Caring for your glassware is an important part of the wine drinking experience. You’ve gone to so much trouble to select the right wine, purchase the perfect glasses, serve just the right food—it would put a damper on your dinner to serve in cloudy glasses with a faint odor. If you’re guilty of neglecting your stemware, read on. The fact of the matter is that the way in which you wash and care for wine glasses has a direct effect on the taste of wine. Properly caring for your crystal will insure that your wines always taste their best.
Avoid unwanted tastes and odors in your glassware. Crystal glasses are more porous than normal glassware. Although crystal looks completely smooth to the naked eye, it is filled with microscopic pores and crevices that shelter residues and deposits; sharp, microscopic edges are what help open up the wine when you swirl it in your glass. Glasses should be stored in a well ventilated area, such as a specialty glass rack that allows them to hang.
Know the dos and don’ts of washing stemware. Keeping your glasses clean can be as simple as washing with hot water and rinsing with cold. For crystal glasses, washing in lukewarm water works best. While often this is enough to clean the glass, you may encounter stubborn wine stains (or perhaps a lipstick print or two). Thoroughly cleaning with a mild detergent or a product like Stem Shine eliminates residues that cause unwanted odors and tastes and prevents clouding. It’s never a good idea to wash with anything harsh, such as a steel or wool pad, unless you are a fan of scratched glassware.
Wine glasses can also be cleaned in the dishwasher, although you should use your judgment to determine if the stem is too long or delicate and will break during the wash cycle. Many newer dishwashers offer a built in rack on the top for snapping in stemware. If yours doesn’t have one, you can purchase a StemGrip Dishwasher Wine Glass Rack. Once the glasses are loaded up and ready to be cleaned, it isn’t necessary to use detergent—the high temperature alone will do the trick. A word of caution: hard water will cause glasses to turn cloudy.
Drying stemware is important, too. If you put your glasses in the dishwasher, it is a good idea to dry them by hand when they are done being rinsed. When hand washing, dry them with a lint free cloth to avoid water spots. Special microfiber towels are made expressely for this purpose. Alternately, you can dry them upside down on a cloth or stem mat.
Though certainly not mandatory, if you are still worried about the effect your glass will have on the wine, before pouring, rinse out the glasses with distilled water or with the wine you are about to serve.
Caring for decanters can be an exercise in frustration. Anyone who has tried to clean or dry the inside of a decanter knows how difficult it can be. When hand washing, there may be spots that need to be scrubbed, in which case a decanter cleaning brush can serve as a useful tool. The drying process can be a cinch as well with—what else—a decanter drying brush. Drip drying can leave spots, and the shape of the decanter is often not conducive to drying it upside down.
Another trick for removing debris is magic balls. These simply need to be swirled around inside and voilà—a clean decanter.
And lastly, if you’ve already done some damage to your glassware, all is not lost. If your glasses are looking foggy, try soaking them in white vinegar for a few hours, then wash with lukewarm water and a mild cleaning agent. Repeat as necessary until all of the residue is gone. Then wash with warm water and mild liquid dish soap and repeat the soaking process if necessary to remove any remaining residue.