You don't have to break out the tastevins and cork plates to serve wine like a pro. By taking just a few pages from the sommelier's playbook, even the clumsiest among us (we've been there) can learn to open and pour a bottle with panache.
First, get yourself set up. Besides the bottle and proper glassware, you'll need a wine key—aka a double-hinged corkscrew or "waiter's friend"—as well as a neatly folded napkin with a dampened corner. (Draping it over your forearm may seem overly formal, but it sure is convenient.) And before you approach the table, be sure to check that wine temperature. Ready? Onward:
① Stand to the right of your guest.
② Don't set the bottle on the table to open it—hold it firmly in one hand with the label facing your guest.
③ With your other hand, place the cutting blade just beneath the bottom lip of the bottle's mouth, where it meets the neck.
④ Using steady pressure on the blade, cut the foil all the way around the bottle in one or two smooth strokes, without turning the bottle. Then position the blade along the incision, scrape the foil upward in another smooth stroke or two to loosen it, and finally remove it with your hand. Ideally the capsule will come off in one piece. (This can all be very awkward—until it isn't.)
⑤ With the damp end of your napkin, wipe off the mouth of the bottle.
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⑥ Insert the corkscrew into the center of the cork and twist straight downward, again without turning the bottle, until it's almost all the way in (if you insert it completely, you risk piercing the bottom of the cork—not a good look).
⑦ Set the larger, hinged notch of the wine key atop the bottle's mouth and begin smoothly raising the handle until the cork is a little more than halfway out; with the smaller, lower notch, repeat to extract it fully (and quietly). Wipe the end of the cork.
⑧ Holding the bottle in your right hand with the label still facing your guest, begin carefully pouring the wine into the glass, making sure the bottle's neck doesn't touch the rim, until the glass is no more than half full, or one-third full if the bowl of the glass is extra big.
⑨ Just before pulling the bottle away, give it a quick quarter turn with your wrist, then tilt it back toward the upright position to prevent dripping. Wipe the mouth of the bottle again.
⑩ If the wine should be chilled, set the bottle in an ice bucket filled partway with ice and cold water—but don't hesitate to remove it if it starts getting too cold.
A final note: Decanters may be used to aerate young, tannic reds; to remove sediment from older reds; or simply because they look cool. But that's a topic unto itself; stay tuned.
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