If you’ve ever wondered how to pour wine without leaving a Jackson Pollock-style aftermath on your counter, rest assured, you’re not alone. Pouring wine like a sommelier is an art—the Court of Master Sommeliers actually evaluates the skill on its Level 2 exam.
Whether you’re pursuing formal certification or simply want to use fewer paper towels at the dinner table, learning how to pour without spilling is crucial for anyone who loves wine.
Hold the Wine Bottle From the Base
It might feel natural to hold a wine bottle just below the neck, but if you do, physics works against you. Bottles are heaviest at the bottom.
“The best position for your hand on the bottle is at the base of it, the part of the bottle with the most girth,” says Nicole Erica Rodriguez, a Baltimore-based sommelier and founder of Wine Culture with Nicole. “Your strength and control come from holding it at the heaviest part.”
The undersides of many wine bottles have an indentation called a punt. Those with larger hands may find the punt a useful place to put your thumb while you grip the base. If that feels awkward, however, or if your bottle lacks a punt, simply put your hand beneath the bottle as if you are palming a grapefruit.
Twist to Avoid Spills
You can pour red, white or sparkling wines the same way: Hold the bottle at its base and position the neck at a 45-degree angle above the glass. Stop pouring sparkling wines early to allow for the carbonation to subside.
The last few seconds of any pour can help you avoid spills.
“When you’re ready to stop pouring, you want to quickly twist the bottle counterclockwise,” says Rodriguez. You don’t want to jerk your wrist, she explains, “but slightly pull it up so you catch the little droplets of wine.” She recommends doing this directly over your wine glass, so that even if there are some drips, all fall into the glass.
In many fine dining restaurants, a sommelier will wipe down the bottle between each pour with a serviette, or folded white napkin, that they keep on their forearm. While that’s certainly not required for Friday nights on your couch, you might want to have some sort of towel or napkin handy in case drips occur.
“Even when I’m pouring a glass of wine at home and no one’s looking at me, I still have the serviette or towel,” says Rodriguez. “Try to safeguard yourself as much as possible.”
How Much Wine to Pour in a Glass
The standard pour for professional wine service is 5–6 ounces per glass, which means each 750-milliliter bottle of wine contains approximately five glasses.
According to some wine scholars, there’s historical precedent for this size.
“Hugh Johnson, the esteemed British wine expert, notes that throughout history three drinks have been considered the model for moderation,” writes Karen MacNeil in The Wine Bible. “Johnson goes on to suggest that from this historic counsel is derived the wine bottle, which just happens to contain 750 milliliters, or about three glasses each for two people.”
In modern restaurants, a 5–6-ounce pour allows staff to standardize service and pricing. Plus, since many wine glasses have capacity for 16–20 ounces of liquid, a 5–6-ounce pour gives the drinker ample space to swirl their wine without it sloshing over the sides.
Of course, when you’re enjoying wine at home, you can pour however much or little you choose. Rodriguez tends to start small and work her way up to a full pour, but there are mitigating factors, she says.
“I gravitate toward a 3-ounce pour, but if it’s been a long day, then I’m going to have to go for those 6 ounces.”