Monday, October 26, 2009
Everyone likes drinking out of a sparkling clean wine glass and while it's not the most important purchase decision you'll ever make, finding the right wine glass towel can really make a difference in how clean your wine glasses are. You'd think it would be easy to design a great wine glass towel. It's just a matter of finding the right fabric and slapping a logo on it, right? It must be harder than it seems because my testing revealed tremendous differences in the performance of the 5 towels tested.
Over the past year I've been testing every wine glass towel I could find. After purchasing a set from Wine Enthusiast, I've been able to track down a total of 5 towels specifically designed for cleaning wine glasses. Of the 5, I'm able to give positive recommendations to 2 of them, and one receives my top pick.
How I Use Wine Glass Towels
Although they're dishwasher safe, I don't run my wine glasses through the dishwasher. They're too large and awkward, and the dishwasher is usually full of regular dishes (and sippy cups). I typically wash my wine glasses by hand, turn them upside down on a dish towel for just a moment to let the water run off, and then I dry them with a wine glass towel to remove water spots.
I've tried using a regular kitchen dish towel, but the towels tend to be wet and dirty from regular kitchen use. If I do pull out a fresh kitchen towel, it tends to leave lint residue on the wine glasses. For these reasons, for me, dedicated wine glass towels are a legitimate accessory.
What I'm Looking For in a Wine Glass Towel
- Lint-free The primary reason I sought out dedicated wine glass towels in the first place was because my kitchen towels left lint residue. This is the most important characteristic of wine glass towels because the last thing you want is a glass with lint residue that ends up making the glass look dirty -or worse- leaves lint floating around in your wine.
- Odor-free Fortunately, none of the towels I tested left a noticeable odor.
- Absorbency If the towel isn't absorbent enough it'll take a long time to get the water off the glasses.
- Size/Weight It's the combination of the two that is important because you want a towel that's large enough to substantially fill a large Bordeaux-style glass so that you can spin the towel around and clean out the inside of the glass. If the towel is too small, it will be difficult to reach the bottom of the inside of the glass. If the towel is large but thin, it just collapses in the glass.
- Pliability If a towel is too rigid it'll be difficult to to drape it around the glass and remove all of the water.
- Grabby-ness/Buffing Quality The best towels I tested not only got the glasses dry and clean, they seemed to have a buffing quality to them.
- Towels-per-package I think a 2-pack is the perfect size. If you have 2 towels, you can have one being laundered while the other is being used. Or if both are clean you can have a back-up in case you need to dry off a lot of glasses all at once.
I tested all of the towels over a period of months. I put them each through multiple laundry cycles with other towels and often with baby bibs with velcro. As I noticed flaws in each of the towels, I'd use it less and less. After a while it was clear to me what my preferred order was and when I'd go back and try one of the non-preferred towels I was instantly reminded why I stopped using it.
Here are my thoughts on each of these towels, written up in the order in which I discovered them. With the exception of the 1st towel that I purchased, all of the towels were samples I solicited.
Wine Enthusiast Suede Microfiber Wine Glass Towels
These are the first towels I tried. I was not happy with them.
- Due to their small size and pliability, good for cleaning eyeglasses.
- Major large-lint problem. Left nearly as much lint as kitchen towels.
- Not absorbent enough. Takes a long time to dry and clean each glass.
- Too small. Very difficult to reach the inside of large glasses.
Where to buy: Discontinued, but here's a link to where they used to be sold on Amazon:
Wubeez Glass Polishing Cloths (1st Generation)
I first heard of Wubeez from THIS REVIEW on The Second Glass. I received a sample of the towels and I was *very* impressed. This towel worked very well.
- Perfect balance of absorbency, weight, and pliability. They seemed to get the material just right on this one.
- No lint- very good.
- Very good buffing characteristics. Leaves the glasses sparkling.
- Design isn't the most elegant in the world. Looks a little bit like a shop rag.
- Just a little too small- hard to fill up a Bordeaux glass with one of these.
- Edges become frayed after several washes- especially prone to getting snagged on velcro:
Riedel Large Microfiber Crystal Cloth
This is strong entry from the Riedel wine glass company (rhymes with needle) . The product is thoughtfully designed and marketed consistently with their industry-leading glassware products (see my review of Riedel wine glasses HERE).
- Size. This was the largest towel of the group.
- Aesthetics. This was the most refined and elegant looking towel I evaluated. Its white background makes it easy to see when the towel has gotten dirty and needs to be washed. Its red trim with black Riedel logo look crisp.
- Pliability. The Riedel towel's silky material enables it to easily drape over and around a glass
- Absorbency. It takes me a couple of passes to dry a wet glass with a dry towel.
- Weight. Although the towel is by far the largest, the lightweight material it is made of collapses on itself when you try to bunch it up inside a large glass.
Where to Buy:
Directly from Riedel USA
Wine Enthusiast Microfiber Wine Glass Towels
I really had high hopes for this one. I was ready to fry the first Wine Enthusiast towel when I noticed that Wine Enthusiast was carrying this new towel.
- Lowest per-towel price of the group. These are sold in 4-packs.
- Poor durability, especially in conjunction with velcro items in a laundry cycle.
- Leaves noticeable fibrous lint remaining on glasses after use. Take a look at this picture below (and click on it to increase the resolution). It was a little difficult to capture in a picture, but the glass on the left was cleaned with the towel that was my top pick. The glass on the right was cleaned with the Wine Enthusiast Microfiber Wine Glass Towel. The Wine Enthusiast towel consistently leaves an obvious and problematic amount of lint on the glass. The nature of the lint is different than the first towel I mentioned in this review, and also different than what I see from regular kitchen towels or paper towels. The lint is small and fibrous (as opposed to more of a natural cloth-like lint). Very peculiar and definitely not good.
Recommendation: Not recommended.
Where to Buy:
Wubeez Glass Polishing Cloths (2nd Generation)
Mid-way through my testing, just as I was getting ready to write a fairly positive review of their 1st Generation towel and mention some areas for improvement, Wubeez contacted me and told me they had a new version of the towel they were releasing. I received a sample of this new towel and it addressed all of the areas I noted for improvement.
- Same great fabric as their 1st generation towel, but this new version is more elegant and refined.
- Larger than the original, this new version fills a large Bordeaux glass nicely.
- The border of the towel is stitched more cleanly and it no longer gets frayed in the laundry in my tests.
- Dries glasses quickly and easily. The perfect balance weight and absorbency while still being pliable.
- For better or for worse, this product hasn't reached wide distribution yet.
Where to Buy: Wubeez.com
The towel was developed by Robert Hendrickson, who works in the hospitality trade in California. He was frustrated with how long it took to dry/clean glassware with the towels he had available so he created his own. The towel is sold to consumers, but also makes a good fit for restaurants and wineries. Here is a prototype of what the Wubeez would look like with a custom logo:
Like many wine accessories, glass towels aren't a necessity. They do make for a nice stocking stuffer, small item to pair with a gift of a bottle of wine, or small item to round out Amazon Free Super-Saper Shipping. If you drink wine a few times a week they're definitely nice to have. If you work in a restaurant or a winery tasting room, you'd probably agree they're a must. Either way, I hope you found this review useful.
I'd like to thank all of the companies that submitted towels for review. I truly appreciate it.
Giveaway! If you have a question or a comment, leave it below by the end of the week and you'll be entered in a random drawing for your choice of any one of the wine glass towels featured in this review. If you don't live in the continental US I'll send you a $25 Amazon gift card.
Spread the word about this giveaway on Twitter and you'll also be entered in the drawing. If you leave a comment -and- spread the word on Twitter you'll get 2 entries: Click here to pre-populate a Twitter status update (you'll have a chance to edit the tweet and click "Update" before the tweet is sent): Tweet this
If you're not into Twitter, or want an even better chance of winning, subscribe to this site via E-mail for yet another chance to win.
The more interest, the more towels I'll give away! I'll announce the winner(s) Monday November 2nd, 2009.