You might cast off specialty stemware as a mere wine snob pretension, but once you see the light, it’s extremely difficult to go back. The best way to understand how drastically a wine can change based on the glass it’s presented in, is to conduct a very basic experiment.
Pour yourself some red Burgundy (Pinot Noir) in a clunky, thick-walled wine glass from IKEA with a relatively short and narrow bowl. Then pour some into a broad Schott Zwiesel “Burgunder” or Burgundy glass.
The first thing you’ll notice is how much more aromatic the wine will appear when drunk from the glass with the deep, rounded bowl. This shape allows for more of the wine’s surface area to interact with oxygen, which will amp up the wine’s aromas and will allow you to experience the wine’s delicate flavor nuances. A large bowl also enables you to swirl the wine vigorously, which will help with aeration and will soften a wine’s tannins if they start out being quite assertive. Drinking wine from a stout and narrow glass makes aeration challenging and can hinder a wine from truly expressing itself in the glass. Do your wine (and yourself) a favor and give it a proper stage upon which to perform. The difference will be completely worth your while.
The second thing you’ll notice when comparing the two glasses is how elegant the wine will taste when drunk from a crystal glass that has thin, fragile walls. The reasoning behind this might be less than scientific, but pressing your lips to a thick wall of glass is simply not appealing. The last thing you want to taste when sipping a glass of wine is the actual glass itself.
Matching Glass Type to Wine Type
Unless you consider yourself an über wine geek, you should be good to go with three types of wine glasses: a narrow flute for Champagne and sparkling wines, a smaller glass for whites, and a larger, deeper glass for reds.
The key to sparkling wine is maintaining its effervescence for as long as possible. A long narrow flute only allows a small portion of the wine’s surface area to be exposed to oxygen, which keeps the bubbles in your bubbly from dissipating too quickly. Try drinking a glass of Prosecco from a standard red wine glass and your sparkling wine will turn still real fast.
There are many variations within the white wine glass category including a tulip shaped glass for highly aromatic grape varieties like Riesling, a narrower bowl for crisp varieties like Sauvignon Blanc and Grüner Veltliner, or a more bulbous glass for rich Chardonnays and Viogniers which see some oak, but generally speaking, most whites will show well in a smaller glass.
Like with the red Burgundy example, most red wines (specifically those that are high in tannins such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Malbec) will benefit from a glass with a large, deep bowl, which allows for ample oxygen contact. You’ll find a slew of red wine glasses on the market that are tailored for specific red wine styles or grape varieties, but any larger sized glass will do. Bordeaux glasses are typically taller and slimmer than Burgundy glasses, since Pinot Noir is a very delicate and aromatic grape variety that benefits from a good amount of air.
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