Monday, August 18, 2008

Wine Q&A: Cleaning Stemware

Q: How do you care for Riedel stemware? I bought eight glasses a month ago and have already broken two. On both, the stems snapped off while I was hand drying them. This is frustrating because they were expensive. But I love the look and feel of Riedels.
- Suzanne

A: I feel your pain. Several years ago I purchased a set of 10 top-of-the-line Riedels of various shapes and sizes at a time when I didn’t have much money. I justified it by telling myself it was an investment in my livelihood, much like a mechanic must acquire tools for his trade. One of the very first times I used a glass, it slipped out of my hands and began its tragic descent to the slate floor below. It was like watching it in slow motion and I braced myself for the inevitable carnage. But the glass didn’t shatter – it bounced! Upon inspection there was nary a crack or mark on it. But that’s where my luck ran out. Not a single glass from that set survives today.

Riedel glasses are beautiful, classic and their shapes and the thinness of the crystal are what make drinking out of them such a pleasure. Wines just seem to taste better when served in this stemware. But they are terribly fragile and need extra special care – even the lower-end lines. For everyday use, I suggest looking to an alternative brand– ones that have the classic shapes and styles of Riedel, but are sturdier, even dishwasher safe. Glassware retailers have a lot of options.

To care for your glasses, wash them individually by cupping them in your hand by the base of the bowl – never grip them by the stem. Rinse them first several times with hot water only – that should be sufficient to remove the wine if you haven’t let the glasses sit too long. Add a drop or two of detergent if you must and rinse the same way. Avoid sticking your hand in the bowl. To remove lipstick stains, use a damp paper towel with a little detergent and gently wipe. Air dry the glasses rather than hand drying them, preferably by setting them upside down on a rack that allows for complete air circulation. Once dry, store in their original boxes, if possible, or upright in a cupboard away from other glasses and dishes.

Q: Friends of ours from Saskatchewan are coming to visit in August and we plan to take them on a wine tour. They expect to purchase at least a case of wine. But since wine is no longer allowed on planes as carry-on, they want to know the best way of shipping home.
- Katherine

A: This is a tricky one. Legally, you are prohibited from shipping wine across provincial borders. That’s not to say people don’t do it. Actually, several wineries do it on the Q.T. Check out the order forms posted on the websites of some of the mid-to-larger sized wineries. They often include this wording: “Due to customs and duty regulations we cannot ship across international borders.” They don’t come right out and say they will ship across Canada, but the forms often contain a drop-down menu that includes the other provinces. Thus, if your friends plan to purchase wines from only one or two places, having the wineries do the shipping may be an option.

However, if they plan on collecting bottles from numerous vintners, they’ll have to arrange the shipping themselves and this is a gamble as courier services may refuse to do it and it’s pretty hard to disguise a box of wine.
Their best bet is to package the wine up as best they can to prevent breakage and have it loaded as cargo on their flights. Technically, you aren’t allowed to transport liquor across provincial lines either, but it isn’t well policed and I’ve done it numerous times without problems. One word of caution: fuel costs are compelling airlines to crack down and you may get dinged for extra baggage charges.


Anonymous said...

Last year I had 19 cases of wine shipped by various BC wineries to my residence in Manitoba. DHL was the courier of choice by all. Every bottle arrived in perfect condition. We visited dozens of wineries and not once was it suggested this was not possible or was illegal, in fact shipping was a regular service offered.

Chardonnay said...

Yup, many wineries in B.C. are doing it without consequence. There are a couple who state very clearly on their websites that they are unable to ship outside of B.C., including Mission Hill. In Ontario, most wineries state that it is illegal to ship outside the province, though a select few do it.