We hear all the time from wine enthusiasts that the glassware we enjoy our wines from is as important as the wines we buy but is there anything to it. I was very skeptical but honestly the answer is yes, a resounding yes! That’s not to say you need to rush out and acquire 6 different glasses you can select one in the middle.
Wine Glass Shape Matters
A nice wine can be enjoyed from a teacup, no one is disputing this but the wine glass shape does matter. Wines react when exposed to air, the nose, body and structure of the wines will evolve differently depending on the glassware used.
Put simply while a taller Bordeaux glass is designed for fuller bodied wines like a Sauvignon Blanc or Cabernet Sauvignon which concentrates the aroma and directs the wine to the back of the mouth a Burgundy glass works better with delicate wines like Pinot Noir, where the larger bowl helps the gentler aromas to accumulate.
For a the complexity of a red wine to be fully appreciated a larger bowl is required, this allows for easier swirling without spillage helping to expose more of the wine to the air and release the crucial aromas. While bigger bolder red wines such as a Syrah or Malbec will benefit less (especially if they are younger) for a full bodied wine such as a Pinot Noir a large bowl such as that found on a burgundy style wine glass is essential. You will typically find that glassware intended for reds offers a much wider rim, this larger opening offers the wines greater exposure to air. When wine is allowed to breathe or aerate the structure of the wine is transformed, the tannins break down and improve the wine’s bouquet . The rim, on the other hand, acts like a vent, releasing or trapping the wine’s bouquet within the glass.
The belief that the shape of the wine glass delivers the wine to different parts of the mouth is perennial but has been largely disproved, that being said the shape and size of a glass still influences taste. Sipping from a glass with a wide opening allows the aroma to reach your nose at the same time as the wine touches your tongue a pairing which makes an undeniable difference, it also allows for further aeration as it simulates a smaller swirl motion.
The transformative effect of this ongoing aeration will become detectable both on the tongue and in the nose particularly for older more complex vintages. The rise of stemless glasses is less damaging to reds than to whites but both can and will be altered by the warming effect of your hand on the glass.
The Parts of a wine Glass
A anatomy of a wine glass is comprised of four parts, the base, stem, bowl and rim. The bowl of the glass must be large enough to comfortably swirl without spilling to allow proper aeration releasing the aromas, It should taper in at the top to concentrate the nose of the wine released from the swirling and deliver it to the drinker. For better wine intake aim for a fine thin lip on the glass as opposed to a thick-lipped glass.
Despite the popularity of stemless wine glasses these require the drinker to directly hold the bowl delivering the heat of their hand to the wine with disastrous consequences for quality.
Selecting a Wine Glass
If you are an adventurous wine drinker then find yourself a few solid middle ground glasses, a everyday white, and everyday red and a few champagne flutes if you indulge in a spot of bubbly. It is tempting to opt for only a single glass but remember a larger bowl wont harm a white but too small a bowl can limit your enjoyment of red, to wide an opening although ideal for aerating your red will allow the more subtle nose of your whites to escape. If you drink a lot of bubbly then odds are you have flutes, these are ideal for sparkling wines helping the carbonation to last longer and delivering the aroma but they should not be pressed into service for anything else.