How to Achieve the Perfectly Clean Glass

This topic may seem straight forward at first. Come on, Carolyn... we know how to wash dishes. But have you ever had company over, you grab a "clean" glass for your guest and look at it, only to find that it's spotted and there appears to be remnants of a lip mark? That's definitely happened to me. I get SO frustrated by this, so I finally looked into how restaurants keep their glasses looking so perfect.

The answer? Well, bartenders. It's part of their job to polish those glasses every day. I am assuming most of us don't employ our own bartenders at home, so I'm here to give a few tips and tricks to achieving the perfectly pristine wine glass, but first, we'll cover the basic "how tos" on cleaning. 

Now, we all know what the "before" looks like, especially if you drink deep colored red wines. The glasses look somewhat akin to a crime scene...

Ick. No one wants to drink after that. Luckily, it's extremely simple to get that wine glass above looking brand new. Here's what you'll need:

  • A clean sponge
  • Dish soap - preferably unscented
  • Warm water
  • A towel to dry with - see my discussion below on different towel types

First, you want to fill your sink with warm, soapy water. Dip the glass into the soapy water to get some on the inside of the bowl. Thoroughly clean the inside of the glass with the sponge, ensuring you get all the sides and the bottom. 

Clean the outside of the bowl with the sponge to remove any finger prints and lip marks. The easiest way to clean those marks off the glass is to fold the sponge over the rim and turn the glass while keeping the sponge steady.

Rinse the glass in cool water and place the glass upside down on either a towel or a dish rack to drain excess water. Dry the inside, outside, stem, and foot of the glass before the water leaves those pesky spots! The key to getting a glass without spots is to dry it immediately, and voila! You have a restaurant-grade clean glass.

After cleaning lots and lots of glasses and scouring the web to find the answer to my spotted glass problem, I picked up a couple tips and tricks for cleaning wine glasses. 

Tip #1 - Use a "wine only" sponge and new soapy water.

In the past, I've always used the same sponge I use to clean dishes and washed the wine glasses at the end when the soapy water was empty of all my cooking tools. I have no real proof to back this up other than I can say after washing my glasses in new water with a sponge I've only used on wine glasses, they definitely come out cleaner with less of a film. 

Also, for those difficult to clean champagne flutes, I found these cool scrubber brushes at The Container Store that I use. They have soft-ish bristles on the top and then some microfiber type cleaner on the bottom. If you don't have a Container Store in your town, you can order them online here

Unscented soap is recommended as crystal can absorb some of the smell of scented dish soap and then it'll alter what wines smell like in the future. I haven't noticed that on my glasses, but I plan to pick up an unscented bottle next time I'm at the store.

Tip #2 - The type of towel does matter.

I had three different towels that I tried on three different glasses: a normal dish towel, a microfiber towel, and a flour sack kitchen towel. I had read several places that the flour sack towels are what restaurants use to polish their glasses, so I thought I'd give them a try. The result? Well, a normal dish towel was horrible. Fibers were all over the glass. I actually found  that the best result was a combination of the microfiber and flour sack towel. The flour sack towel didn't do a great job at actually drying the glass (it's not super absorbent), but worked wonders to polish away little imperfections and finger prints. That'll be the combo I use going forward, but if I had to choose just one to have in my kitchen, I'd say the microfiber towel was the winner.

Here is the flour sack towel I used from Sur La Table and a few other options: Crate & Barrel, Target, and Amazon. As for microfiber options, here are a couple: Sur La Table and Amazon, or if you want to be really fancy, there is a Riedel brand microfiber polishing cloth you can order here from Amazon.

Tip #3 - Remove all jewelry and maybe wait until morning.

I love me some beautiful, thin, crystal wine glasses. They feel amazing and I swear wine tastes better out of them, but they shatter so easily! I've definitely broken one or two by washing them with rings on, so I recommend removing your jewelry before washing. Also, if you've enjoyed your fair share of wine that evening, wait until morning! The glass won't be any more difficult to clean then, and you'll have all of your wits about you while handling the delicate glass.  

Tip #4 - Store the glasses upside down in your cabinet.

Dust gets everywhere, and I hate having to rinse out my glass before I pour the wine. To avoid having dusty glasses on your shelves, turn them upside down! I know that probably sounds like common sense, but I literally just turned all of mine upside down in the past month. No one wants dusty wine!

This may have been a long winded post for a seemingly simple topic, but I hope you learned something helpful to get your glasses looking professionally polished!

Disclaimer: The post contains affiliate links for Amazon, Target, and Sur La Table. The blog will earn a small commission if products are purchased through this link.

Varietal Specific Glasses: Does it make a difference?

My first post of The Wine Drinker's Bar series was on glassware. In that post, I mention that glassware does make a difference when it comes to drinking wine, and I truly believed that but did not think a whole lot past general white vs. red. However, on our recent trip to the mountains, I was lucky enough to attend a varietal specific glassware class hosted by Riedel at my favorite wine shop, Mountaintop Wine Shoppe. Sidenote: If you're ever in Highlands, North Carolina, stop by because they are WONDERFUL. I was a little skeptical at first about these different glasses, but let me tell you... this class was fascinating! If you ever have the opportunity to go to one, do not pass up the opportunity!

We arrived at the class to find each chair had four Riedel varietal specific glasses and then a "joker" glass.

The joker glass was your typical wine glass you'd find at a casual restaurant or in a tasting room. It was thicker glass and the bowl was on the smaller side. The four Riedel varietal specific restaurant glasses we got were: Riesling/Sauvignon Blanc/Zinfandel, Chardonnay/Viognier, Pinot Noir and Cabernet/Merlot. It's important to note that the glasses we were given are their "commercial" restaurant glasses and are a little sturdier, and less expensive, than the varietal specific glasses you can find elsewhere (ex: Williams-Sonoma). The Riedel host even said he washes his in the dishwasher!

The Riedel host would pour an appropriate wine in each of the respective glasses and we got to go through the typical tasting process of calling out aromas and flavors. Then we'd pour the wine to the joker glass or "incorrect" Riedel glass to see what happened. What was the result? Across the board, the wines lost their aromas and the flavors were off in the wrong glasses!

For example, we had a crisp, delicious and aromatic Sauvignon Blanc, but in the joker glass, I could not smell a thing. It was such a shame to miss out on that citrus aroma! We also learned that the glasses are designed for the wine to hit your tongue in a specific way. To continue with the previous example, Sauvignon Blanc is a highly acidic wine, so you want the wine to avoid the sides of your tongue where the acid flavor is picked up by your taste buds. To help with this, the varietal specific glass "funnels" the wine to a point in the glass, so that when you take a sip, it hits the tip of your tongue first where your taste buds sense sweetness. This helps balance out the high acidity from Sauvignon Blanc. 

Long story short? I'm a believer in varietal specific glasses. The group universally agreed that there was an enhancement in the wine when it was in the correct glass. Note that I said "enhanced"... it's not like the wines always tasted bad in the joker glass or other Riedel glasses, but they weren't being showcased at their full potential. So what does that mean for you as a "normal" consumer? Well, it really means one thing: Think about what varietals you typically drink. If it's one or two, consider investing in a varietal specific glass. If you always drink Chardonnay, then it may be worth investing in a Chardonnay specific glass. Similarly, given my new found love of Pinot Noir and the fact that we agreed the Pinot Noir glass really helped with enhancing aromas and flavors, we purchased in a couple of Pinot Noir glasses to have at home. By no means is it necessary, and I stand by my comments in my glassware post, but it's just something to consider. Also, these could make a great birthday, holiday, or wedding gift for a wine enthusiast you know!

To summarize, yes, I believe varietal specific glasses do make a difference. They allow the wine to be showcased in its best light. Are they necessary? Absolutely not. More importantly, though, if you ever come across a Riedel class, definitely try it out for yourself!

Note: I know this post sounds like a pitch for Riedel, but this post was not sponsored by them. I just loved these glasses and wanted to share. If you are interested in trying them out, I found the Riedel Wine Series glasses on Amazon that appear to be similar in design and price as the ones we received from the class. This is an affiliate link.

The Wine Drinker's Bar: Wine Decanters

I remember when I first started getting into wine that decanters confused me. Why would you pour your bottle of wine into another container before pouring it into the glasses? It seemed silly and unnecessary, and now it was one more thing I would have to clean! So what is the purpose of them? And do decanters really make a difference? 
 


Why Decant?

Decanting wine is simply pouring the wine out of the bottle and into another vessel. Most of the time, it'll be another glass container. Why do that? As I said before, it seems silly to use another vessel when the bottle does just fine. The key is that the wine is more exposed to oxygen in a decanter versus the bottle. This exposure allows harsh tannins to mellow and flavors to become enhanced.

Also, have you ever had a glass of wine and it looks like there's something akin to coffee grounds at the bottom? Sediment can be found in wine, and decanting, if done correctly, can help you enjoy the wine sediment-free. Tip: If sediment is a major reason for you to decant a wine, make sure you have the bottle standing upright for a day or so before you enjoy it. This will allow the sediment to settle on the bottom before decanting. This video also gives two methods for removing sediment from wine.

What Should I Decant?

The question of what to decant can also be an intimidating one. As a general rule of thumb, bold red wines are the ones that benefit the most. As I mentioned before, it allows the harshness of these wines to soften and makes them more fun to drink. These wines include Syrah, Malbec, Barolo, Cabernet Sauvignon, etc. While that may be the general rule, you can decant whatever you would like! The only one I would definitely shy away from decanting is a sparkling wine as exposure to oxygen kills the bubbles.

When is Enough?

It can be a delicate balance between an appropriate amount of exposure and overexposure to oxygen. You don't want your wine to turn into vinegar! Overall, I'd say somewhere between 30 minutes to an hour is safe. Some bolder reds like Syrah may take a bit longer, but it's always good to test it along the way. 

Which Decanter?

Whichever one you like best! It doesn't have to be expensive or a crazy design. Decanters can be a pain to clean, so I would pick the one that makes cleaning the easiest. But if you like the crazy design Here are some great choices:

 

The Wine Drinker's Bar: Wine Stoppers

Wine can be kept open for short amount of time (think around 3 to 5 days), but they do tend to deteriorate as they continue to be exposed to oxygen.  That doesn't mean you shouldn't have a stock of wine stoppers in your bar because sometimes you just can't (or shouldn't) finish the bottle in one sitting!

There are thousands of different wine stoppers to choose from... all sorts of colors, styles, and designs. Among all of those and beyond the standard stopper, here are three options I think would be a great addition to any bar.

Metrokane Wine Pourer with Stopper

I love this wine stopper. Why? Because it is also an awesome wine pourer! It keeps you from spilling or dripping the wine when pouring it into a glass. I will say the one downfall is that every now and then the stem is too small for the bottle neck. It very rarely happens, but I have had that problem once or twice before.  This stopper is relatively inexpensive and can be found in a lot of stores, but for those with the wonderful Prime shipping, it can be ordered here on Amazon for less than $6. It can also be a great stocking stuffer or addition to a wine-themed gift! 

Champagne Bottle Stopper

For those lovers of the bubbly, this is a bar must. I usually only try to open a bottle when I know it's going to be finished, but sometimes I am in the mood for just one glass. Champagne will last a couple of days in the fridge and this stopper helps keep the bubbles in. I have one from a winery we visited in Napa, but it is a similar style to this one. There is a rubber cap that fits in the bottle and then the metal rings hook underneath the ridge on the bottle neck. Be careful when you take the wings off the opened bottle, as sometimes the carbonation causes it to pop off! The one pictured above is made by Winco, and I can't speak to this particular one, but it seems to have good reviews on Amazon and can also be found at Sur La Table. 

Vacu Vine Wine Saver Pump

While I do not personally own one of these, I have seen them used at several restaurants to help maintain their wines by the glass. This tool helps close off the wine and remove the excess oxygen to keep the wine fresh. Between my husband and I, wines don't stay in our refrigerator long, so that is why we don't own one of these, but if you tend to keep the wines for longer periods of time, I think this would be a great choice! I also think this would be another great gift for a wine lover! It can be found in several stores, but here is a link to it on Amazon.

Keep in mind that these are just three different types out of so many! While I love my wine pourer and stopper combo, I have a couple of other types to mix it up and be festive around the holidays!

The Wine Drinker's Bar: Wine Openers

Wine? Check. Glasses? Check. So what's next? A wine opener!

You may think that what type of corkscrew you have may not matter. If you're good with it and the bottle gets opened, you're right -- it doesn't really, but each have their pros and cons, so if you haven't purchased one already, I'll give you the scoop.

In general, I would say there are five types of wine openers: what I call the traditional, the waiter, the winged, the screwpull, and the Rabbit. There are couple more, but these are the ones I see most frequently.

The Traditional

The traditional is a tricky one. Pros? You can't get much simpler with just a handle and a worm (the curly part). Cons? I have found these to be very difficult, and if you don't get a high quality one, they can break easily. I (stupidly) purchased a cheap one while out of town for work and the worm broke off in my cork. Overall, I'd say unless you're a pro at opening bottles, there are much better options. The one in the photo is a nice one from Le Creuset. I've found it to be sold from $25 - $75, but I've also seen traditional ones for cheap as $2.99. If you go this route, stay away from the $2.99 ones. To watch a video on how to use this type of corkscrew, click here.

The Waiter

The waiter is the wine opener that everyone knows because you've seen it in restaurants... hence, its name. Pros? They are easy to take with you anywhere or store in a kitchen drawer since they are compact. You can find one at pretty much any store, and they are relatively inexpensive. The one pictured from Crate & Barrel is $10, which is about average, but you can find them as cheap as $1.50. Again, they're usually cheaper for a reason, so I'd spend a few extra dollars and get a quality one. You can also find VERY expensive ones, but I'd stick with the $8-15 range. Cons? They can be tricky for new wine drinkers to use. They take some coordination and it can be difficult to get the worm centered well in the cork. That being said, with a little practice, I think this is the best choice if you are looking for an inexpensive option. To see a video on how to use a waiter's corkscrew, click here.

Tip: if you're new to a waiter's corkscrew, you can look for one that is "double hinged" (such as this one) which makes it easier to get the cork out as it provides a second hinge to resist against the bottle once the cork is over halfway out.

The Winged

If you already own a wine opener, I would put money that it is a winged one. They are extremely popular due to their ease of use and are also in just about every store next to the waiter's corkscrew. They are also inexpensive, ranging from $5 up to $40, but on average, I'd say they are probably $10-15. However, I have probably broken the most corks using a winged wine opener. I'm not sure the exact reason, but it's likely due to the short worm and because it can be difficult to center the opener over the bottle of wine. I've also had bottles where the neck was too big for my winged opener! While I certainly understand its popularity, I would advise someone who hasn't purchased a wine opener to use a different one -- either the waiter, screwpull, or go all out for the Rabbit, but that's just my opinion. To see a video on how to use a winged wine opener, click here.

The Screwpull

I feel like I should put a disclaimer on this one that I've never personally used a screwpull type wine opener. However, during my readings and after watching several videos for this post, it seems that it is a very easy wine opener to use, as long as you have no trouble with your wrist. This type of opener does require constant twisting, but the opener does all of the work by itself by lowering the worm into the cork and then coming back out. You can see a video of how to use one here. They seem a little bit harder to find in a typical box store compared to the waiter or winged, but I've found them online for prices ranging from $20-50.

The Rabbit

I call this one the Rabbit solely because the main brand I see with this type is Rabbit. There are others, but the one I've pictured specifically is amazing. I had seen a couple people with these and desperately wanted one, so I added it to our registry earlier this year. Pros? Super easy to use as it only takes a lever to take the cork out. See a video on how this contraption works here. Cons? They are pricey. The one pictured above from Crate & Barrel is $50, but I've seen $100 ones too. I was told you can find The Palm Restaurant version at HomeGoods sometimes for about $30, so that is how I'd combat the price. Also, it is bulky, so if you have limited space, I'd stick to the screwpull or waiter. However, if you love wine and have the space for it, I think this is a very fun gadget to have.