Does the lead in lead crystal glasses leach into wine?
January 23, 2005 4:01 PM   Subscribe

So I'm looking at lead crystal wine glasses for serving purposes. Does the lead in lead crystal leach out into the wine, and from there into the drinker's body? If safe, are there reasonably priced glasses that one would recommend, which are useful for both red and white wine?
posted by AlexReynolds to Food & Drink (10 answers total)
I just had a lecture on lead poisoning that included unpublished data on this very topic. The bottom line is that yes, this occurs, and the reaction is first order, time dependent, and very, very slow. It took weeks for detectable levels of lead to leach into the booze.

On the other hand, a teetotaler doc volunteered a few lead decanters of the Scotch he kept around for company, all filled when he moved into his apartment 20 years prior. These established that the reaction continued over time in a zero-order way; some of these whiskys had 20 mg/mL of lead in them, which is a really horrific amount.

The consensus was that lead crystal was OK for serving, but you ought not store anything in it.
posted by ikkyu2 at 4:08 PM on January 23, 2005

Er. The reaction is zero order, not first order. I should either watch football or post, not both.
posted by ikkyu2 at 4:09 PM on January 23, 2005

Best answer: Yes, it's safe for stemware and decanters so long as you actually drink the stuff in a reasonable amount of time, as ikkyu2 said. Riedel is what you'll see in all the food magazines and cooking shows; it's designed for the wine flavor, not the look (though they are pretty) and is pretty reasonable at $15-20 USD per glass. If you're going for a fancier look, Mikasa has some lovely patterns, at about $15 per glass if you can find an outlet store.
posted by mimi at 4:46 PM on January 23, 2005

Why does it change the flavor? That alone is worrisome.
posted by grouse at 4:52 PM on January 23, 2005

Wow, so those dumb California Prop 65 warnings for lead crystal actually do have some vague purpose.
posted by Nelson at 4:53 PM on January 23, 2005

Why does it change the flavor? That alone is worrisome.

It's the shape.
posted by kindall at 5:09 PM on January 23, 2005

Response by poster: Why does it change the flavor? That alone is worrisome.

Apparently Riedel and the like are shaped in such a way that the aroma of the wine (as shaped by type) is funneled into the nose, and influences the taste accordingly, since taste is largely affected by smell.

Thanks to ikkyu and mimi for the health pointers. I don't want to cause myself and my guests to permanently lose 10-15 IQ points!
posted by AlexReynolds at 5:15 PM on January 23, 2005

We're not convinced that lead can cause a 'lead encephalopathy' (cognitive impairment) in adults. In children it certainly does, with no lower limit on the amount of lead that's been proven harmful. The data in adults is not so clear.

But in adults it can cause bone marrow damage (anemia) and peripheral neuropathy, which are certainly compelling enough reasons to avoid it.
posted by ikkyu2 at 8:26 AM on January 24, 2005 [1 favorite]

Riedel is great, but not really reasonably priced. They charge a premium price evacuate of the design that goes into their glasses; each glass is engineered for a particular wine. For reasonably priced glassware, the best type of place I have seen are restaurant supply stores. They generally have decent (but not exceptional) glassware at good prices.
posted by rtimmel at 9:46 AM on January 24, 2005

I'm possibly a little late to the thread, but if you have access to a Costco, their large size crystal wine glasses (a traditional cabernet/bourdeaux bowl) are made by Riedel. At $28 for 8 glasses, you can't beat it.
posted by hominid211 at 11:45 AM on January 24, 2005

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