Wine Foreplay: 5 Tips for Priming Your Stemware

Every Thanksgiving, it happens all across America: Well-intentioned hosts do a disservice to wine appreciation by serving wines in dusty, dirty or detergent-tainted stemware.

Thanksgiving is a time when families get together. As a result, it's one of the few times each year when people use all of the stemware that they have in the house, oftentimes reaching deep into the glassware cabinet for "stems" that have been collecting dust all year.

It's also one of the times of year when people bring out their best wines. Tragically, so much of that wine is wasted in glasses ill-suited to accommodate the nuance of fine wine.

Here are five tips for prepping your stemware for Thursday's feast, whether you'll be serving wine in glass or crystal.

5. Wash Your Stemware Ahead of Time

A side table adorned with a battery of resplendent wine glasses will add panache to your party. And it's always great to have extra stemware on hand for unexpected guests.

4. Wash Your Stemware Without Detergent

Remember: Wine has alcohol in it and one of the miracles of wine is that it sanitizes its vessels. (It's one of the reasons that wine plays such an important role in the human experience.) Use hot water and a dish towel to remove any traces of lipstick or sediment.

3. Dry Your Stemware Well

After washing your glasses, use a dish towel to dry them well. This is more important than it may seem: Tap water has minerals in it that can taint the glass and if you leave moisture in the glass to dry, the liquid will aggressively collect dust from the air as it evaporates. VERY IMPORTANT: When drying your glasses, be sure not to twist them from the base; otherwise, you risk snapping the stem.

2. Never -- I Repeat -- NEVER Serve Wine in Warm Stemware

Pouring wine into a warm glass will drastically affect its aroma and flavor. It's one of the reasons that you should prepare your stemware beforehand. Having to wash and dry stemware at the last minute because unexpected guests have arrived is the last thing you want to do when you're about to serve your Thanksgiving feast to the people you love.

1. Prime the Glasses with Wine

In antiquity, the Romans would pour a little bit of wine on the ground -- a libation -- as an offering to the gods. Not only did this sanitize the vessel, it also helped to remove any unwanted dust. Wine -- NOT WATER -- is the ideal liquid for prepping the glasses. The two main elements in wine are water (H2O) and alcohol. When you add even the smallest amount of water to that balance by virtue of water residue, you upset the equilibrium. The alcohol and acidity in the wine are ideal for rinsing the glass of dust and detergent taint.

Here's how you do it: Line up, say, six glasses; pour a very small amount of wine into one glass, just enough to be able to cover its entire inner surface when swirled; then swirl the glass; then pour the wine into the next glass; and repeat.

Whether you're drinking a humble Beaujolais Nouveau or an aged Barolo or Burgundy (and even if you're serving your wine in common glassware), these steps will ensure that the wine can show its best.

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