Devoting my career to wine has often led to many assumptions on my character. The most common misconception being that I am snobbish towards wine. Such is not the case. In fact, as I write this, I am sipping on a quiet glass of Rioja out of a small tumbler that I normally reserve for water and impromptu shots of tequila. I do so, not for lack of fine stemware, but rather for the pleasure that I get from enjoying this table wine as it would be served to me in Spain. Unpretentious and without formality. It is often heard that there is a wine for every occasion and that statement can also be related to the stemware in which we choose to serve it. Selecting the “right” glass can be confusing and the debate around what is ideal is often conflicting. So, how does one discern between the mouth blown crystal goblet and the tear drop shaped wine glass? That’s where I come in. Your trusty Sommelier is here to weed through the nonsense, deliver the goods and most importantly, save your time, money and wine. Spare me a moment while I top up…
How do you know if you are using the wrong glass? Use this as your barometer: If your current wine glasses are potentially ovenproof in thickness and resemble a fishbowl, it’s time for an upgrade. You’re better off taking a swig out of my water/tequila/late-night whisky glass. Well-regarded producers such as Schott Zwiesel, Spiegelau, Riedel and Iittala have been happily depleting my retirement fund and limiting my cupboard space for years with their endless suggestions for the perfect glass of wine. These leaders in crystal manufacturing have spent decades researching their design to provide oenophiles with distinctive, stylish yet, functional glassware. With hundreds of selections, wine enthusiasts are able to match their glass to their style of wine down to the variety. It’s a Riesling-Barolo-Syrah Lover’s dream come true. Now before you begin spending all your hard earned money on magic beans and titanium grade crystal, a bit of advice. Much in the same vein that “all you need is one good knife” in the kitchen, the same rule can be loosely applied to wine glasses. A modest selection of well selected stemware is all that one needs to enhance their wine experience.
There is a common misconception that the bigger the wine glass, the better. It’s like buying a Hummer when all you need is Volkswagon. Investing in a set of well-made standard wine glasses will make a world of difference as opposed to buying precious, delicate and often absurdly, large oversized glasses. This will be your go-to glass for white wines and simple reds. Consider the style of wines you are most often drinking. Unless you’re hanging with the likes of Nicholas Cage and Jay-Z, I assume your wine selections are much like mine. More often than not, I am opening humble wines that are often youthful, fresh and designed to be drunk young. For these wines, consider a glass in which the bowl is slightly bigger than the aperture (lip) but is still moderate in size. Your standard wine glass should not be more than 12-15 ounces. If you are looking for glassware to suit your more precious wines, consider investing in 2-3 styles of glassware. First and foremost, these are your glasses in which a stem is necessary. Wine temperature can easily affect the taste of your wine and the function of the stem is to avoid the body heat from your hands warming your glass. When it comes to shape, I suggest a larger and more exaggerated bowl with a smaller aperture for complex, reds that have high aromatics such as Pinot Noir, Nebbiolo, Cru Beaujolais, or Grenache. This wine can also be used for your richer styled white wines, such as Chardonnay, Marsanne, Roussane or New World Viognier. For full bodied red wines, a shape similar to your standard wine glass but larger in size (think 15-20 ounces) should be sufficient to handle your Syrah, Bordeaux, Priorato or Brunello needs. Remember, a larger glass does not mean that you pour larger amounts. The point of a larger glass is much like the point of a decanter, to provide greater surface area to assist in releasing the precious aromatics of your wine. As much as I like to lean towards generous pours, you should never fill your wine glass to the brim. A 4 ounce glass of wine is ideal to allow the aromatics in your wine to open up and gives plenty of room to practice your wine swirling flare. The practice of swirling is to release the aromatics of the wine and concentrate the aromas towards the nose, hence the need for a glass that tapers inwards at the top.
And finally, to flute or not to flute? That is the question that often buzzes around what is ideal for sparkling wine and champagne. Many Champagne producers argue that the narrow shape of the flute is not wide enough to highlight the delicate, intense mineral notes that vintage champagne displays. I have had countless conversations with Champagne representatives who encourage drinking Champagne out of white wine glasses. The same suggestion is made for highly quaffable, simple styles of sparkling wine such as Lambrusco or Prosecco. Others believe that the allure is in the bubbles and that the flute’s design captures the textural experience that one has when drinking sparkling wine or Champagne. Regardless of your preference, one thing is for certain, the famous “Marie Antoniette’s breast” shaped glass is completely useless for sparkling wine consumption. It neither captures the bubbles nor the aromatics and hence, your wine is lost in the glass.
Now that you have your glasses selected, you will need to wash them. As a natural born klutz I can provide some of the best advice on caring for your glassware. Always hand wash your wine glasses, especially if they are crystal. Even if they are machine wash friendly, you will eventually find that the heat of the dishwasher will degrade the quality of the glass and make it more susceptible to breakage over time. Cradle the bowl in your hands when trying to wash the inside of the glass, use the same method when polishing. Most breakage occurs when we hold the glass from the base and twist the bowl in the opposite direction. Allow your glasses to air dry upside down and then give a quick polish before storing in the cupboard. Always check for detergent residue before pouring wine into your glass.
So there you have it, out of hundreds of glasses to choose from, I have narrowed the options down to four. I hope this clears up some cupboard space for you. Now pass the corkscrew already!
Posted in Wine Chat