By Andrew ValenteWeeky Feature
BEFORE we leave the subject of wineglasses and go on to something else, a word or two should be said about how to take care of them. There is no point in having fine glasses especially designed for a specific wine if the glass isn't impeccably clean in every way. Georg Riedel, designer of the world's best wineglasses, has likened them to tools or loudspeakers whose job is to carry the message of what's in the glass. Just as tools and loudspeakers must be kept sharpened and finely tuned, so a wineglass needs special care. When a conscientious wine drinker picks up an empty glass and smells it before wine is poured into it, he is not being a snob, nor is he in the least impertinent. He is simply making sure that the glass hasn't picked up some extraneous odours. These odours are not a sign that the glass has been badly washed. Indeed, they could mean quite the opposite: that the glass was well washed with detergent but that it wasn't properly rinsed.
If the slightest traces of detergent remain in the glass after rinsing then they will stay there until wine is poured into the glass. A contaminated glass means a contaminated wine: the two always go together. It is essential that the inside of a glass be absolutely spotless and free of odours. But it's not enough that the glasses get a thorough washing and careful rinsing. How they are dried is also important. When glasses have been washed and rinsed they should be allowed to drip dry on a rack - never on a solid surface, open end down. If we later use a dry cloth to polish them, it must be freshly laundered. Nor is it a good idea to use paper towels or napkins to dry or polish wineglasses, as is often done in restaurants. Paper towels invariably leave unpleasant smells on glassware, especially if they are used to wipe the inside of the glass. When a wine in a restaurant tastes slightly wrong, it can be a sign that the glass was contaminated in some way. The wine enthusiast who sniffs the empty glass avoids getting a glass with bad odours. If a glass does have extraneous smells, you can accentuate them and detect them easier if you breathe into the empty glass. The dampness of your breath releases any unpleasant odours, especially those caused by stale cloths or kitchen paper. But even when the glass has been well washed, thoroughly rinsed and allowed to drip dry, open end down, the job of ensuring that it remains free of odours isn't over. How we store glasses also comes into the equation. Wineglasses should never be kept upside down on a flat surface because the air trapped inside will soon go stale and pollute the inside. Glasses should be kept upside down on a rack, thus allowing the air to circulate. Failing this, they should be standing on their base. The air still circulates and doesn't get a chance to become stale. But even so, the glass still isn't in its ideal environment. Where it is stored is also important. Glasses for fine wines should be kept as far away from the kitchen as possible. Kitchens are among the worst places for storing wines and glasses, because cooking smells and odours from cleaning liquids can easily get into wine bottles and glasses. Then there is the problem of the fat globules that are caused when we fry anything in oil. Even when meat is sautéed over a low heat, invisible globules of fat fly all over the kitchen and even get into cupboards. They eventually stick to the glass and cause odours and gustatorial problems. So glasses should be kept in a cupboard that isn't in the vicinity of the kitchen. However, unless that cupboard is a vacuum and sterilised, a glass is never going to be completely free of pollution. There will always be smells from varnish or carpenter's glue that the glass can pick up. So before actually serving a good wine, you should wipe the glass with a clean tea towel, and then pour in a little of the wine. Swirl it round the inside and then pour it into another glass and repeat. That way the glasses are vinified, as the Spanish word has it, and they smell of the wine you are about to drink.
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