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How to Pour Wine: A Guide to Pouring Wine

Scott Schulfer
Table of Contents
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Pouring wine is important because it’s how the wine gets into the glass. And wine glasses are how the wine gets into our mouths. Otherwise you'll end up needing a wine stain remover to get it off of whatever else you poured it on.

See? So very important.

Here, we’re not going to cover how to open a bottle of wine. That’s a topic that demands its own treatment. We’ll start this story just after the bottle’s uncorked. The pour and nothing but the pour.

Let’s first look briefly at how much to pour, then get into the basics of the right pouring technique.

How Much Wine Should I Pour?

The first thing to be familiar with is what a standard wine pour is. That’ll be how much you’re pouring in every wine glass. A big part of how to pour wine correctly is pouring the correct amount. It’s not only the ideal volume for an individual serving, but it ensures that everyone drinking from the bottle gets enough. If you're a bartender, this gives you the same advantage that a standardized recipe gives a kitchen. Lower pour cost or food cost.

Many people choose the free pouring route when pouring wine, and there’s a little trick to hitting the right pour. No matter what kind of wine glass you’re using, the widest part of the bowl often corresponds to the 5-ounce mark. It’s an invisible measuring stick.

There are also some handy tools to make pouring wine easier. Pick up a wine pourer or some wine glasses with pour lines and you’ll be well on your way.

Once you’re confident you can pour the right amount, it’s time to sharpen up the technique.

How to Pour a Glass of Wine

Should I Pick the Wine Glass Up?

No, leave the wine glass on the table. That's one of the first things you need to learn about wine.

How to Hold a Wine Bottle When Pouring

There are really only two rules to follow when holding a wine bottle when pouring wine. Some sommeliers have their own preferences, but two things are non-negotiables.

First, you should hold the bottle on its lower half. Some servers will place the bottle on the palm of their hand and pour with their thumb in the wine’s punt (the indentation on the bottom of the bottle). Some will wrap their hand around the lower part of the bottle as if it were any other bottle. Both are fine. What they have in common is that the bottle is gripped on its lower half. Don’t hold the bottle by its neck or its shoulders (where the bottle begins tapering into the neck).

Second, hold the bottle with one hand. To prevent dripping, you’ll need your other hand to use your cloth napkin. You’ll see servers using two hands, and it’s not the end of the world. But the Court of Master Sommeliers service standards dictate that bottles be poured while being held with one hand.

Parts of a Wine Bottle

To help you better understand the instructions for holding and pouring, we’ve got a handy visual tool for you below. The parts of a wine bottle, clearly labeled below, are the closure, capsule, neck, shoulders, body, label, heel, and punt.

the parts of a wine bottle

Where Do You Pour Wine In a Glass?

After you've used your wine opener and the uncorked bottle is in your hand, you’re ready to pour. Tilt the bottle opening down over your targeted wine glass and pour the wine relatively slowly into the glass. Where into the glass? In the center or along the side, it doesn’t really matter.

If you pour it along the inside of the glass, it will rush around the glass more violently and aerate a bit better. But your guest is 100% going to swirl the glass anyway. And that will aerate the wine far more. If you’re intrigued, read more about what wine aerators do, and check out our list of best wine aerators. Point is, it doesn’t really matter where you pour the wine in the glass. 

What does matter is that the flow is slow enough to avoid splashing. There should be absolutely no wine splatter marks high up on the inside of the glass. If pouring in the center helps you get there, pour in the center. If pouring along the inside of the glass is easier for you, do that.

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How to Pour Wine Without Dripping

This is arguably the most important part of pouring wine. Especially if you’re in a white-tablecloth environment. An obvious drop of red wine on a bright white tablecloth won’t ruin a meal, of course. But it will serve as an ever-present reminder that you’ve yet to master the dripless pour. And, let’s face it, if you sit down to enjoy a meal and the tablecloth is immediately besmirched, it’s not a great feeling.

So, when you hit the 5-ounce mark, tilt the bottle slightly upward with a quick (but not violent) twisting motion. Then quickly wipe the bottle’s lip with a cloth napkin. It’s impossible not to get some amount of wine on the lip of the bottle when pouring. And once it’s there, it’s likely to drip. So the name of the game is lessening the amount on the lip then swooping in with a quick napkin assist.

Pouring Red Wine

The only real different consideration with red wine is that old reds should be decanted. Learning how to decant wine is also learning how to pour wine correctly into a decanter and pour wine out of it. If you’ve got some old tannic reds, here are what we consider the best wine decanters.

How to Pour White Wine

The primary consideration for pouring white wine is that, if it’s being chilled in an ice bucket, wipe it down with a cloth napkin before pouring. Beyond that, you’ll pour a standard wine pour just like you’d pour a red wine.

How to Pour Sparkling Wine

Pouring wine is ultimately similar to other wines, except that the risk of the wine bubbling over exists. And that goes doubly for anything you’re serving in a flute glass. When pouring sparkling wine, you should pour more consistently and slowly than you would for other wines. Avoid at all costs the drink bubbling over the rim.

Pouring Wine Etiquette

There's how to pour wine, then there’s how to pour wine properly, according to wine industry experts. All of the above are the broad strokes of pouring wine. Follow them and you’ll be doing just fine. But there are, of course, elevated expectations for pouring wine in some environments. Here are the most common and substantial ones.

  • When gripping the wine bottle, do not obscure the label. The label should always be facing out toward the drinkers.
  • Hold the bottle with your right hand. This is the Court of Master Sommelier service standard. You will see some servers pouring with their left hand or both hands, and it’s certainly not the end of the world. But CMS etiquette dictates use of the right hand.
  • Before pouring entire 5-ounce pours, pour a 1-ounce pour for the host to taste.
  • Sparkling wine should be poured in a single stream. That’s a tough ask because if your stream is too strong, it’s gonna overflow. Your stream must be just right to observe this part of wine pouring etiquette. Two pours are permitted if necessary. If you’re pouring three times, you can consider pouring sparkling wine an area of opportunity.
  • While pouring, hold the sparkling wine bottles by the punt, and put two fingers under the neck for support if needed.
  • If you're using a wine aerator or a decanter, learn about the differences and use cases.
  • And read about how to clean a decanter so you always have beautifully clean equipment.
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Pouring Wine Ain’t So Hard

If you’re holding the wine bottle on its bottom half and not dripping when you pour, congratulations. You’re 98% of the way there. And if the other 2% fascinates you, then you may have a future as a sommelier. Now, go pick up a book to learn about wine and develop more skills.

Just don’t stress too much about pouring wine. That’s what sommeliers get paid to do.