How to Make Wine Shine at the Table

Choosing the right wine to accompany a dinner – especially a festive one – can be daunting. And if it’s a wine that is new to you, it can feel like extra pressure. Luckily, we’ve made it easy for you to choose good wines, but what about the service aspect? Well keep reading, because we can help with that too!

Prep The Night Before

It’s likely that some of your Thanksgiving prep will begin the night before, and it’s no different with wine. If you are going to serve white wine, rose, or anything sparkling, you will want to chill them starting the night before (at the latest). Sparklings should be chilled to 45F or lower; whites and roses to 55F. Choose your glasses and don’t hesitate to polish them! There are a lot of great resources available about how to choose the right wine glass. You will also want to get out any other wine accessories you will need: an ice bucket, corkscrew, cloths, decanter, stoppers, etc.

Sparkling Wine Tips

Now picture the day of! Your wines are chilled (if required) and you have all the props you need readily available. We love to start with sparkling because it’s a fun way to welcome your guests and set the tone of the gathering. Opening a bottle of sparkling wine or champagne can take practice, but don’t worry: Wine Enthusiast has your back! They break down the steps perfectly. Ultimately, the best way to learn how to properly open a bottle of sparkling is to practice, practice, practice!

Champagne flutes are a fun, fine option for sparklings, but if you don’t have that style, a white wine glass will also work. It helps to put ice – and WATER – in the ice bucket you’ll be using to keep sparkling cold. Ice water will contact the entire bottle and keep it colder than ice alone. And don’t forget to get a sparkling wine stopper to keep the bubbles intact!

White and Rose Service

When it comes to white wine and rose, chilled is great but if you serve it too cold, you’ll have a hard time picking up on the aromas of the wine. Make sure you leave space in the top of the glass when you pour (despite what your enthusiastic guests might prefer). Filling the glass to the widest point (about half full) ensures room for swirling, which also helps release – or “open up” – the wine. Remember: smell is a big part of how we taste wine!

If you’re worried about glass sizes and/or you plan on offering guests multiple wine options, choose smaller glasses and put two at each place setting.

Wine Saver OptionsRed Wine Service

Red wine is more often served at COOL room temperature, around 65F, and you will want to offer a more round glass for a red wine, if you can. When it comes to whether or not to decant a red wine, Wine Spectator has some great suggestions. An older wine may have sediment, and could definitely benefit from being decanted by using the flashlight method mentioned in the link, or by using a fine sieve or cheesecloth to pour the wine through if getting bits of sediment in the wine truly worries you.

If you don’t finish a bottle of red wine, you can certainly refrigerate it to help preserve the quality if you think it will be a few days before you get to it again. Refrigerating any wine once it’s been opened is just fine, especially if you are going to use a wine saver pump. You can learn more about wine saving options here.


The most important thing about serving wine is that you feel comfortable doing so, and that comes down to the company you keep! Enlist your guests’ assistance if you need to; we’re sure they’ll be happy to help!