Hand-polishing delicate stemware and odd-shaped decanters can be difficult. But red wine and whiskey decanters, especially with modern artistic designs, create a new level of cleaning difficulty.
Through repeated use, red wine residue collects on the glass’s bottom and lower sides, depositing a red or rusty appearance. Even with rinsing, it accumulates, and the glass begins to stain.
The same is true for whiskey and port. Luckily if you are a white wine drinker, you have it a little bit easier because very few white wines will need to be decanted.
But what is the residue made of?
Wine residue, or the dregs, is usually the byproducts of making wine, such as dead yeast cells, unfiltered bits of the fruit, and tartrates. Sediment is also a byproduct of the wine aging process, where tannin polymers fall out of the liquid.
Rinse any leftover wine from the decanter as soon as you finish it. The longer red wine sits, the more the stains will set.
Also, it may seem contradictory, but do not use soap or harsh chemicals on your decanter. Even ‘natural’ soaps will leave a residue. They leave residue and chemical streaks that will affect the look of your decanter and, more importantly, the cloudiness and taste of your whiskey or wine.
Another method to daily clean the decanter is similar to a technique used to clean coffee pots. Add crushed ice and a bit of salt or uncooked rice pellets. These ingredients combine into a fast, easy natural scrub brush without soapy chemicals.
Even with dedicated daily care, decanters will eventually succumb to the staining aspects of tannins or the cloudiness of mineral and water deposits. Especially if they are used frequently.
Depending on your decanter’s shape and delicacy, you may have a few different options for cleaning your glassware. The tools vary.
But a few items are designed to cut down the time it takes to clean while protecting the delicate decanters. They range from beads and brushes to stain-removing tablets and baking soda.
Decanter cleaning beads are small balls you swirl around in a decanter with warm water. The gentle friction acts like a scrubbing pad and loosens the stains. Decanter beads are mild and do not scratch delicate wine and whiskey decanters. These pellets are usually made of high-grade steel, so they are rust-proof. But can also be found in copper and are a simple reusable cleaning solution.
There are several bead sizes — 3mm – 6mm. Usually, the smaller beads work more efficiently with, the more artistically shaped decanters. Most cleaning beads are sold in small jars containing about 250 beads. Unless you are working with multiple decanters, this amount will be adequate.
To properly use decanter beads, first, rinse out the decanter.
Whether you use your decanter daily or only during holidays for that exceptional cabernet, knowing how to clean delicate glassware is an integral part of this necessary wine tool.
The longer you go without cleaning the decanter, the more likely difficult-to-remove wine stains will set in, affecting the wine’s color, look, and taste.
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