As wine lovers, we spend a lot of time thinking about wine. That brings a lot of pleasure, but a surprising aspect that is commonly overlooked can really affect the overall experience: the wine glass itself. In this one limited case, it isn’t just marketing. The wine glass DOES play a substantial role in wine appreciation! Here’s what you should know.
It makes intuitive sense that one size or shape of wine glass may not be ideal for the entire range of wines, but how can we know which type of glass is best for a given type of wine? It turns out that the answer is as plain as the nose on your face!
Let’s start with sparkling wine (and we typically do). The bubbles are a big part of the enjoyment, and they make sure that the aromas leap up to your nose. That makes the proper glass more a matter of preserving the bubbles than best presenting the aroma. So choose a fluted glass, with a tall, narrow body. The limited surface area will ensure that the bubbles hang on until the last sip. By all means, avoid that icon of the 50’s, the short, broad champagne glass. It will dissipate the bubbles and make you look silly, unless you’re wearing your smoking jacket.
White wines need some help preserving and presenting their aromas. That suggests a small glass, so that the wine is close to the top. The glass should be about 2/3 full with a standard 6 ounce pour. The bulb of the glass should curve gently inward toward the top to focus the aroma, with an ample opening to coax gentle aromas toward your nostrils. A nice, long stem will keep the heat of your hand away form the chilled wine, too.
Red wines have significantly more robust aromas. That means that the appropriate wine glass should be equally robust (a fancy word for big). Red wines can present their aromas while significantly further from the nose, and benefit from more mixing with room air. There are many subtly different red wine glasses, but a general rule of thumb is to choose larger glasses as the wine varietals become more aggressive. Serving a meek Cab? A smaller red wine glass is great. Super-bold Zinfandel? Maybe a glass the size of your fist is better! Remember, the goal is to present the ideal blending of wine molecules and room air for the perfect sniff.
So how many types of glasses are required? Most people have a few favorite varietals, and that drives their cupboard of wine glasses. We have two styles of sparkling glasses (we love those sparklings and can’t quite agree on the ideal shape), one style of white wine glass, and two sizes of red wine glass, big and bigger. It all (sort of) fits in one cupboard, with space left for fun wine glass charms, essential accessories for any wine-loving family.
Good wine can overcome a poor choice in wine glass, and a good glass can really help out a marginal wine. Like most things, it comes down to finding what you like and sticking with it!
About the Author: John grills a mean steak and is always in the market for another wine fridge. Believes that if a winery has more than 10 employees, it's probably too big. Buys wine faster than he drinks it, but who cares?