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wine & wine glasses


a little glass background


There's been a lot of misinformation propagated in the world about washing wine glasses, and indeed about the glasses themselves. For example, the idea has been spread that lead crystal glasses and all high quality glass is more porous than ordinary glass. This is completely false. Glass is an amorphous* substance, and has no pores whatsoever.

What crystal glass has are tiny sharp microscopic peaks or bumps on the unpolished surfaces of the glass. These sharp little peaks are responsible for wine tasting better in any crystal, whether specially designed like Riedel and Spiegelau or just a decent traditional shape. The peaks create a larger rougher surface area which helps aerate the wine when it's poured and also when it's swirled. As the wine sloshes over the these peaks it not only adds a bit of air but also releases some of the more volatile compounds in the wine, many of which contribute to the 'nose' and flavor, thus creating a richer tasting experience.

These 'peaks' also tend to hold the residues of wine, which leads to the well known phenomenon of staining when red wine is left in lead crystal overnight before being washed. The glasses will eventually develop a pink blush. Common dishwashing detergents are unable to remove this staining, and indeed almost universally create a cloudy appearance over time. This is a result of the leaching of silica from the glass. This free silica forms a deposit on the surface of the glass, which we perceive as clouding, and which often causes ineradicable pitting. Our unique formula, in addition to not changing the flavors of your favorite wines, won't etch, pit, nor cloud your glasses, nor leach any lead from your expensive crystal.

* unstructured, fluid; not crystalline: without a crystalline structure. Curiously lead, a metal with a crystalline structure like all metals, loses its distinctive crystalline structure when mixed with silica etc. to form glass. In other words, when it becomes part of the glass it no longer exhibits the properties it had as a pure metal, but rather subordinates itself to the mega structure of the new material, leaded crystal glass. Glass is a fluid if one remembers from high school physics, chemistry/geology, which like all glass is a very slow moving fluid. Over centuries glass windows, for example, will become thicker at the bottom as the fluid glass runs ever so slowly down. One can only wonder what ones crystal wine glasses will look like after several hundred years!

a little wine background

M. Eimile Peyneaud, the famous oenologist of L'Universite' de Bordeaux, identified 147 naturally occurring beneficial chemicals in red wine. Most of these chemicals are taste and aroma sensitive, and easily susceptible to contamination or adulteration by soap, detergent, or scent residues.

Wine is one of the most interesting liquids on Earth. Made by fermenting the squeezings of grapes, (fermented grape juice), and then generally aged, wine is a liquid which transcends its humble beginnings and can go on to become a kind of nectar of the Gods. Simpler wines which we consider for everyday drinking with our meals can run the gambit from plain quaffers to rather rich and wonderful drinks in themselves, despite their humble quotidian origins. We personally favor these gems, as what's in it to spend $300 and get a decent bottle; It'd better be decent, if not downright unbelievable! Whereas getting a good bottle for 10 or 15 dollars is a wonderful thing. Martha would approve. So would Hannibal Lechter! "...some fava beans and a nice chianti."

However this sensitivity of wine to outside influences, because of its delicate structure composed of so many volatile compounds which affect flavor and aroma, but most of all flavor, makes it extraordinarilly susceptible to having its taste and/or aroma thrown off. And almost anything can do it. Unlike soft drinks, hard liquors, and even coffee which are so robust in themselves as to be able to mask almost anything, wine is a rather delicate work. The complex symphony of flavors and aromas has such subtle notes and flourishes, that almost anything can throw off our appreciation of the multilayered experience which is the drinking of wine.

There has been a lot written about wine in the last twenty five years, and more so in the last fifteen as more and more people, we're speaking primarily of America here, become familiar with and desirous of drinking good wine. We read most of the wine press, and sometimes find hilarious conceits in wine writing. For example there was the period a few years ago, wherein every wine in a certain international magazine was described as having "a bright beam of __________ "(fill in the blank with your favorite fruit) "running through it on a broad backbone of oak aging". Everything that year had a 'bright beam" of something. Incidentally I recently spotted it again so it might be making a comeback.

Of course as the Romans said so many years ago, "Degustibus non disputandum." There's no disputing taste. So what I may rave about, as being rich and full bodied, someone else may hate.

The answer of course is that nothing is absolute.

Which is why we recently tried Beaujolais Nouveau again, and liked it! Which just goes to show you the value of an open mind. A Joseph Drouhin bottle. JD is a burgundian producer and tends to make a heavier beaujolais. On a second tasting, we didn't like it as much. However since we were drinking these with turkey we tried another Beaujolais, a 2004 Morgon by Jean-Marc Burgaud. This was heavier with rustic undertones quite like something local you'd find in the French countryside. This had more to it and we liked it quite a bit. We were influenced in retrying Beaujolais by Kim Caffrey, writing in Wine X Magazine, which we reccomend as a breath of fresh air. Her rave article on beaujolais made us want to give it another try. Why not?

how to wash wine glasses ~ washing wine glasses

Tons of materials have been written about washing wine glasses. Much of it is ill-informed. Correctly washing wine glasses is no big mystery and while requiring a certain amount of care is fairly simple and straightforward.

First let us get out of the way some of the misinformation. Plain hot water is widely reccommended for washing good crystal and as a way to avoid the nastier aspects of washing with ordinary detergents. Had this worked Restaurant Crystal Clean would never have been developed. Two months of washing only with hot water left our glasses looking, well, grungy. Hot water alone will not get rid of lipstick, olive oil, butter, etc. And certainly will not get rid of red wine stains to which crystal is highly susceptible.

Red wine stains crystal when it's left in the glass overnight, an understandable situation, who wants to wash glasses when one's in a lovely mood after a good meal or dinner party? Those sharp little peaks on the interior surface of the glass that gives crystal its ability to enhance the flavor and aroma of our wines, capture the wine and if allowed to dry there creates a reddish pinkish blush on the glass.

So, we need a cleaning agent to get the glasses clean, yet we don't want anything left in the glass to ruin the taste of our wine. Restaurant Crystal Clean was formulated to address this problem.

Whatever you use there are certain basic do's and don'ts. Fine crystal is way better off being washed by hand. Handwashing allows one to thoroughly scrub the glass gently. Do use some kind of wine glass brush, or cotton scrubber. We use an inexpensive sponge on a plastic stick which costs about $3. This has been very satisfactory. One can spend a lot more for cotton terry tools which don't work any better, though they look nicer. Incidently if you've been using one with regular soaps one should wash it several times to get rid of any residual chemicals. One caution, whatever you use, use it only for your wine glasses.

Holding the glasses requires a little thought. Everybody reccommends not holding the glass by the base and twisting it while wiping the bowl, especially when drying. We use one drop of RCC in the bowl of the glass, fill it with very hot water, then insert the scrubber and thoroughly wash the inside of the bowl, while cupping the bowl in our hand.. Then we do the outside, holding the glass by the stem. Then wash the base and the stem, while holding the glass by the bowl. This effectively prevents breaking the stem in a moment of lapsed concentration. We give the outside of the bowl one last wash to remove any fingerprints, while holding the glass by the stem.

Holding the glass properly is even more crucial while drying as the friction of your towel can grab the bowl and put enormous torque on the stem if held by the base. Most crystal stems aren't up to such twisting forces, nor should they be. Many reccomend clean lint free cotton towels, however what do you wash your towels with? A host of scents and chemicals can be imparted to your glasses from your towels.

We use plain white unprinted paper towels, specifically Brawny (no they don't pay us for this, [too bad] Bounty are probably good too. Viva while a good towel has a very strong scent and we don't reccommend them for this use.). We never wipe the inside of the bowl as paper towels give off an odor which will affect your wine if you wipe the inside of the bowel with them. We wipe only the outside, and let the inside air dry. If we're using the glasses immediately, we give them several good shakes to flip out any water still clinging to the inside of the bowl.

Probably the best way to dry glasses is a hanging rack where you can let them air dry. If you have that you'll already know you probably have to lay out a dish towel to capture any dripping. We have looked at many sites offering advice on washing. One recently showed a method that looked very thorough but had so many steps, using washing soda, vinegar and finally steaming, we can't imagine many people willing to go through all that, just to avoid using soap. Why not just use a liquid that has none of the objectionable characteristics of detergents and soaps?

Incidentally, washing soda and vinegar are suggested as substitutes for soaps. We also tried this, and had it worked we wouldn't have bothered to spend over two years developing a soap that works. We tried everything we could find available and nothing worked to our satisfaction. Baking soda is also reccommended but leaves a taste behind.

Washing wine glasses in dishwashers. If you're willing to risk your glasses in a dishwasher it can save you a lot of work. Some companies offer special racks for wine glasses to protect expensive crystal. We reccommend using Restaurant Crystal Clean in the rinse cycle as it will clear your glasses, etc. of any detergent you use in the wash cycle. While RCC works wonderfully as a soap we reccommend using it in the rinse cycle as it is so concentrated that in some dishwashers it will produce way too much suds. The rinse aid dispenser dispenses just a tiny amount which is perfect for clearing the residues of any soap or scent. We do reccommend using unscented soaps at all times for wine glasses. By the way, RCC is safe for all gold trimmed glasses and dishware, and also earthenware, hand painted or glazed.

super tasters & non tasters

Some of this may be moot for some people. Research from Yale University released in 2004, documents the varying ability of people to taste. It's all based on the number of taste buds one is born with. Super tasters are the 25% of the populace who have the most taste buds. Average tasters are the middle 50%, and so-called non tasters are the 25% with the fewest tastebuds. This research was carried out with the aid of a strongly bitter chemical. If someone couldn't taste that, they're called a non taster. Everybody else is further up the scale. We have no idea where we are, except that we're generally recognized by wine professionals as having a good palette. After all these years of self-congratulation we find it might merely be an accident of birth!

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