POLL: Wine Service at Restaurants

Wine Service at a Restaurant: Do You Prefer To Do It Yourself, or Have It Done For You?

  • I Prefer to Handle All Service Myself (I won’t ask the restaurant to provide decanters, glassware, or somebody to pour the wine)
  • I Prefer to Handle Some of the Service, and the Restaurant Handle Some of the Service (some fairly even split on who’s responsible for bottle prep., decanting, opening, glassware, and pouring)
  • I Prefer the Restaurant Handle All Service (I may deliver the bottle to the restaurant ahead of time, restaurant will prep. bottle, open bottle, decant as necessary, provide glassware, and handle all pouring)

0 voters

The current corkage thread got me thinking about this. It’ll be interesting to see the Berserker Breakdown on this topic!

I’m thinking bottle prep., decanting (decanters), glassware, opening of the wine, pouring the first pour around the table, pouring subsequent pours. That’s six factors I can think of — there’s likely more escaping me at the moment

The most hardcore version of “do it myself” is where the restaurant and restaurant staff never have to touch your bottle, a glass, or a decanter before, during, or after the meal, except to discard the cork and empty bottle.

The most hardcore version of “restaurant handle service” is having the restaurant handle bottle prep. (may include short-term storage), bottle opening, decanting, glassware, and all pouring.

Given the six factors I’m taking into consideration, there are too many permutations for me to list them all. With an eye towards keeping the poll simple, I’m listing only three options. Pick the option you feel most closely reflects your usual preference.

So it’s implicit this is a group setting?

As opposed to dining by yourself? I’m not sure I understand your question, Tom.

I’ll let the restaurant do everything. I’m a fairly decent home cook so I have no need to go out to enjoy nice bottles I have at home. I’m a bit of a nerd so I have all the cooking gadgets and always need an excuse to use them. I’ve found amazing wines when the house somm pairs a specific glass to the dish. I also think getting good recommendations helps open up my POV on wine in general even if it’s costing 2-4x wholesale price. We have a lot of amazing restaurants where I live and part of that experience is their beverage program. The only exception I may have is hosting a large holiday dinner party I could imagine wanting to bring specific bottles ahead of time that may not be offered on the menu. I don’t expect the restaurant maybe to have magnum sizes of some vintage champagnes for example I’d want to bring.

Thanks for this, Bill. Your post helped me realize I didn’t consider “source of the wine” as a factor. I can see how that’s part of the calculus for some folks.

It totally depends on the quality of the wine service at the restaurant. If it’s top notch, I’m happy to have them handle everything. If it’s not a priority for the venue, or the server is clearly in the weeds, happy to do it myself.


Well I suppose if it’s a couple’s special occasion, #3 could make sense. It’s a bit hard to relate to not living in a good restaurant/wine town like NYC.
I figure it would be only worth the trouble for a wine dinner is regards 3.

I chose the middle option, but it really varies for me depending on whose wine it is. When my wine group dines out, we handle everything - bottle prep, opening, pouring, glassware etc., which I like, and is realistically the best option. If dining with my wife with a bottle we brought, I would prefer to handle bottle prep and opening, and let them handle the rest. If it’s a bottle off their list, I want them to handle everything.

I answered #2, but honestly - all three apply, depending on the circumstances. Restaurants rarely seem comfortable with option #1, however.

I voted 3, assuming they are knowledgeable and capable of course. Let’s me focus on the group I am with, less the logistics.

I am between 1 and 2. Dining with a wine group, it is mostly #1, but if I am dining outside the wine group, I need the restaurant to open the bottle and give me glasses, although I prefer to pour myself.

Places which are dumb enough to serve me never touch my wine. I open, pour, drink, and doggie-bag for myself.

Years ago, I sat next to a couple who let the waitstaff open, decant, and serve their brought wine. After a half hour of decanting time, the woman tried her first glass, and immediately noticed the wine to be oddly sweet, spicy, and forward. The staff inadvertently had switched bottles in the service area, giving them a zinfandel off the wine list and serving away most of their 1983 Margaux to an unrelated party. As consolation, the manager offered to comp the best bottle off the menu…a Jordan cabernet.

I’m with you about “hard to relate,” as I live in L.A… I think there are a good number of folks who prefer Restaurant Handle All, or Nearly All, Service, regardless of number of people at the table. I do acknowledge that, as the number of diners goes up, the numbers probably start to at least somewhat migrate from self-serve to restaurant-serve. But, again, I wanted to keep the poll simple, so I’ll just encourage folks who have a small group/big group split in their preferences to simply vote for the option they most frequently find themselves preferring (regardless of the reason(s) for said preference).

Generally speaking, at the places we used to dine, the quality of the staff was pretty high. A number of the alumni (Marcus Goodfellow, Megan Joy, John Grochau, Erica Landon to name a few) post here or are known to Board members.

Owie. hitsfan That’s painful.

They should’ve comped your dinner for that.

Fortunately, not us. Comped, plus more.

I’m not sure where it falls in the options, but except for pre-arranged wine tasting dinner type gatherings, I usually just go with the flow.

If it’s your typical mid to upper tier dining type place, they usually open it, give us glasses, and pour (and I might pour in between visits of the server if someone wants more).

If it’s strip mall Vietnamese restaurant or something, I may bring my own stems and corkscrew and just do it myself.

In neither situation do I really try to force something that isn’t what the server was naturally going to do. I don’t forbid the fine dining server from opening or handling the bottle, and I don’t insist on the strip mall Vietnamese restaurant server managing wine service for me.

At most (and this doesn’t really have to do with whether the bottle was BYO or I bought it off the list), when you get to the last pour of a wine with sediment, I’ll remind the server not to dump it into someone’s glass, as they would often just do naturally if you didn’t say something.

The worst part is the folks who wanted the cheap zinfandel were probably disappointed at how their old claret tasted, too.

For me, it depends on the restaurant.

If it is a four or five star restaurant with an excellent wine list, I check with them first that they don’t have the wine I bring.

I let them handle everything but again it depends on the restaurant.

If it is a restaurant that I know where wine is not very important to them, then I will handle or bring additional items like glasses, Durand wine opener etc.