Sniffing Your Glasses
- ChefJune Sep 1, 2011 01:26 PM
This thread was inspired by the one about Seasoning the Glasses.
Years ago, when I led my first tour of Burgundy, we spent a day with the folks at the Burgundy Wine School. We started out with a basic tasting class. The leader started us off by saying everyone should pick up their empty glass and sniff.
I thought I knew thing or two about wine, but had never heard (nor thought) of this before. He said one could eliminate much of the "off" wine because sniffing the empty glass can easily reveal soap residue and other off aromas. One of my travelers said she smelled nothing, and the leader said that was what she wanted to smell.
So interesting. and it has, over the years, saved many an "accident" especially in restaurants. I try to grab the glass before the waiter (or sommelier) has poured any wine into it and sniff. Lots of waitstaff roll their eyes, but hey! it works. ;)
Sniffing the empty wine glass, was a concept that Georg Riedel first exposed me to, and for the same reason, as the person, who led your tasting group. You want NOTHING from that glass. Mr. Riedel told me that mine had dust, but in Arizona, that comes with the territory, though all are stored behind glass - though obviously not hermetically sealed.
The concept of "seasoning the glass," is one that I normally only encounter with some Italian importers and distributors. I feel that, depending on the setup of a tasting, it can be a very important aspect of tasting the wines. I have asked for this to be done at many trade tastings, only to have really odd looks from the rep. pouring. One went so far as to comment, "we cannot afford to pour any wine, just to season your glass," to which I replied, "then I will not be buying any of your wines, so there is a big trade-off here." Even if one is only pouring a 2 oz. pour, a 1/2 oz. to get the glass ready, and especially if there have been any other wines in the glass, is a tiny price to pay.
I once rinsed my glass at a winery tasting, and the winemaker took it from my hand, replacing it with a fresh glass. "I do not want you to have any water in the glass with any of my wines. They should each be served in a fresh glass!" I quickly saw his point.
Guess that it depends on how serious one is, about presenting their wines. Some - not so much.
Always do it. On a couple of other boards years ago, I've told a story about thinking I had a corked bottle of wine at a restaurant in Boston. But the wine in my wife's glass was fine as compared to the same wine in my glass. Turns out a mildew-y dishtowel was the culprit. Ever since, I smell the empty glass.
Sage advice. The insufficiently rinsed wine glass is terrible thing to encounter. It is odd but relatively simple to have remedied in a bar/restaurant. I find bit more tact to be necessary when at someone's house - especially after they insist upon telling you how "you're goin' to love this wine."
I always sniff. At good friends' houses, I've even gone to the length of washing out the glass first and drying with a paper towel (95% of the way) and air (final 5%). Yes, the paper towel imparts some characteristics, but it's better than soap or dishtowel residue IMO.