Restaurant - Waiter pouring etiquette


I wanted to see what others had to say about this topic.

12 of the extended family were out to dinner at a typical Italian restaurant. Most people weren’t wine drinkers or knew much about wine. I ordered several bottles of “good” wine.

The waiter would stop by every 15 minutes or so and take the bottles and top off most people glasses, the bottles were dropping fast. It just so happened he was doing this to the people who have the least interest and knowledge about wine. They would have just been as happy drinking water. The seating configuration was several long tables end to end. He would leave the bottles pretty much as far away from where I was sitting (Murphys Law).

How does one handel this situation.

Tell the waiter kindly at the beginning of the meal to please not pour?

Or purchase some low end bottles of wine and leave them near the ones that could care less about wine?

I realize this is really two different topics/ questions.


Be direct and polite: ask the waiter to not pour the wines for you. I hate it when a waiter tries to fast-pour through a bottle — it’s presumptuous and annoying.

We typically let the waiter pour the first glass and then tell him/her politely that we will be happy to handle it from there on out. Never had a problem after that.

I agree.

It would be too much to expect the waiter in “a typical Italian restaurant” to remember whose glass to refill and whose should be left.

Tell them not to repour and then have a good bottle at your end of the table.

I do what others here do and tell the waiter that we will pour for ourselves. I’ve only had a problem with this once… other times it’s been just fine.

Exceptions for me are very high end 1-2+ Michelin starred restaurants. If I’m out to dinner with family, I’ll tell them people’s preferences at the beginning (Person A likes white more, so overpour that, but will just try a bit of the red) and let them take it from there.

I was at a high end restaurant in Paris 2 weeks ago. Wife wanted a glass with dinner so I got a bottle. Waiter kept filling both glasses every 5 minutes and kept putting more and more in hers. I poured some in mine, he came over and scolded me, took the bottle away from me and put in on a chair 10 ft away. 15 minutes later a waiter passing but knocks the bottle over and spilled the rest. No apology, chef came out and gave me a glass of whatever he was drinking (which was very nice) I’m sure knowing they messed up, but still no apology. Wife begged I not make a scene so I obliged.

Crazy for such a well reviewed place.

Which restaurant? I really don’t see the point in not outing them.

I am a somm working the floor and if guests let me know that I shouldn’t pour I’m fine with it.

Also, there are very few times when scolding a guest is okay, and this surely isn’t one.

In Minneapolis we have great corkage fees so I only bring in my own wine. I always decant and after they pour the first glass I just take it from there. I always offer the server a taste and many times they just wave the corkage fee after some wine talk. I think many wine directors/ Somms just like to talk to people who actually enjoy wine.

Sorry to hijack but once I had cheap wine and a chateau Margaux at the same table. Stupid waiter poured the cheap wine into my glass that was half filled with the Margaux.

If this happened to me I would have iterally broken the arm that he favored.

I’m always reminded of this article on the subject by the late Christopher Hitchens.

Pretty much this.

next time make the Margaux the cheap wine of the table! problem solved! :wink:

but man that is a disaster… i mean that’s kinda their job…

Lol. That’s a good idea!

Why not pour at high end restaurants? They should do even more to cater to your desires.

Sorry to hijack but once I had cheap wine and a chateau Margaux at the same table. Stupid waiter poured the cheap wine into my glass that was half filled with the Margaux.

No tip needed!

Absolutely disagree.

What if a Michelin reviewer is sitting two tables away from you and sees you (repeatedly) pouring your own wine? Will he think that is what you requested or that the restaurant’s wine service is subpar?

At any “high-end” restaurant, I usually send the wines ahead, and if not, I bring them in my “gentlemen’s weekender” and discreetly hand it to the host(ess) and ask them to give the bag to the somm. That’s the last I touch the bottles.

I am the opposite. I prefer my wine at the table at the correct temperature and the somm to be available if I have questions or would like something else but otherwise leave the wines for me to pour as we’d like.

I’m with Michael on this. I prefer to pour on my own pace and I dont want someone interrupting my meal over it.

As far as a michelin reviewer, thats not my concern. Im not dining there to cater to their needs.