You're Doing it Wrong

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Remember that great scene in Mr. Mom where Jack Butler drops the kids off and is told "You're Doing it Wrong"? (YouTube) Well, it appears that I have been doing it wrong.

A comment on my post a couple days ago about foil cutters from Anatoli Levine (@talkavino) politely informed me that The Court of Master Sommeliers suggests the following service standard:

The foil is cut at the second lip to prevent the wine from dripping behind the foil and contaminating future pours
When they say the "second lip" they're referring to making the cut below the collar rather than above it. Like this:

The right way: Cut below the collar with
the knife edge of a waiter's corkscew
If you use the foil cutter I recommended (which I think is rather similar to most foil cutters in terms of where the cut falls) you'll find the cut is made above the collar:

The wrong way: Cut above the collar
with a foil cutter
The Court of Master Sommelier's service standards are actually full of interesting tidbits so I'd recommend giving them a look.

A post on Wine Berserkers discusses very specifically whether to cut the foil over or under with the "overs" and "unders" pretty evenly split (and "tear the whole thing off" by far the most popular option). It also reveals that the collar is evidently known as an "annulus" (cue the Beavis and Butthead jokes!) and a historical health reason for avoiding wine to foil contact. Foil capsules used to be made of lead so it was a particularly bad idea to allow the wine to come into contact with the foil.

Now that capsules (hopefully) don't include lead it's still not desirable for the wine to potentially come into contact with the foil. The thought of wine pouring over shards of metal isn't appealing, so it's probably a better practice to cut beneath the collar even if a foil cutter leaves a clean cut. It's also a good idea to wipe the opening of the bottle with a damp clean towel to remove any other debris that might be present.

I have to admit - I was cutting above the collar even when I used a waiter's corkscrew. I guess I figured that since that's where my foil cutter cut it that was the right place to make the cut.

I was curious about whether this standard of service was upheld in restaurants so I reached out to Master Sommelier George Miliotes. George runs the wine program for The Capital Grille and Seasons 52 restaurants. I was curious about whether they train servers on this aspect of wine presentation. He responded:
I mentioned that my foil cutter cuts above the collar. His response is pretty telling. "I would never used a foil cutter."
My thanks to George for his feedback - always timely, accurate, and friendly.

And my thanks as well to Anatoli for turning me on to this. Check out his blog at:


  • When cutting a foil, cut below the collar with the serrated knife from a waiter's corkscrew
  • Foil cutters make a nice sharp cut but they tend to cut above the collar
  • There's nothing wrong with removing the capsule completely - it's just less formal
  • I think I'll continue to use my foil cutter but I'll try to become more proficient at cutting a sharp edge with the knife from a waiter's corkscrew
I'd love it if you subscribed to The Wellesley Wine Press for future updates. I'm going to be ramping up Scoop the Spectator 2013 soon so you'll not want to miss it.


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