The Reason Fancy Restaurants Prime Your Wine Glass

Fine dining is an experience, to say the least. Often of higher quality (and price point!), fine dining restaurants usually have an elegant ambiance. There might also be formal dress codes, set menus of small courses, and, most importantly, a sommelier to help you comb through extensive wine lists. After recommending a particular pairing, the somm will present a bottle to guests and share information on the wine before uncorking and serving. However, one step might happen before the first sip is poured — the restaurant might prime your wine glass.

If you've never heard of priming, don't worry, you're not alone. Also known as "seasoning," Wine Spectator explains that priming is a technique believed to have originated in Italy. It involves pouring a bit of wine — roughly an ounce — into your glass and swirling it to coat the bowl before discarding it. Although it can add to the showiness of the fine dining experience, is there a reason behind the prime?

Priming removes residual glass aromas and flavors

While it may seem like a waste of wine, there is a valid explanation for why sommeliers have adopted this practice. According to HuffPost, this works to remove any leftover flavors or aromas from when the glass was washed or stored. Ever Wonder Wine notes that anything from dishwashing detergent to wooden cabinets can impart odd flavor onto a glass and, consequently, the wine. 

Since a sommelier will have you taste the wine to ensure there aren't any faults like unpleasant flavors and aromas, seasoning the glass with a bit of wine before a full pour will help you better evaluate the taste. A primed glass will maximize olfaction and heighten the wine-drinking experience.

Even though many say that coating the bowl beforehand can make an incredible difference in how the wine displays itself, others feel that it might just be a waste of wine. Rinsing your glass thoroughly will probably suffice when relaxing at home with a cheap bottle. However, if you're spending big money on a night out and really want your wine to express itself fully, a primed glass is the way to go.