquette Will Make You Shine

Without a wine server or sommelier managing your booze, what should you do? Here are the basics of wine etiquette.

  • Ladies First

    Start with your grandmother, end with your teenage niece… errrr, I mean 21 year-old niece. Then, serve old fogies to young bucks. Walk clockwise around the table to serve your guests until you are dizzy. Ladies get first option because they usually peeter out first (unless they are my girlfriends; then you’re in trouble).

  • Ask Before You Repour Yourself

    Ask your seat neighbors if they’d like a fill ‘er up before hitting your own glass. Don’t worry about your across-the-table neighbors unless they perk up. If this happens, get up from your seat and pour them more. You’ll get hero status if you do this.

  • The Last Bite Rule

    Just like with food, if there is a last pour of wine that you really want, ask. Do something like this: “Would anyone like to share this last pour with me?” More than likely, other guests with social manners will insist you enjoy it all. Aren’t you are such a gentleperson!

Madeline Puckette pours Champagne on the table

hey now, you missed the glass.

Opening and Serving Wine at the Table

Some of the finest restaurants in the world don’t actually open wine at the table. They have a seperate guéridon or side table to do the dirty work. You can emulate this proper technique by opening your wine bottles before dinner.

  • How Much Should I Open?

    The usual rule is that 1 guest will drink an entire bottle of wine throughout a proper meal. However, there’s more to it than that. Take a look around at the scene. Is it a long table? You should make it easy for people to drink and have a bottle within reach.

  • How Should I Open a Wine Bottle?

    I recommend watching How to Open a Wine Bottle and How to Open Champagne if you’re nervous. You’ll discover that even an explosive bottle of Champagne is a piece of cake.

  • Decanting is Just Plain Badass

    Everyone I know who is in the biz recommends decanting red wines, especially full bodied red wines. Learn how to decant a bottle of wine.


    By Morgan Harris
    Morgan Harris is a New York City based sommelier. He believes wine is a great way to connect people to each other and to the planet. @morganwharris