From Stemware to Service–All things Wine for Restaurants

Serving wine at a restaurant is about much more than the wine itself.  Having a great selection and the ideal stemware can provide your customer with a great experience while maximizing your profits at the same time.  Here’s a rundown of all things wine from a brief lesson to choosing the best stemware for your establishment.

A Brief Lesson in Wine

There are several different types of wine, categorized in either red or white.

“While many believe white wines are made with white grapes and red wines are with red grapes, it is actually the skin of the grape that gives wine its color,” said Stephanie Paulson, designer for Central. “The longer the skin has contact with the juice, the darker and more tannic (dry or “puckery”) the wine will be.”

When it comes to flavor, typically white wines are sweeter than reds.  Paulson said the sweetness of a wine is determined by how much of the grape’s natural sugar is converted to alcohol during fermentation.

“It also has to do with skin contact as well.  Grape skins contain natural tannins (astringent, bitter plant compounds) that balance out sweetness.”

There are also other factors that tie into a wine’s sweetness from the varietal (type of grapes used or the “name” of the wine), time of year grapes are harvested and the winemaker’s preferences throughout the fermentation process.

But wine isn’t only made of grapes.  In fact, according to Lisa Jilbert of Jilbert Winery in Valley City, Ohio, honey wine (also known as mead) is known as the first alcoholic beverage.

“A man and a woman were given a full month supply of honey wine when they were married,” she said. “If the woman became pregnant, it was attributed to the skill of the mead maker.”

She also said mead is very important in literature as it has much to do with fertility and virility.

And really, for wine, Jilbert said it can be made out of anything that has sugar in it because yeast feeds on sugar.

“So if your shoe had sugar in it, theoretically, you could have wine made from your shoe. Thus, it is not uncommon to see wine made from a variety of fruits, apples, cherries, elderberries, etc.”

Common White Wines

  • Chardonnay: Most commonly fermented in oak barrels, giving it a distinctive flavor
  • Moscato: Very sweet
  • Pinot Grigio: Basic white wine, good balance of sweetness and fullness
  • Riesling: Sweet and fruity with bright citrus flavors
  • Sauvignon Blanc: Crisp, subtle with light fruit flavors (i.e. melon)

Common Red Wines

  • Merlot: Fruity and herbal with a rounded flavor profile
  • Pinot Noir: Fruity and delicate, soft and usually easy to drink
  • Syrah or Shiraz: Hearty and full with darker fruit flavors like cherry and currant
  • Cabernet Sauvignon: Full, tannic and spicy
  • Zinfandel: Very deep, spicy/peppery and very tannic

 Choosing the Proper Stemware

Since customers want a full experience when being served wine at a restaurant, choosing the right glass is critical because it enables your restaurant to increase the quality of your tabletop presentation.

Typically, a tall and narrow glass is used for white wines and a short and wide glass with a larger bowl is used for red wines.  Then you have an even narrower and taller glass for champagne.  But now things are shifting as many restaurants are condensing to just one glass that works for both.

According to Jay Allie, crystal stemware expert at Anchor Hocking, a restaurant’s main goal should be to choose stemware that will help them sell more wine and improve profitability.  This can be done by using high-performance glassware in focused applications.

“Instead of setting the tabletop with a red wine glass, white wine glass and a water glass, many operators select to use one all purpose wine glass for their red/white by-the-glass offerings and in many cases, they will use the same wine glass for water,” Allie said. “They have created a very high image glassware presentation and eliminated two stems.”

Programs and Services


For by-the-glass programs, Allie recommends to try using one upscale stem for both red and white wines.  The best ounce capacity for this is 15 ounces, as any smaller capacities won’t allow red wines to breathe.

“To improve profitability, another suggestion is to improve portion control by using 6 ounce mini carafes or developing a pour line decoration on the stem,” Allie said. “The all purpose glassware goes down due to ease in handling one stem for by-the-glass service.  Customer’s wine experience is greatly improved; restaurant sells more glasses of wine.”

Bottle Service

Fine dining customers who normally order wines by the bottle no longer accept drinking from commodity stemware.

They prefer it to be served in a high-performance wine stem.

“If the restaurant operator is not automatically presenting a high-performance wine glass with each bottle served, they are at a distinct disadvantage in their market,” Allie said.

Serving Tips

You can have ideal stemware and the perfect bottle of wine, but it all must be served correctly to complete the full experience.  Here are a few tips from Libbey Glassware:

  • Always hold the glass by it stem as touching the bowl can affect the look and taste of fine wines
  • For perfect tasting, a glass should be one-third full, except for sparkling wines and champagne, which should be two-thirds full

Libbey also lists the following recommended wine-serving temperatures:

  • Sparkling wines: 44°F to 80°F
  • Mature and complex dry wines: 44°F to 50°F
  • Rosè and nouveau wines: 50°F to 53°F
  • Young red wines with low acidity: 48°F to 50°F
  • Structured red wines: 59°F to 62°F
  • Aged and dry red wines: 61°F to 64°F
  • For fine aged wines, it is possible to go about 64°F

Wine Products from Central

Bar Glass Racks          Stemware

Bottle Coolers             Stoppers and Corkscrews

Merchandisers            Wine and Champagne Servers

Shelving                         Wine List Cover

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