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Seasoning Wineglasses (split from Los Angeles board)

FWIW, we walked into OM on a Friday with no reservation, albeit early in the evening, were seated immediately, politely informed about the menu, ordered at our leisure, a course at a time, and enjoyed the food thoroughly.
I am a wine professional by trade, and the wine service very good, IMO. "Seasoning" the glasses with a very small amount of wine is an important and oft overlooked step in the service of a delicious wine whose aroma and initial taste may be lost due to the health code-mandated cleaning the glasses receive. Keeping the wine off the table is simply a way of keeping it out of your way, and shouldn't even enter your thoughts unless the wine steward is not doing their job by keeping your glasses refilled as they empty (and this does not mean pouring an ounce every time you have a sip, BTW).
Also, why "just pour off" the last 2 oz when it would affect the way the wine was sensed or developed in the glass?
The aim of proper wine service is to get you into the best wine for you, then let you enjoy it to the fullest in the least intrusive way possible.

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  1. "'Seasoning' the glasses with a very small amount of wine is an important and oft overlooked step."

    I think you missed his point. This did not occur, he was just using it as a mocking comment toward his (ill)-advised point about the lack of oil or butter for the bread.

    As for your point about seasoning the glass--I'm happy to say I've never seen this done. Properly washed glassware should have a neutral smell--that's what the rinse cycle is for.

    33 Replies
    1. re: The Old Man

      Completely true--the seasoning is for show, or because they do it in Italy (are the glasses less clean there?) That said, it wouldn't bother me....

      1. re: The Old Man

        to tell the truth, they seasoned my glass when i was there, and i was thankful. even the "rinse cycle" -such that it is- in a commercial dishwasher at a restaurant includes chemical or natural additives. i have paid my dues washing dishes, believe me. that said, after i put down a small fortune on a killer barolo, i want it perfect from the get go. do i season my glasses at home before drinking a $10 syrah from Provence? no. but do i, or even, do you make special preparations when planning to open a treasured Bordeaux, or a high dollar Napa Cab? you betcha.

        1. re: jdwdeville

          I guess I have a lot to learn. I have been to many rather high-end restaurants both here and abroad, and I've never seen the ritual of "seasoning" a glass done. It sounds pretty pretentious to me, but I guess I'm just a drinker of wine, and not a "professional". If a glass is clean, why would you want to waste any wine?

          1. re: josephnl

            seasoning is not uncommon. it does catch your attention the first time you experience it, though.

            1. re: josephnl

              josephnl, I didn't mean to sound snobbish when i said "professional", in fact, i'm pretty terrified of telling people that because you usually here the dreaded "ohhhh...." and then every wine comment starts out with "maybe i just don't know but...". what drew me to wine in the first place was its all-inclusiveness. however, at the very few occasions where i intend to drink a very fine and rare wine, i do hope for a bit extra in any respects, from service to aroma to taste, all of which combine to highlight exactly what is special about this wine i am experiencing. as far as your question, if the glass has ANY residual chemicals or cleaners or santizers or whatnot still left dried to the inside, then your entire first glass, especially with a delicate wine, may not smell or taste the way it should. why waste an entire glass when the barest touch, rinsed through the glass, is sufficient?

              1. re: jdwdeville

                Will simply rinsing the glass in water, not accomplish the same thing. I can't understand why "rinsing" a glass with wine will remove undesirable residues any better than will doing so with water. I have seen servers in restaurants rinse glasses in hot water, then drying them off before setting them on a table. Will this not do the same thing as "wasting" a few ounces of wine?

                1. re: josephnl

                  Seasoning/Priming wine glass is and was always a controversal topic. Here are some other discussions:

                  http://www.wineloverspage.com/forum/v...

                  http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?s...

                  http://mcduffwine.blogspot.com/2008/0...

                  As a chemists I have to say that it might help to cover some unwanted smells but will not be enough to dissolve all residues from detergents.

                  1. re: josephnl

                    A good hot water rinse, and then hand polishing will actually do better.

                    Hunt

                    1. re: josephnl

                      My thoughts exactly. If a glass has a rinse residue, why on earth would I want part of my expensive wine used to mask it and then get tossed?

                      I may have to go lie down after reading that heresy.

                      I have never seen that done. If I did, I would ask him what in the devil he thought he was doing.

                      1. re: Sal Vanilla

                        I have never seen the "seasoning" used to try and rinse any cleaning residue. That is, or shoud be, handled by a proper rinse, cleaning and then polishing. Where I encounter it most often is when one is tasting many wines with the same glasses. A water rinse, needs to be completely dried. Usually, flicking the glass a few times, sitll leaves water, that will affect the next wine.

                        I cannot imagine that any amount of "seasoning" could mask poor hygiene in the cleaning steps. Please do not try that at home. Clean the stemware completely, and polish them well.

                        Hunt

                        1. re: Sal Vanilla

                          you may lie down all you'd like, the "heresy" as you so delicately put it, will remain the same:
                          to maximize the aroma of a wine in the glass, coating the entire inside of the glass with a small amount of wine counts.

                  2. re: jdwdeville

                    I just don't see how a rinse of of a small amount of wine is going to do anything to residues left in a glass. Perhaps the aroma will help mask the dish washing scent--but it's still there. Why not stick you nose in the glass before it's filled and have it hand re-rinsed if you notice a smell?

                    1. re: The Old Man

                      Agree completely. Seems to me that "seasoning" a glass rather than re-rinsing or replacing a glass that has any odor is the height of pretension. I have been served fine wine by many superb sommelier's in innumerable superb restaurants from Le Bernardin in New York, to Michelin 3 stars in France, and honestly have never seen this done.

                      1. re: josephnl

                        I'd never heard about this either, so I asked wine lovers more expert than I am. This is a wellknown practice, commonly used when wines are plentiful but glasswear is in shorter supply, so the remnants of the previous glass doesn't taint the new pour. It is not unheard of in more elegant situations, though it could be seen as critical of the washing or the water in the higher level restaurant.

                        1. re: nosh

                          Yes, that is standard operating procedure. But not, unless it's for show, when a single wine is being served per glass.

                      2. re: The Old Man

                        Good points. Always smell the stemware, when it is first presented.

                        Hunt

                      3. re: jdwdeville

                        Something I have NEVER done is 35+ years of being ITB . . .

                      4. re: The Old Man

                        After paying $3200 for a county-mandated 'sterilizer' unit for the dishes and glassware in our now-sold winebar I found myself constantly explaining to guests (who could see it in the backbar) that it was NOT a dishwasher in the way their home unit is. Our commercial 'dish machine' had a 150+ degree wash cycle and a 180+ degree SANITIZING cycle....... that's it. The sanitizing cycle did indeed include a code-mandated chemical sanitizer. It was not followed by a plain rinse cycle (problematic in some areas anyway).

                        While I really never found that our stemware carried an odor, I did find that the really high-end wines we sampled were almost always preceded by the rep 'seasoning' the glasses. Whether this was more for show I never knew, but I would think that the specific water conditions and the specific sanitizing chemical used could pick up odor. Seasoning is also done when the same glass is used when sampling multiple wines to rid the glass of the taste and aroma of the previous wine.

                        One also has to understand that there are wine drinkers whose noses and palates are far more sensitive than average. You see that every day in wine service. Seasoning the glass is a good way to be sure the experience of the specific wine is maximized.

                        Conclusion: seasoning has a very real basis in fact but is probably more for show in most cases (unless requested by the guest) because most people would be fine without it. It IS, however, a mark of service to use a procedure that reflects the BEST. We could get into a whole separate, yet similar, discussion about whether decanting wine is pretentious or not.

                        1. re: Midlife

                          Decanting serves a very real purpose -- MOST of the time. Other times, it's pretentious.

                          MOST of the time, seasoning a wine glass is pretentious -- PRESUMING that the glass starts out "odor-free." At those times when the glass does have a distinct smell to it, "seasoning" serves a very real purpose.

                          1. re: zin1953

                            Is there some international source of majority opinions on these things??

                            I agreed that seasoning is "probably more for show in most cases".

                            I understand that decanting has a profound effect on some wines. I guess I should have made the distinction of degree vs. seasoning.

                            My bad.

                            1. re: zin1953

                              I have been told by a master sommelier (a level which is extremely hard to reach), that there is essentially no red wine that would not be improved by decanting. Apparently the exposure to air does make a difference!

                              1. re: josephnl

                                I don't disagree with that completely but have found that an awful lot of people can't tell the difference.

                                1. re: Midlife

                                  >>> an awful lot of people can't tell the difference. <<<

                                  And therein lies the rub! ;^)

                              2. re: zin1953

                                Decanting is not seasoning though. If a wine glass stinks, wash it and rinse it well with water.

                                1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                  I agree completely. A wine glass should have zero smell. If it does, then it is not clean, and this might well be from poor storage. If you can detect any smell in a clean dry glass, then it is not ready for wine.

                                  Going back some years, Jim Laube (writer for the WS) hosted a dinner at his home for Georg Riedel. He had cleaned his Riedel Sommelier stemware to the best of his abilities. Mr. Riedel sniffed each empty glass, and commented, "you've stored these for a few days, and there is dust in each one." Laube was horrified, but admitted that the cleaning had taken place about three days, prior to Mr. Riedel's arrival, and that he'd stored the stems in his normal stemware cupboard, which did not seal well.

                                  I've found that wine stems, though cleaned and polished before storage, benefit from a steam treatment, and another polishing, just before use.

                                  Hunt

                            2. re: The Old Man

                              This is most often done at wine tastings, where one will likely have had other wines in that same glass. As to removing any disinfectant, I cannot imagine that it would work that well. A heated rinse and dry is the best way to approach that problem. I usually smell my glasses, when placed on the table, and send any offending ones back, with instructions on what I found, and on what I am looking for. Even a good pour, swirl and dump, is not likely to remove the smell of the commercial disinfectant. If all glasses are like that, I just order a beer, and eschew my normal glassware for that too. I also suspect that my dinnerware is probably affected, as well. At home, I use a dishwasher that is restaurant grade and will sterilize the glasses, if I do not handwash (normal, even after multi-course wine dinners).

                              Now, I have been to some tastings, where the pourer was adverse to "seasoning the glass." They usually recommend using water. Well, that's OK, if they want people to remember their wine as a "watered-down" one.

                              The "seasoning of the glass" is often seen in Italy. However, one also sees some stemware anamolies in Italy, as well.

                              I find it far less often in restaurants, where separate wine glasses are more often used for individual wine courses.

                              Hunt

                              1. re: Bill Hunt

                                As to the seasoning of glasses in Italy...I don't know if I've ever been served wine in Italy when the glasses were not seasoned. Perhaps it's a function of current or former deficits in glass-washing, or tradition, or ritual, but the practice is widespread.

                                Thanks to you, Bill, I will smell my empty wine glass more often.

                                1. re: maria lorraine

                                  I can tell you that we stayed for two weeks in an apartment on a premier brunello vineyard in Montalcino (La Chiuse) where we had a bottle of wine almost every afternoon after sightseeing. The wine was opened by the owner/winemaker and I think he "seasoned" the glasses on the first night only, and then told us it was "just for show" and was nonsense. From that time on he never repeated the ritual, and told us he never did it at home with family or guests.

                                  We have been to Italy several times (Tuscany (including Florence) and Venice), and although we have been to restaurants where this ritual was performed, more often than not, "seasoning" has not been done. Indeed in Florence, at the restaurant owned by Antinori (one of Italy's major wine purveyors), they did not perform this ritual!!

                                  1. re: josephnl

                                    Your experience is different than mine, josephnl.

                                    I have spent a good portion of my adult life in Italy, and have seen thousands of bottles opened in wine-tastings there. Seasoning is the norm in wine-tastings in Italy. Perhaps not in restaurants or for tourists, but always in tastings.

                                    1. re: maria lorraine

                                      That has been my experience, as well. At tastings, it has been very common. In restaurants, not that often.

                                      I'll bet that you, as I, would choose to loose a ½ oz of wine, if you've had another in that glass. I just cannot imagine you rinsing your glass with water, between wine coures either.

                                      As to whether the act is show, or part of a ritual, one must ask of the person doing the "seasoning."

                                      Now, with even my finest, I do not do this to the empty glasses on my table. I do smell them, and clean, or replace them, but since they were empty, and other glassware was used for each preceeding wine course, I do not do it.

                                      Hunt

                                      1. re: maria lorraine

                                        Exact same experience in Italy (I'd wish it could spread more).

                                        And it makes a LOT of sense:

                                        a) glasses are usually kept inside a cupboard in the producer's living room ( a.k.a. "tasting room" ).
                                        b) immediately after removed from cupboard, glasses have a musty smell.
                                        c) "seasoning" removes the musty smell.

                                        Haven't seen it done in restaurants though, or a touristy environment.

                                        1. re: RicRios

                                          Wish that I could recall the writer, but I want to think that it was James Laube, or Matt Kramer (both of WS). Whomever, hosted Georg Riedel to their home, and in the process showed him their collection of Riedel glasses in their stemware cabinet. He proceeded to pull out some and sniff them. "Dusty. No good!" "Musty. Can't use this one!" And, so it went for almost the entire collection.

                                          Hunt

                                        2. re: maria lorraine

                                          You're explanation is probably correct. We did not go to any winery tastings, and that is probably why we did not see wineglasses "seasoned". Although we have been in Italy for a total of about six weeks, we ate mainly at trattorias and osterias, and actually never saw it done...except as mentioned, at the wine estate where we stayed in Montalcino, where they did it once.

                                2. Per LA enviro health, you may not polish wine glasses with non-approved material, including, it turns out, vodka! That doesn't stop people from quietly using a spritz of it on a polishing cloth to assist in removing water spots (which here in LA will appear even with the use of soft water in the rinse cycle)--a tiny amount of vodka also goes a long way in removing any trace of sanitizer on stemware. If stemware emerges from the rinse cycle hot, most of the sanitizer should evaporate off as it quickly dries; the little bit that remains can be removed by vodka and a clean polishing cloth.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: choucroutegarni

                                    True.

                                    1. re: choucroutegarni

                                      ay! and here is exactly my original point-- if i just shelled out big for a perfectly aged, mature Gaja, who wants even a film of vodka in the first smell and sip? there are plenty of proper things in service than could be seen as pretentious from another view...

                                      1. re: choucroutegarni

                                        After hand washing and rinsing my decanters at home, I give a final rinse with water and a capful of vodka to dissolve any remaining detergent residue. I then rinse again with water. Never noted any vodka smell when using the decanter following.