Do Proper Wine Glasses Really Matter
Most wine aficionados will tell you that the glassware we drink our wine from is almost as important as the wine we put into it. The wine glass you use – its shape, material and size, – will have a considerable impact on your wine-drinking experience. So if you are the average wine drinker looking to stock your liquor cabinet with wine glasses for the reds, whites, and bubblies that you drink regularly, you will want a supply of glasses to fit those types of wines. . So, let’s explore how choosing the right wine glass can enhance your wine-drinking experience.
The Anatomy of a Wine Glass
Understanding the anatomy of a wine glass and how each component has its role, will help us better understand how to outfit our wine glass collection. A wine glass is comprised of four parts; from bottom to top, they are: the base, the stem, the bowl, and the rim. The bowl is the most important element, while the rim and stem are close seconds. A thinner rim is less distracting to drinkers as they sip their wine, and a smooth rim will not impede the wine as it flows from glass to mouth.
Size and Shape of the Bowl
Since most of the enjoyment of wine comes from its aroma, the way one swirls the wine in the bowl greatly affects its taste. Swirling wine will aerate it slightly and release some of the aroma, also known as the “nose.” Since aeration is vital to the tasting, the bowl should be large enough to comfortably swirl the wine without spilling or splashing it. The bowl should also be tapered, even just slightly at the top, to retain and concentrate the nose of the wine. The bowl therefore, for red wines and white wines, varies in its size and function.
Larger Bowls for Reds
Although there are scores of wine varieties, the most common types of red wine are Bordeaux, Burgundy, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot. These full-bodied wines, in particular, need room to breathe and to release their aroma; thus, a larger bowl lets the wine’s aroma assert itself. Red wines also need time to “open” and larger bowls allow this to happen more easily. In general, red wines, with their bolder taste and nose, require a larger glass to allow all those aromas and flavors to emerge.
Smaller Bowls for Whites
If you’re more of a white wine drinker – a fan of Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Riesling, and Sauvignon Blanc – look for a glass that is smaller than the typical red wine glass: one that is shaped like a “U” and narrower, is the classic white wine glass. This gives enough room for the aromas to be released but also helps in maintaining the cooler temperature of white wines (which are always served chilled).
Stemless Wine Glasses
Stemless wine glasses have become a “thing” in the last few years, as they are less fragile and more practical (they are easier, for instance, to load into a dishwasher). However, stems do serve a purpose (other than just looking good). When you hold the wine glass by the bowl your fingerprints are not the loveliest of sights. In addition, having your hand directly on the bowl will warm a red wine, which should be served well below body temperature and slightly below room temperature.
The Bottom Line on Bowls
The rule of thumb is that while a larger bowl will do little or no harm to a white wine, a bowl that is too small can affect your enjoyment of a red wine. On the other hand, while a wider opening is suited to aerating a red wine, it will allow too much of the more subtle aromas of a white wine to escape. Flutes – tall, thin glasses – are ideal for champagne and other sparkling wines, as they help the bubbles last longer. So bigger bowl and wider opening for reds, and smaller bowl and narrower opening for whites – that’s the bottom line.
Glass vs. Crystal
For a regular wine glass – and not those ceremoniously pulled out on special occasions – glass is the ideal type, lauded in particular for its practicality. Glass won’t absorb odors, making it user-friendly for the frequent wine drinker. The downside of glass is that to maintain its durability the rim usually has a “lip,” which may be rolled or bumpy and which isn’t ideal for wine enjoyment. Clear glass is also better than colored or etched glass because it allows drinkers to get a good look at their wine.
Crystal wine glasses are another option. They can be made with lead or without. Lead-free crystal is almost as durable as glass – and dishwasher safe, as well – and is less expensive than leaded crystal, making it a good compromise. Lead crystal is considered the top of the line for wine glasses, as it can be blown very thin – especially around the rim of the glass – and it also refracts light, which allows the wine glass to showcase its contents. Also, despite rumors to the contrary, the lead in leaded crystal is not dangerous. However, leaded crystal can be pricey and its delicate nature means that lead-crystal wine glasses must be handled with care.
Wine as a Hobby… or Not
If you take your wine drinking seriously, the wine glass you use is really just a stepping stone to a full-blown passion. With equipment like wine buckets, coolers, and an array of corkscrews on the market – not to mention complete wine cellars – even amateur oenologists can discover that their hobby has become a full-time preoccupation. For many of us, though, just give us a good bottle of red or white – and the right wine glass – and we’re good to go. Bottoms up!