How your choice of wine glass can affect the taste
You would never consider drinking a fine wine from a plastic cup but many wine drinkers through either skepticism or ignorance choose the wrong glassware for their favourite wines.
It may sound unlikely but the type of glassware you serve your wine in can have a significant effect on the aroma and taste. While opinions vary to a degree most wine experts upon conducting taste tests with different glasses conclude that the size and shape of the glass can radically alter the taste of the wine.
For myself I was completely unconvinced as my peers tried in vain to explain the need to upgrade my glassware and then I went to a rather unique wine tasting. Our host brought out three wines, each coming from a different vintage they were served in a different glasses. Along with the other assembled tasters I compared and contrasted the wines discussing the subtle differences of this over that. Then the host made an announcement, we had all been drinking the same wine from three different glasses. I went home and traded in my single set of supermarket shelf ready wine glasses for separate red and white sets the same day. While I’m not advocating you go out and get a range of wine glasses for every possible wine you may drink at least opt for an everyday glass set for each.
The science of the wine glass
When the wine is in the glass, it reacts with the oxygen in the air, softening the harsher tannins found in wine. It is for this same reason it is recommended that red wines be decanted and allowed to aerate before serving.
If you choose a glass with a larger diameter, you’ll give the wine more surface area, allowing for a larger ratio of oxygen to wine and increasing the rate of oxidation. Putting this simply, the flavours will be ‘smoothened out’ much far more rapidly in a larger bowl than would occur in a smaller glass.
The process of wine aeration is accelerated further by the gentle swirling of the glass, allowing the wine and oxygen to mix. Swirling the wine smoothly becomes more difficult and awkward in thinner wine glasses which is why reds typically have a larger bowl.
Different glasses for different wines
A taller Bordeaux glass is designed for full bodied red wines such as a Syrah/Shiraz or a Cabernet Sauvignon. This glass design both concentrates the aroma and directs the wine towards the back of the mouth. The Burgundy glass, on the other hand, is designed with more delicate wines such as a Pinot Noir in mind, as the larger bowl helps the more subtle aromas to accumulate. The Burgundy glass also directs the wine to the tip of the tongue first.
For white wines the range of glassware is even more extensive but the principles remains the same. Wider glasses allow faster oxidisation which is important for an oaked Chardonnay but may be detrimental to a fresh crisp white such as a Sémillon or Sauvignon Blanc. Instead these should be served in a much thinner glass concentrating the aromas and allowing less aeration.
Similarly, sparkling wines such as Champagne should ideally be served in flutes, with an even smaller surface area ensures the wine continues sparkling in the glass for longer.
Stems Are Essential
The recent trend of stemless wine glasses may seem unique and exciting but the stem exists for a reason. It allows you to hold the glass without the warmth from your hand coming into contact with the bowl and affecting the taste of the wine.
Crystal glass – the debate
While wine experts debate the merit of crystal glasses for the average wine enthusiast they present two huge problem which make them less desirable.
Fine crystal glass is more porous than normal glass and will consequently absorb tastes and odours from the objects, surfaces and chemicals it comes into contact with. Being less dense than normal glass regular dishwasher use, and even regular hand washing can leave you glassware looking old and scratched before its time.
It should also be noted that although a lot of Crystal Glass is advertised as Lead Crystal this is not generally the case – a good thing as lead is toxic!
What Glassware Should You Buy?
I wont tell you what glassware to buy ultimately this is a personal decision depending on the type of wine you typically drink and the budget you have but start off with a set of everyday red and white. I’d generally recommend a set of Chardonnay glasses and a set of Bordeaux glasses, as these can be pressed into service for any red or white and a set of flutes of you’re fond of your bubbly.
About The Author
John is a wine enthusiast and writer/reviewer for Wine Experts Guide who enjoys helping people explore wines whether they are simply tasty and affordable or worthy of cellaring.
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