Why your wine glass matters more than you think
Yes, wine glasses are actually meticulously designed instruments. From the shape of the bowl to the thickness of the rim, every aspect has the potential to enhance or detract from the intricacies of the wine you’re drinking.
While it’s tempting to choose wine glasses based solely on aesthetics, the real magic lies in understanding how the design influences the sensory experience.
Here’s why your wine glass matters more than you think, starting with the basics.
The anatomy of a wine glass
A wine glass is made up of various components that contribute to the wine-drinking experience. These include:
Base: The foundation of your wine glass, providing stability and balance.
Stem: More than a stylistic choice, the stem serves a practical purpose. Holding the glass by the stem prevents the transfer of heat from your hands to the wine, maintaining the optimal temperature.
Bowl: The heart of the wine glass. The bowl’s shape and size are pivotal in influencing the wine’s exposure to air, affecting the development of its aromas and flavours.
Rim: The edge of the bowl. The thickness and shape of the rim determine how the wine flows onto your palate, influencing the overall mouthfeel and taste perception.
Understanding the anatomy of a wine glass is the first step towards appreciating its impact on your wine drinking.
The science behind shapes
So how does a wine glass actually affect wine?
The shape of the bowl, especially the tapering design, concentrates the wine’s aromas near the rim. This concentration enhances the ability of the drinker to perceive the nuanced scents of the wine. In essence, the right glass serves as a vessel that directs these complex aromas to the nose, allowing for an even more exciting olfactory experience.
Aeration and oxidation
The size and shape of the bowl determine the extent of wine exposure to air. Red wine glasses, with their wider bowls, facilitate aeration, which is particularly beneficial for bolder red wines. Aeration helps soften tannins and allows the wine to “breathe,” unlocking its full potential. White wine glasses, with narrower bowls, offer controlled aeration for lighter white wines.
The material of the glass, especially if it’s crystal, can respond more quickly to temperature changes. This feature ensures that the wine remains at the optimal serving temperature, enhancing both the texture and flavour profile. A well-designed glass helps maintain the balance between serving temperature and the wine’s intended characteristics.
Delivery to palate
The shape and thickness of the rim impact how the wine flows onto the palate. A thin rim can provide a seamless transition, allowing the wine to glide smoothly, whereas a thicker rim might alter the perception. The way the wine is delivered to the palate affects the overall mouthfeel and taste experience.
Looks aren’t everything, but the clarity and shape of the glass can contribute to the visual appeal of the wine. Crystal glassware, with its clear and brilliant quality, allows you to appreciate the wine’s colour and legs, adding an aesthetic dimension to the experience. The visual presentation can influence your overall perception and anticipation of the wine.
The tactile experience of holding a well-crafted stem and sipping from a finely-rimmed glass adds an extra layer of pleasure to the act of drinking wine. The sensory engagement with the glass enhances the overall enjoyment and transforms the ritual into a more sophisticated experience.
Varietal-specific glassware – What wine with what glass
It’s considered sacrilegious to serve white wine in a red wine glass and vice versa, but do you know why? The concept of one-size-fits-all is quickly dispelled when it comes to varietal-specific glasses. Each grape variety boasts unique characteristics, and the right glass can amplify these traits.
Here’s a guide to varietal-specific glassware.
What glass is best for red wine?
Tapered at the top and wider at the bottom, red wine glasses promote aeration and soften tannins.
For bold reds like Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, explore glasses with taller, wider bowls that provide ample aeration, allowing these robust reds to breathe and release complex aromas.
Burgundy glasses have a broader bowl that directs delicate, nuanced aromas to the nose, enhancing the subtleties of Pinot Noir and other delicate reds.
What glass is best for white wine?
Taller and more narrow than red wine glasses, white wine glasses emphasise the acidity and aromatics of white wines.
Aromatic whites like Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling should be served in glasses with narrower bowls to concentrate the vibrant aromas characteristic of these varietals.
Fuller-bodied white wines like Chardonnay benefit from glasses with slightly wider bowls, allowing a controlled flow that enhances the creamy texture and layered flavours.
What glass is best for Champagne?
Slim and tall, these glasses maintain carbonation, so your glass of bubbly stays bubbly. The narrow opening of the flute helps to retain the wine’s chill, ensuring that the Champagne is served at the optimal temperature for enjoyment.
The design of the flute also allows for the concentration of the wine’s aromas near the nose. This is particularly important for sparkling wines, as the aromatic compounds contribute significantly to the overall tasting experience.
While flutes are the traditional choice for serving Champagne, some people also enjoy using tulip-shaped glasses. These glasses have a slightly wider bowl than flutes, tapering towards the top. They offer a compromise between the visual presentation of the bubbles and a broader surface area for the release of aromas.
What glass is best for dessert wines?
The best glass for dessert wines is typically a smaller glass with a tulip-shaped bowl. The tulip shape is designed to concentrate the rich and complex aromas of dessert wines, such as late-harvest Riesling, Sauternes, or Port.
The narrower rim of the glass helps direct these sweet and intense aromas toward the nose, enhancing the overall tasting experience.
The smaller size of the glass also encourages controlled sipping, allowing the drinker to savour the concentrated flavours of dessert wines without overwhelming the palate.
Caring for your wine glasses
Ensuring the longevity and optimal performance of your wine glasses requires thoughtful care. Here are some tips for storing, cleaning and handling your wine glasses.
How to store wine glasses
- If your glasses have stems, store them upright to prevent any bending or breakage. This also helps maintain the overall balance of the glass.
- Store your glasses in a clean, dust-free environment to avoid the need for frequent cleaning before each use.
- Give each glass enough space to prevent them from touching, reducing the risk of scratches and chips.
How to clean your wine glasses
- While many wine glasses are dishwasher-safe, handwashing is often recommended for delicate crystal glasses. Use a mild, non-abrasive detergent to clean them.
- Extreme temperature changes can lead to breakage, so avoid washing hot glasses with cold water or vice versa.
- Use a soft sponge or cloth to clean your wine glasses. Avoid abrasive materials that could scratch the glass or leave residues.
- Periodically check your glasses for stains, especially if they’ve been in storage. Soak them in a solution of white vinegar and water, or use specialised glass-cleaning products to remove any discolouration.
How to handle your wine glasses
- When handling wine glasses, always hold them by the stem. This prevents heat from your hands from affecting the temperature of the wine and minimises the chances of leaving fingerprints on the bowl.
- When polishing or drying your glasses, avoid twisting the bowl or stem, as this can weaken the structure over time.
- Transporting multiple glasses can be tricky. Consider using a wine glass holder or a tray designed for this purpose to move them safely without the risk of breakage.
A wine glass is only as good as it’s wine
Now you can confidently serve wine without worrying about making a wine faux pas. But even the best wine glass can’t save a bad bottle. For a curated range of wine selected by one of the best sommeliers in Melbourne, buy wine online at Little Prince Wine or at our local Melbourne wine store in St Kilda.