When this column first appeared in the Star 17 years ago, I was a neophyte to varietal specific glassware. I, like a lot of my contemporaries, bought wholeheartedly into the Riedel Glassworks Company’s philosophy that cabernet should be poured only into glasses specifically designed for cabernet, merlot in merlot glasses and God forbid should chardonnay be served in anything other than a glass designed specifically for chardonnay.
Riedel Glassworks was established in Austria in 1673. We have 10th-generation Georg J. Riedel to thank for the introduction of glasses designed for specific varietals.
The Riedel family likes to refer to their glasses as “precision drinking tools.” The family now offers more than 300 different precision drinking tools for every varietal wine known to man, as well as precision drinking tools for water, whiskey, beer and soft drinks.
I possess a plethora of these precision drinking tools, purchased before the Riedels recognized that mere mortals also drink wines for which they need precision drinking tools. Under 11th-generation CEO Maximilian Riedel the company has introduced less expensive machine-made drinking tools available at places like Target and HomeGoods. Maximilian also introduced the stemless Riedel glass known as the “O.”
Riedel glasses are known for their simple, clear, unadorned design. The older lines are ethereal and elegant and, as a result, require careful handling — meaning hand washing.
When asked how to care for his glassware, Maximilian says, with the exception of the company’s most expensive Sommelier line, he washes all his glasses in the dishwasher. Say what?
Here’s the problem with that. Even with my new dishwasher’s top shelf adjusted to the lowest possible orientation, the stems of the glasses will not clear. If I tilt the glasses at a 45-degree angle, water collects in the bowl.
Though I hate hand-washing wine glasses, I cannot in good conscience leave my Riedels in the dishwasher to fend for themselves. Therefore when entertaining, I often opt for using cheaper, dishwasher-proven glasses. If chastised by my significant other into using precision drinking tools, I do so with the understanding that significant other will wash said wine glasses.
Wine glasses are difficult to clean. Lipstick clings to the rim, and washing with warm sudsy water will not remove the stain. After washing, if not dried with the proper kind of cloth, water spots remain. What looks like a clean sparkling glass when wet can look like a murky mess when dried and viewed under a bright light.
To avoid these pitfalls, here is some advice from the experts, including Maximilian Riedel who understandably washes his glasses in the dishwasher because after all he has access to an unlimited supply.
In the case of his more expensive Sommelier glasses, he just rinses them out with hot water, then hand dries them with a Riedel microfiber towel. If they still have spots, he steams the interior of the glass from a stovetop kettle and polishes them once again.
The consensus among other experts is that fine crystal wine glasses should not be placed in the dishwasher. They should be washed gently by hand in warm water with a small amount of detergent and then rinsed in warm water with white vinegar added. Vinegar neutralizes any aroma residue left from the soap and also helps clarify the glass.
The consensus is also that glasses should be hand-dried with a microfiber cloth. Riedel’s microfiber drying cloth will set you back about $16, but there are less expensive versions available at stores like Bed Bath and Beyond and Walmart.
Wine glasses have come a long way since the advent of this column. There are now cheaper Riedel glasses available and many Riedel knockoffs, including the famous Riedel “O.” Unless you love to wash and polish wine glasses, I would opt for the less expensive ones that can be placed in the dishwasher with a clear conscience.
Pat Kettles writes about wine and spirits every other Wednesday. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.