The Right Way to Polish a Wine Glass, According to a Sommelier

Learn to polish your wine glasses the right way for an impressive wine service at your next dinner party.

Wine glasses on a bar. Photo: Shutterstock / KieferPix
Photo: Shutterstock / KieferPix

Believe it or not, there’s a right way and a wrong way to polish a wine glass. If you’re having a few friends over for a dinner party, you’ll want to get your glassware in order before your guests arrive. It’s a simple step that makes all the difference when it comes to wine service, whether you’re enjoying a glass of wine at home with your favorite pasta dish or find yourself dining in any restaurant worth its salt.

How to Polish a Wine Glass

From start to finish, you’ll want to handle your glassware carefully. Don’t rush yourself. After all, while they may seem sturdy enough, these glasses are fragile. It’s better to do things slowly and minimize the risk of breaking the glass or cutting yourself than rush through and get careless.

Here are the tools you’ll need:

  • Clean wine glasses
  • Microfiber cloth
  • Steam

In a pinch, you can use a paper towel, but I find they can sometimes leave fuzz or worse yet, an odor in the glasses. Personally, I think microfiber towels work best. They are my go-to at home and were an essential tool when I worked as a sommelier. (Plus, they can remove 99% of bacteria with just water.) These little miracles can be found in your local supermarket or you can buy them relatively cheaply online. There’s no need to splurge on fancy ones–a few dollars should get you a serviceable cloth or two. These microfiber cloths are pretty much unbeatable when it comes to keeping your wine glasses smudge-free and sparkling. Plus, they never leave fluff in the bowl—a pet peeve of mine.

Steam and Polish

Fill a basin (or a bucket—whatever you have on hand as long as it’s clean) with hot, but not boiling water. Take your glass and hold it by the base above your steam source and at an angle—just don’t get it wet! Once the inside of the bowl has steamed up, go ahead and gently polish the inside of your glass. Be careful not to put too much pressure on it. Polishing the bowl is the step where I’ve seen the most accidents occur, and you can save yourself a trip to the ER by using a soft touch.

Repeat the steaming process, this time focusing on the outside of the bowl, then polish. Move your grip to the stem of the wine glass then steam and polish the base. Finally, wipe the stem and voila! Your newly polished glass is ready to be used.

A clean, well-polished wineglass is the first step to enhancing your wine drinking experience. Odor-free, gleaming glassware is essential for every social gathering. So raise a toast and watch those glasses sparkle.

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Camille Berry
Part of the third generation in a family of restaurateurs, Camille was born with a passion for cooking and food. She embarked on a career in hospitality where she excelled as a sommelier and wine director. This hospitality experience has given her a wealth of first-hand knowledge about how to pair all manner of drinks with food—plus some serious kitchen skills. These days, she's hung up her wine key in favor of a pen and covers all aspects of food and drink.