Wine Tips: Choosing the Right Wine Glasses
Selecting suitable wine glasses for different types of wine entails six basic points of consideration: size, shape, design, weight, material and aesthetics. The size of the glass is determined by which type of wine you plan to be drinking from it. Generally speaking, red wine glasses are of a larger size than white wine glasses, and those intended for the best wines are larger than ones you would use for more ordinary wines.
In my case, I use a 17 oz. capacity glass for ordinary red wines, and a 12 2/3 oz. one for whites. If I’m serving Bordeaux, and similarly tannic, full-bodied, top quality reds, I use a 23 oz. glass which was created with Bordeaux particularly in mind. I naturally don’t fill my Bordeaux, or any other wine glass, to the brim. After all, taking into consideration that a standard wine bottle only holds 750 ml. of wine, there wouldn’t be a whole lot remaining for anyone else to drink if I did. The large size of these glasses and the fact that they’re widest at the halfway point permit the wine to “breathe” by affording a wide surface area of wine in contact with the air, which promotes oxidation. Oxidation assists in softening the tannins of a sturdy red that may otherwise be overly harsh, and lets you more fully appreciate the complexity and various flavors present in a noble red.
White wine, on the other hand, has far fewer tannins, and generally speaking, will not gain anything from oxidation. A smaller glass is also more appropriate for whites simply because they are served chilled. Clearly, it will take more time to drink a greater amount of wine, and you want to drink up every glass of white wine before it has a can get too warm. One white wine that is an exception to these rules is good white Burgundy, such as Chablis or Montrachet. These high quality whites do gain from oxidation, and should be poured at the temperature of typical red wines, from 55 to 59 degrees Fahrenheit. Depending on the quality level, I generally serve white Burgundy, and other high quality Chardonnays, in 14 4/5 oz. glasses or my 17 oz. red wine glasses.
The largest capacity glasses are usually reserved for top-notch Burgundy. I use 26 1/2 oz. glasses, but I’ve seen Burgundy glasses as large as 31 3/4 oz. But the subject of Burgundy glasses in fact brings us more into the realm of shape than size. Burgundy is a rather delicate and highly fragrant red. Like Bordeaux, it is normally consumed from glasses made with Burgundy’s fragrant Pinots specifically in mind. They are balloon shaped: quite wide in the middle, but tapering up to a comparatively narrow opening at the top. The broad center offers a good amount of surface area for the bouquet to waft up from, while the narrow mouth retains the wonderful Burgundy bouquet in the glass, preventing it from dissipating so that you can enjoy it to the fullest extent.
One more kind of uniquely shaped wine glass is the champagne flute. These champagne glasses have narrow, tall bowls to decrease the chance of their bubbles dissipating too quickly. Tulip shaped Champagne flutes are preferable to straight-sided or trumpet-shaped ones due to the fact that, as is the case with wine glasses in general, the narrower mouth serves to concentrate the bouquet inside the glass. Speaking of shape in general, I like diamond-shaped glasses. They are nice looking, and an advantage of the diamond shape is that it’s easy to see just where the widest point of the glass is, which is also the point to which a wine glass ought to be filled.
As for design, basic, long-stemmed glasses are undoubtedly preferable to stemless glasses. The stem serves several important functions. To begin with, by holding the bowl up off the table, it lets you see the color of the wine. Secondly, it makes it less difficult to swirl the wine in the glass to aerate it and get an insight into how much of body the wine has as it drips again down the sides of the glass. Third, it’s a convenient handle which prevents your hand heating up the wine, and your fingers smudging up the glass.
Weight and balance are also important considerations simply because you want a glass that feels good in your hand. This is a highly subjective area, but I myself don’t like heavy wine glasses, so I prefer those made from thin glass. A thin rim is also nicer to sip from. There is a drawback to thin glass however, that can lead to inconvenience and extra expense: it chips and breaks easily. A way to avoid this issue is to buy glasses reinforced with titanium instead of lead. Titanium wine glasses are not only far more sturdy than their leaded counterparts, they are also lighter in weight and maintain their clarity far better.
As for material, you certainly want to go with high-quality Austrian or German crystal. Don’t panic, that’s actually not as pricey as it sounds. You can get beautiful, elegant machine-made crystal from well known makers at sensible prices, especially if you do some comparison shopping on the Internet. Naturally, their top of the line hand blown glasses have a tendency to be very pricey, but it’s not necessary to break the bank when you can get really nice glasses for considerably less, including the titanium versions.
That brings us lastly to aesthetics, the most subjective topic of all. It’s an crucial one however due to the fact, after all, the ultimate function of good wine glasses is to act as an tasteful foil for whatever wine you happen to be drinking so aesthetics is every bit as big a consideration as functionality. In essence, I’d say determine how much you want to invest in wine glasses and get the ones that you consider are the nicest among the ones that fall within your budget.
It’s possible to buy a unique size and shape of glass for every single famous type of wine, but that’s overkill, in my opinion. I can’t see any reason to buy a special glass for Syrah, for instance. If you’re drinking a high quality Syrah, like a Hermitage or Penfolds Grange, you should serve it in a Bordeaux glass. If it’s a more ordinary version of this popular varietal, you can just use regular red wine glasses. The same goes for any other powerful, full-bodied red In the case of a top-knotch Pinot Noir, you should use Burgundy glasses because Burgundy itself is made with Pinot Noir grapes. If you’re having a more pedestrian Pinot Noir, ordinary red wine glasses are a better alternative due to the fact that the high-capacity Burgundy glasses will simply make the wine’s ordinariness a lot more noticeable.
In my opinion, a full set of wine glasses should include normal red wine glasses (that can also be employed as water goblets), Bordeaux glasses, Burgundy glasses, white wine glasses, (for Chablis and other of the best white Burgundies, you can use red wine or Bordeaux glasses), and champagne glasses. You may wish to add a few specialty glasses to the list if you are a Brandy drinker or in the habit of drinking dessert wines, but if not, you should be prepared for any contingency with these five sorts of wine glasses.