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The Wine Opener: How to Properly Open and Serve a Bottle of Wine

Waiter opening and pouring red wine

The opening and presentation of a bottle of wine is a significant moment. Traditionally, someone serving a bottle of wine will use a sommelier knife, also known as a "waiter's friend." Many other types of wine openers are available today, but if you are curious about how to properly open a bottle of wine, the way it is done in restaurants, you'll use a sommelier knife and proceed as follows:

Step by Step: How to Open a Bottle of Wine


Present the bottle of wine to the host. Make sure the label is forward, so that the host can make sure the correct bottle is being served.


Take the sommelier knife out and cut the foil of the top of the bottle. Holding it against the index finger, pointing inward, score the foil around the top of the bottle, pinching the bottle between the knife and the thumb. The foil should be cut below the lip-if the wine comes in contact with the foil, it can oxidize.


Remove the foil top and put it in your pocket. During wine presentation, nothing should touch the table, including the bottle.


Put the knife away, take out the corkscrew the corkscrew into the cork. Twist and insert the corkscrew into the center of the cork, giving it a little push. Then, twist the corkscrew into the cork, not forcing it in, just twisting.


When there is one turn left on the corkscrew, stop. If you go too far, you could pop a piece of cork into the wine. If you don't go far enough, you could break the cork.


Seat the top of the two ridges on the lever against the lip of the bottle. Wrap your index finger around the bottle lip and lever, and use the other hand to pull the lever up. Then, seat the second ridge against the lip of the bottle and pull again.


Unscrew the corkscrew from the cork and put the corkscrew in your pocket.


Holding the bottle around the neck with one hand, use the other hand to wiggle the cork out. Unscrew the corkscrew and remove it from the bottle. Put the corkscrew in your pocket.


Put the cork on the table. The host should examine the cork to check the vineyard's label and also to make sure it is wet on the side that was inside the bottle and dry on the end that wasn't. If it's dry on the end that was inside, the bottle was probably stored upright and the cork has failed, letting air in. If the cork is wet on the top, there is probably a hole in it, which would have let air in, again ruining the wine.


A small taste of wine is then poured for the host. The host examines the look of the wine, smells it, and tastes it to ensure the wine hasn't gone bad. If the host accepts the wine, about half a wine glass is poured for each guest, proceeding clockwise from the host's left, first to the women at the table and then to the men. Enjoy!

More About Storing and Serving Wine

We have written three articles that go into the detail of the differences for storing red wine, white wine, and champagne and sparkling wines.

Written by

Gene Walder

Former President and co-owner of Vintage Cellars and Vintage Wine Cellars, Gene started Vintage Cellars in 1990 and stepped down in 2020. Under new ownership, Vintage Cellars continues thriving 31 years later with over 2,500 gorgeous custom wine cellars designed and built. Gene is an expert in all aspects of building and designing custom wine cellars and wine storage.