What is a Proper Pour? The answer varies, and depends on a number of factors, not the least of which is who you ask. This question came up recently during a friendly discussion at work, and answers ranged from four to eight ounces. Though many of my coworkers drink wine recreationally, as the de facto in-house “wine expert”, I shared that many wine glasses are designed to hold four ounces of wine, leaving sufficient space for swirling and aromatics to maximize the enjoyment of the wine. One of my coworkers responded with: “If I ordered a glass of wine in a restaurant and they only gave me four ounces, I’d be [expletive phrase indicating dissatisfaction in the extreme.]” This got me thinking about this question, and what may influence one’s answer.
Many of the standard sized wine glasses in my home cabinet are designed to accommodate a four ounce pour. Larger glasses can comfortably hold up to six ounces. While they can all hold much more than that, overfilling the glass inhibits the ability for oxygen to enter and release the enticing aromas. As the alcohol in the wine evaporates, the aromas are released into the air. Wine glasses are shaped to funnel those aromas to the nose, providing maximum concentration for enjoyment. Furthermore, swirling wine in the glass can infuse oxygen, causing more aromas to be released. Try swirling an overfilled glass and, rather than enjoying the aromas and flavor of the wine, you are now instead cleaning up a mess and hoping that red wine doesn’t leave a stain!
The general rule of thumb is to fill the glass “to the bend.” This results in a perfect pour for whichever glass you may be using. However, as with so many things, pop culture has influenced an increase in the size of the average wine glass.
Wine drinkers should keep this in mind when shopping for glassware, and when pouring that third glass of the evening.
Where you are, who you’re with, and what you’re doing can all influence the size of the pour. Trying to look cultured at a frat party? At a friend’s house looking to get your drink on? In any other situation in which the primary objective is to get yourself good and hammered? Go ahead and fill that sucker to the rim! You might even consider one of these:
However, if you are hosting or attending a dinner party, trying to impress the in-laws who already worry their precious little snowflake made a bad choice in marrying you, or in any other social situation in which the wine is there to enhance the meal or general setting, consider scaling back on that pour. Economics can also be a consideration. A five ounce pour gets you about five glasses from each bottle. An eight ounce pour is only three per bottle. You do the math.
On the other hand, if you are dining out, or at a wine bar, let your server be your guide. If you are at a restaurant, the best value is a bottle, so pour size is less important. If you are ordering off the “by the glass” menu, then I would agree with my coworker and expect a 5-6 ounce pour. Most wine bars I have visited offer a three ounce half glass, and a six ounce full glass.
Related to Social Setting, Individual Motivation can strongly influence the size of your pour. Once again, if you are looking to get your drink on and become obliterated, pour away! However, if your objective is to savor the character of a particular wine, capturing the terroir, the nuanced aromas and flavors, and allowing the expression of the varietal to carry you away, then you will want to moderate the pour to take advantage of the design of your glass.
Much in the same way as factors above, the wine you are drinking plays a major role in deciding how full to fill your glass. Two-Buck Chuck, or any bottom shelf supermarket deal-of-the-week? Fill ‘er up! But if you are tasting a quality wine, do yourself a favor and pay attention to your pour. It doesn’t have to be a Romanée Conte or Chateau Rothschild. Any well-made wine that is worth savoring, rather than chugging, deserves the respect of a proper pour.
The Medical Community
Finally, not to be a killjoy, but one must consider one’s health. The medical establishment, and the government, have established guidelines to identify the “serving size” for various adult beverages. Kaiser Permanente advises patients that a serving of wine is five ounces. This is based on the average alcohol content in each serving, so a serving of beer (12 oz.) is equal to a serving of liquor (1.5 oz. – Really? When’s the last time you had a cocktail with just 1.5 oz. of booze?) is equal to a serving of wine.
In addition, Kaiser Permanente recommends no more than 15 servings of alcohol per week. If you drink daily, that’s just two per day, plus a bonus glass on the weekend. Once again, pop culture and social media would have you believe that limits are for losers, but excessive alcohol consumption can cause real health problems. Everything in moderation, folks!
So what do you think? What’s your proper pour? 4 ounces? 6? 8? Or more? Let me know in the comments.