THE QUESTION: At home I never use soap to clean a decanter. When not in use, I leave about an inch of clean water after draining the decanter. Is this good form or will the water negatively impact the next bottle? (I do drain the standing water first and then re-rinse the decanter before use.)
THE ANSWER: That's a good idea. Water won't sully your wine.
Personally, I prefer to clean decanters with light soapy water. But I'm a compulsive dish-soap man. That said, Georg Riedel, head of the Austrian crystal company that makes fine wine glasses, has told me it's not necessary to use soap – even with stemware – providing the glass isn't completely filthy. He recommends dipping delicate glasses upside down in a bath of hot tap water, then carefully wiping with a lint-free cloth. The point is to avoid soap residue, which can do the worst damage to your wine's aroma and flavour. The threat from water is chlorine, but if you invert your decanter and let it drain on an odourless tea towel, being careful to secure it so it doesn't tip, this shouldn't be a problem. If your rinsed and air-dried decanter has been sitting in a smoky or otherwise smelly place, it's best to rinse it again before use. Or, if you don't mind wasting an ounce or so of wine, pour a splash into the vessel, swirl to let the wine coat the glass, then pour out the splash and fill with wine as you normally would.
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