What's the proper etiquette for tasting multiple wines with the same glass?

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

While at the New World Wine Experience last October, I went about the Grand Tasting with my tasting glass my usual way: have a taste poured, taste it, dump it and rinse the glass with water. All seemed well, but a few of the winery reps scolded me for rinsing the glass with water; their explanation was that the little water remaining in the glass watered down the flavor of the wine. While I understand and agree with this, I also believe that not rinsing the glass would flavor the wine with the previous wine tasted. To me, it seems that it would be preferable to water down the wine a little (as water is fairly tasteless) than it would be to flavor it with another wine. Please help me out with the proper etiquette for tasting multiple wines with the same glass. Thank you.

—Christopher S., Las Vegas

Dear Christopher,

It’s true that if you rinse a wine glass with water between tastings, you might dilute the wine—and if it’s chlorinated tap water, it might affect the wine’s smell or taste.

While rinsing with water is not a terrible faux pax, for the most part, if you drink or dump your wine glass and move on to another wine, you shouldn’t have to rinse the glass each time. Exceptions would include if you’re switching between red and white, or from something sweet to something dry, or if the wine was flawed and you don’t want to risk that note affecting your next glass. In these instances, the preferred method is to “prime” your glass with the next wine. Just take a splash, swish it around and dump it out. When I want to do that, I just ask the person pouring for a splash because I want to “rinse” my glass. They’ll usually get it.

—Dr. Vinny

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