Oct. 10, 2017

Basics in Italian wine knowledge and service training

Wine is a complex beverage produced from grape juice. Wine is essentially a healthy beverage when consumed within reason and an important supplement in food and energy to the body.

Wines are basically classified into 4 categories:

  1. Still Red, White or Rose Wines ( up to 15% Alcohol )
  2. Sparkling Wines ( up to 14% Alcohol )
  3. Fortified wines ( 16% to 21% Alcohol )
  4. Aromatised wines ( 18% to 20% Alcohol )

The main components of still wines are:   

  • 75-90% pure water drawn directly from the earth by the vines
  • 8.5-15% alcohol produced by fermenting the grape-sugar
  • 50 grams of residual sugar depending on the style of the wine
  • 3.0 grams of tannin
  • 1.5 grams of acids/pigmentation

Deciphering the label on (for example) Italian wine bottle will reveal common information like the Name of wine, Alcoholic content, Bottle content, Vintage, Shipper and Local Distributor and most importantly the various groupings, namely:

Vino da tavola – Ordinary table wine in lower price range which varies greatly in quality; not classified

Denominazione di Origine Controllata ( DOC ) – Good quality wine from an approved area of production; specific grape varieties, cultivation and vinification methods

Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita ( DOCG ) – Expensive wine of guaranteed quality; from approved areas; specifies grape variety and proportions; maximum yield; vinification methods; pruning and cultivation; E.G. Barolo, Chianti Classico & Frascati

The objective of wine service is to provide a better quality service, enhance the guest’s enjoyment of the meal and to enlarge price of the meal and increase revenue.

Presents wine lists and suggests the appropriate wine: The staff concerned may follow these procedural steps:

  1. Brings the guest’s attention to wine lists at the back of the menu after food order is taken
  2. Asks by saying “Sir/Madam would you like to order wine to complement your meal” or in any other professional ways
  3. If the guest wants to examine the list at length, quietly excuse yourself
  4. Once the guest is ready, returns to assist with wine selection or to take his order

Assisting with Wine selection:

The job of the staff concerned in this area requires knowledge of wines listed in the menu to assist the guest with the selection of wines. Sometimes the guest would order without consulting the staff, nevertheless it is your job to answer any general questions raised by the guests. Allows the guest to make his/her own selection by using some generalized questions. The staff concerned may follow these procedural steps:

  1. Inquires about his personal preference of wine
  2. Recommends 2 to 3 wines of different prices
  3. Checks for any special occasions or celebrations
  4. Determines choice of wine with the guest’s choice of food ordered

Takes wine order and determines when it is to be served:

Most of the time, guests would want to have their wines immediately regardless of the timing between courses but for certain guests or expensive wines it’s better to ask.The staff concerned may follow these procedural steps:

  1. Asks the guest: May I take your order now sir/madam?
  2. Writes the order accordingly and repeat the order to guest
  3. Asks host for the timing of the wine to be served
  4. Removes the menu and thanks the guest for his order and keys into the computer system

Ideal temperature: Knowing the ideal serving temperature helps to bring out the best flavour of the different wines and enhance the pleasure of drinking.Normally table wines should be served at the following temperature:

  1. Red Wines – 18 degrees Celsius or cool room temperature
  2. White & Rose Wines – 9 Degree Celsius or refrigeration temperature
  3. Sparkling Wines – 5 Degree Celsius

How to open a bottle of Wine: The showmanship in handling and serving wine is an important part of service. Opening wines requires skills and practice and a staff should not be seen struggling with the stopper at the guests’ table as this can cause embarrassment and unpleasantness with the guests.

Red/Rose or White Wine Service:

  1. Set the table with wine glasses next to water goblet with a round tray. Glasses must be well polished
  2. If both red and white wine are ordered, place glasses in a descending line
  3. A Red wine bottle is held with the left hand with cloth napkin tied around the neck, the label facing the guests and right hand carrying the side plate with doily paper. Dust on the wine bottle should not be wiped off as it indicates the age and careful storage of the wine
  4. White wine, rose wine and sparkling wine are carried in a wine cooler with ice and water and a cloth napkin folded in a long rectangle and placed over the top of the cooler and with a side-plate with doily paper
  5. Do not shake the bottle in front of guests view as guests might not like the sediments below to interfere with the drinking pleasure and also gives an unprofessional impression
  6. Present the wine with the label facing up and repeat the label as a form of affirmation. Wait until he replies or nods affirmatively.
  7. Cut the foil cleanly below the neck of the bottle and remove it
  8. Insert the worm of the corkscrew at the center of the cork and straighten it with one turn
  9. Turn the worms of the corkscrew until only one notch of the worm is left outside the stopper
  10. Holding the corkscrew in position with your right hand, lift the corkscrew straight up until the stopper is ¾ out of the bottle. Do not bend the cork
  11. Release the lever and pull the stopper out subtly without any sound
  12. Reverse the turning motion to remove the stopper form the corkscrew
  13. Present the stopper on the side-plate for inspection by the host. Possible signs of problems are corkiness, browning or sourness from inappropriate storing and may require you to change to another bottle
  14. Wipe the mouth of the bottle with the napkin
  15. Pour tasting portion (50ml ) for host to sample
  16. Proceed with serving the other guests and lastly the host. Note pouring is ½ glass for white and ¾ for red
  17. Return bottle to wine cooler for white or place the red wine with the napkin intact around the neck on the table. Remember to top up periodically

Sparkling Wine Service:

  1. Set table with the champagne saucer or flute beside water goblet
  2. A Sparkling wine bottle is carried in a wine cooler with ice and water and a cloth napkin folded in a long rectangle, placed over the top of the cooler and with a side-plate with doily paper
  3. Do not shake the bottle as too much agitation could increase pressure of the inside content
  4. Present the wine with the label facing up and repeat the label as a form of affirmation. Wait until the host replies or nods affirmatively
  5. Tear the foil capsule below the wire ring and remove it. Untwist the wire with the right hand while holding left thumb on the top of the cork
  6. Place a napkin over the cork; tilt at 45 degrees to allow the pressure to escape slowly
  7. Remove the wire ring and extract the stopper slowly without the “pop”
  8. Wipe the mouth of the bottle with the napkin
  9. Pour tasting portion (50ml ) for host to sample
  10. Proceed with serving the other guests and lastly the host
  11. Return bottle to wine cooler. Remember to top up periodically

Wine Storage: Storing wine does not necessarily require a wine cellar for domestic use, there are other appropriate places such as under the stairs or at the back of the pantry which are convenient places for storage. All wines must be rested horizontally to keep corks moist and in a dark storage with an even temperature. Bottles not stored on their sides can make the corks dry and air may enter through and adversely affect the wine.

Basic guidelines to follow are:

  1. Temperature: Cool and constant temperature is appropriate as variations can kill the wine while excessive warmth will age wines prematurely
  2. Humidity: Ideal humidity content is between 70% and 75%. Flooring can be cement or tiles but proper ventilation is important. Too much moisture can damage the labels and capsules
  3. Light: Light is harmful to the proper evolution of wine for it alters its color
  4. Smell: Cellar must be free from smells such as fuel, onions etc that could be imparted to the wine
  5. Organization: Bottles should be laid down in shelves that is practical and will fit all sizes. Space is a factor to consider when storing them accordingly to their types and origin