Training, temperature control and proper storage are the cardinal rules. There’s no magic bullet or one size fits all solution; however the answer is really a mix of the three.
In the current economy guests want to spend less yet enjoy quality “by the glass” programs. Sampling different tastes of wine rather than one just also seems to fit the mood of many diners these days.
Greater by the-glass sales can present a new set of challenges. It is simpler yet, more complicated than bottle service. While none of the arcane rituals apply there are a whole range of freshness problems and guest perception issues to consider. Restaurant staff needs to be constantly on the alert to potentially flawed wines.
Choosing a well-edited selection of wines and properly storing them will make all the difference. Start conservatively with a few esoteric selections but for lesser-known wines it is important to taste bartenders and waitstaff through them in pre-shift meetings so they are able to describe and sell them.
Keep white wines refrigerated and for extra security use a system that pumps oxygen out of the bottle.
Light, unoaked white wines that are dry, such as Pinot Grigio, are the most vulnerable to spoilage; opened bottles should be checked at the end of every shift. With a slightly longer shelf life, fuller-bodied, oak-aged whites like many Chardonnays, are also candidates for dumping if bottles are not consumed within 24 hours, as are most crisp, higher acid dry whites like Sauvignon Blanc.
Sparkling wines are rarely sound after the second day. Slightly sweet, acidic white wines (German Rieslings or Loire Chenin Blancs, for instance) can survive for several days and sweet dessert wines are often pristine after a few weeks. With fortified dessert wines a good rule is the longer they have aged in cask the longer they can remain open; aged Tawny Port for example, can stay open close to a month.
Most red wines are sturdier although very fruity, fresh wines such as lighter Beaujolais and unoaked Shiraz, are almost as subject to oxidation as light white wines. Bigger, more robust reds have built in protection in the form of tannins and can usually withstand a few days in the bottle.
Following these rules and keeping it simple will keep your wines in good condition and generate guest satisfaction.
Step by step
1. Limit the wines by the glass you offer to those wines that you pour through on average once every two days.
2. Oxygen and high temperatures will deteriorate wine quality; for storage over night, keep bottles securely stoppered, free from contact with air and at cool temperatures.
3. Preservation systems can be effective for long-term storage and are attractive marketing pieces but are expensive.
4. White wines generally have less ability to withstand oxidation and loss of freshness, but sweeter white wines, especially those with high acidity or that are fortified with alcohol, can have very long shelf lives after opening.
5. Most red wines will be fine after a few days although the lightest, fruitiest ones need to be monitored carefully as they tend to behave more like light whites.