Q: In one of your columns, you helped a woman search for wine decanters. I have put several lead-crystal decanters into storage because...
Q: In one of your columns, you helped a woman search for wine decanters. I have put several lead-crystal decanters into storage because I was told that the alcohol leaches the lead from the glass and is therefore not safe for liquor. True or false?
A: Lead-crystal stemware and lead-crystal decanters are valued for their brilliance, their ergonomically pleasing heft and the lovely ping! they produce when clinked. However, as reported on thenibble.com and in an article by Robert L. Wolke in The Washington Post, studies have shown that wine and other spirits can leach lead from a glass or decanter over time.
The key here is time, but other factors are also significant. The more expensive the crystal, the more lead it is likely to contain. Different types of liquid will leach lead at different rates. The best advice is: Do not store wine, Port, brandy, etc. in a lead-crystal decanter for any extended length of time.
Does this mean you should stop using lead-crystal decanters and stemware completely? Not necessarily, unless you want to be extremely cautious. The Nibble notes that EPA standards for lead content will not be exceeded if you serve your wine (or water) in your crystal stemware during the course of a meal. As for decanters, it’s safest to use them quickly to decant the wine off its sediment, then pour it back into the original bottle for serving.
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Paul Gregutt answers questions weekly in the Wine section. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.