It makes no sense spending the money for even moderately priced wine glasses if you aren't going to care for them properly. A good wine glass can be quickly transformed into a poor wine glass through incorrect care. Fortunately, the necessary steps for proper care of wine glasses are all very easy to remember and follow.
Washing Wine Glasses
It should go without saying that wine glasses must be absolutely clean prior to using them. Ensuring that your wine glasses are clean must start by the proper cleaning after use, not just before you want use them the next time.
It's usually not the best idea to simply put your wine glasses through the dish washer. First, better and more delicate crystal wine glasses are more likely to crack or break. Second, dish washers often leave a residue behind, whether you can see it or not. This residue may not only impede seeing the wine correctly, but it will certainly affect the taste of wines. You don't want to be drinking a rich burgundy that suddenly has high notes of lemon.
A better method for cleaning wine glasses is by hand and with a mild detergent, preferably washing soda because it won't leave behind any residue or film. You should also have a stick-shaped sponge (not a harsh brush) for cleaning the very bottom of narrow wine glasses. Be sure to rise it thoroughly and either leave it to air dry in a well-ventilated area or, better yet, carefully hand dry the wine glass with lint-free cloth.
Because good crystal wine glasses can be more porous than standard glasses, you may find some of them developing stains over time — especially after the use of red wines. Don't scrub at your wine glasses because this will not only create a rough surface which stains can more easily develop on, but it will also dull the glass, making it harder to accurately gauge the wine's color and clarity. Some people find that vinegar does a good job at eliminating stains while others have had good luck with denture cleaners like Efferdent.
Storing Wine Glasses
Once your wine glasses are clean, what is the best way to store them? Most people will store them however is best for their living situation, but if you have some choice then there are some "best practices" that you should try to follow in order to get the most — and the most life — out of good wine glasses.
First, try not to store wine glasses stem up. This is popular because people believe that it will prevent the glasses from acquiring any residue or dust. They are correct, but the problem with storing wine glasses stem up is that it can make cracking or chipping easier. It might make practical sense to do so anyway, or even to alternate every other glass for the sake of efficient use of space, but you should definitely store your very best wine glasses stem down, the same orientation as when you use them.
Second, it's better to store wine glasses in racks or cabinets than in boxes. Although boxes seem like a good idea for protecting them, and are definitely good for getting them out of the way, higher quality crystal glasses might absorb some of the musty odors floating around in storage and you definitely don't want any of that contaminating your wine.
Many wine drinkers prefer racks for wine glasses. A good wine glass rack will not only display the glasses in an attractive way, it will separate the glasses to prevent them from knocking up against each other (and therefore chipping or cracking) and provide a convenient place to dry when you are finished washing them.
If you end up with a collection of decent wine glasses, it's a good idea to rotate your glasses so that none get used heavily. Put just-cleaned glasses in the back and bring the next glasses up to the front for use next time.
Preparing Wine Glasses
Not even the best cleaning and storage will ensure that wine glasses are in perfect condition for use when you first pick them up. Dust, fibers, aerosolized oils, and other contaminants will almost certainly have collected on the inside of your wine glass. You need to properly prepare the glass before drinking out of it.
The easiest and simplest thing to do is to give it a quick rinse, but be sure that your tap water isn't heavily chlorinated or has anything else in it that will impart unpleasant flavors to the wine. A very old tradition is to use a little bit of the wine you're serving to rinse the glasses. This will remove any contaminants from the glass and ensures that no inappropriate flavors are added.
Consider it a small offering to Bacchus before the celebrations begin.