~In the wine trade, sales people and customers engage in a practice called “rinsing.” This is how it works.
~The sales person makes it to the retail establishment at the appointed time to present wines for consideration.
~To minimize having to clean many glasses, the customer puts out one or two glasses per taster, but the sales person has five or six wines to pour.
~To handle the situation, the sales person pours a small amount of the first wine into each glass, swirls and then dumps the wine into the bucket provided, duplicating the procedure for each wine between each taste.
The idea behind the “rinsing” ritual is to clear out the prior wine’s influence and to set up the glass for the next wine. If that’s the case, why did the sales person pour the first wine rinse?
The first rinse is to clear out any dish washing cleaner residue.
~Dish washing cleaners and soaps often leave enough residue not only to affect the wine’s aroma in the glass but also its taste. With sparkling wine, soap residue can subdue or completely kill the bubbles.
~Rinsing is a good practice, and it should not be confined to the wine trade. I have never seen it done at wine tastings for the consumer, where it should be done; it should also be done at wine tastings in your home.
~Restaurant service should also include rinsing the wine glass, provided the restaurant doesn’t take the perfectly good idea and make it meaningless theater.
~A famous New York City restaurant explains its wine glass rinsing program this way:
“Diners often look on curiously when we take a small amount of wine from a bottle, rinse out a series of glasses with it, and then place the rinsed glasses on the table to be filled with the wine. This “priming” of the glasses is a little extra touch that we feel greatly enhances the wine-drinking experience. The point is to rid the glasses of off odors or other impurities, so that all you smell and taste when you take a sip is the wine.”
~As I’ve said, a fine idea. The problem here is that from what I understand the restaurant server does not empty out the small rinse portion, leaving it in the glass and then pouring more wine over it. In that case, the portion of wine used for the rinse will hold the potential off odors.
~If what I am told is true, then the restaurant defeats the purpose of rinsing—hence, it becomes theater.
Restaurants can likely avoid having to perform rinsing if they simply do not use soap or dishwashing fluid on wine glasses. With health agency requirements in place, dishwashing water is probably hot enough to sanitize without soap.
I doubt that any restaurant would take that risk, and I further doubt that the local health agency inspector would allow it.
Even if the health agency did allow using just very hot water to wash wine glasses, that would lead to the possibility of chlorine residue. Those of us familiar with TCA taint know the importance of steering clear of chlorine.
~By all means, get into the habit of rinsing. It makes a difference.
Copyright, Thomas Pellechia
September, 2007. All Rights Reserved.