At a crass house party in my teens, a friends once told me, “you have to warm up the engine before you can drive the car”. He was referring to sex, but the quote could not more appropriately apply to serving wine. Priming stemware is as essential to pouring wine as foreplay is to intercourse.
For those who have yet to reach puberty in wine pouring, priming stemware consists of pouring a minute amount of wine into a glass, coating the inside of the glass by moving the wine around, and then using the same wine to repeat the process with all the glasses intended for using. Priming stemware should also occur with any carafe or decanter used in the pouring process.
Priming is the only way to traditionally serve wine. It removes any impurities or contamination the stemware may have accumulated while awaiting use. Priming eliminates common elements in glasses such as dust, detergent, or lint. By removing any contamination, priming stemware allows for the guest to experience the purest and greatest expression the wine has to offer.
It is a timely process to prime stemware. Often the practicality of the process can hinder its occurrence. With high volume restaurants, it is nearly impossible to prime all stemware, especially in regards to wines poured by the glass. It is hard to expect restaurants to perform such a task. The most appropriate stance in regards to priming stemware in restaurants is to do it as often as possible, especially when wine is served by the bottle. There is nothing more reassuring to a wine drinker when he or she sees wine glasses be primed at a table. Priming stemware validates the knowledge as well as the service of the waitstaff, allows guests to experience the purest expression of a wine, and further legitimizes the entire wine program of any establishment. Regardless of whether a restaurant is white tablecloth or white trash, priming stemware should be a habitual practice in any restaurant serving wine.
Priming stemware evokes another important issue in pouring wine. If you are drinking wine by the glass, ask to keep the same stem when being poured another glass of wine. First, it makes you look like you know something about wine, second, it will make the wait staff happy that they don’t have to uselessly waste time and energy polishing another glass, and lastly, it reduces the impact restaurants have on the environment by conserving water and energy.
If ever in question about what to do about wine just remember, drinking wine is like having sex, and in this case, although you may be dying to get started on your wine like a hormonal teenager on prom night, taking the time to make sure he or she is without contamination will provide you with reassurance and guarantee a much greater experience.