Wine glasses are more than a mere container and make a big difference when tasting wine. The thickness, size, transparency and shape of the glass affect how we perceive the aromas and flavors of the wine; it guides our senses, so to speak.
The first person ever who spoke about the importance of the glass for wine drinking was Claus J. Riedel, during the end of the 50s. He was in charge of changing the traditional glassware and create specific glasses for wine drinking. He revealed how the shape of each and every glass will change the perception of the wine. Since then, the brand Riedel has been a reference for high quality wineglasses.
According to Robert Parker, one of the wine gurus of the moment: “The finest glasses for both technical and hedonistic purposes are thes made by Riedel. The effect of these glasses on fine wine is profound. I cannot emphasize enough what a difference they make.”
There are about as many types of glassware as there are wine styles (reds, whites, dessert, sparkling, etc.), which makes picking the right glass essential if we want to truly explore the characteristics of a particular wine.
Anatomy of a wine glass
Knowing the different parts of a glass, and what they do, will help us better understand why it is so important to make the right choice.
- The top part of a wine glass is called the lip or rim. The width of this opening affects how intensely aromas are concentrated and directs the wine to specific areas in the mouth. The diameter determines how strongly we’ll perceive sensations. For example, the difference between tasting wine in a narrower versus a wider glass is significant, because the position of our head as the wine enters the palate is very different.
- The stem is where we hold the glass. It should be long enough to allow for a comfortable grip. The foot is the base of the glass, the support structure.
- The shape of the glass is closely linked to varietal characteristics, aromas, alcohol and acidity. A large-bowled glass will accentuate the aromatic potential of the wine.
- The size of the glass (its volume) affects the intensity and quality of the wine aromas.
The right glass
Generally speaking, red wines call for a wider glass to aid oxygenation and eliminate any reduced notes that may have developed during bottle aging. Whites do nicely in glasses with a narrower rim, which preserve their varietal aromas and acidity, whereas sparkling wines are served in so-called flutes, which are narrower and slightly tapered, or tulip-shaped glasses in order to preserve the bubbles.
Given the vast variety of stemware, don’t worry about buying each and every glass on the market.
The glass should be fine and translucent, ideally 20 to 25 cm tall, and hold enough liquid so that the wine’s most delicate aromatic potential can unfold.
Remember that for a wine tasting, it is best to forego tinted, etched or thick glasses, because they don’t allow for an accurate observation of the nuances of the wine’s color.
The basic Bordeaux and Burgundy glasses, which are very versatile and popular, along with a generic type of glass featuring the aforementioned characteristics, will be more than enough to enjoy any still wine in the comfort of our own home.
Character-driven, firmly structured, tannic and concentrated reds benefit from a Bordeaux glass. The glass in question is tall, with a medium-sized lip, sufficiently narrow to not absorb the alcohol aromas, but wide enough to collect plenty of fruit.
This type of glass balances the tannins, because it directs the wine to the center of the tongue, avoiding the sides where we perceive acidity.
The perfect glass for aromatic, complex and elegant reds. The glass has a wider bowl and lip. It provides a greater surface area for the subtlest aromas to unfold.
This type of glass directs the wine to the tip of the tongue, which brings out the fruit and reduces the perception of acidity.
The musts of proper glass maintenance
Caring for our wine glasses properly will save us a lot of trouble. We should clean our glasses as neutrally as possible to avoid contaminating our sense of smell. This means avoiding potent detergents and paying close attention to the cleanliness of the dish rags, cleaning cloths, dish towels and other drying utensils.
- Wash the glasses with hot water. If using detergent, make sure to opt for something neutral, as mild and fragrance-free as possible.
- Rinsing and drying the glasses properly is essential to prevent unwanted odors. We should rinse with plenty of water, repeat, and then dry the glasses with a dry, clean cloth that doesn’t leave lint residue or smells.
- Finally, store the glasses upright so that strange odors do not collect inside the bowl.