A Touch of Glass
Elegant wine glasses are a pleasure both to look at and to sip from, but quality stemware is about more than aesthetic appeal. What should one look for in a wine glass? Here below, our guide to finding the right glass for the right wine.
Words By Natasha Were
The shape, size, colour and thickness of a wine glass all influence our perception and experience of the wine. Although the finest goblet in the world will not make a bad wine good, the right glass can boost a wine's inherent strong points.
The manufacturers of some of the finest glassware, such as Spiegelau, Riedel and Eisch have developed countless shapes of wine glass, each designed to enhance the aromas and characteristics of particular grape varietals. The shape not only influences the rate at which wine breathes, or oxidises, (wider bowls create a larger surface area for oxidation) but also the part of the mouth the wine is directed to, and thus the taste experienced. Red wines benefit most from breathing as the process can ‘smooth out’ the taste of these more complex wines. Large glasses with rounded bowls that curve inwards at the top are ideal as the shape also helps to capture the aroma of the wine, directing it to the nose.
White wines tend to require less oxidation, so glasses for fresh, light whites are narrower with a smaller mouth. Fuller-bodied whites, like oaked Chardonnays will, however, benefit from a slightly wider bowl.
For Champagnes and Proseccos the small openings of narrow flutes ensure the wines sparkle for longer and add visual appeal with the steady stream of rising bubbles.
When it comes to wine glasses, bigger is usually better. Good wine glasses should be filled to less than halfway, allowing space for the wine to breathe and to be swirled in the glass. Twelve to sixteen ounce glasses are considered an optimal size for enjoying red and white wines. Sherry, port, dessert wines and sparkling wines are notable exceptions to this rule.
Although more fragile, thinner glass is decidedly more elegant and creates a finer stream of wine across the tongue, to give a more profound tasting experience. How thin you go, however, is a matter of balancing aesthetics against durability.
For maximum appreciation, clear glass is desirable as it allows one to fully appreciate the colour and clarity of the wine.
The main advantage of crystal – which is glass with lead, zinc or titanium oxide added to it – is that it can be cut or engraved, and refracts light well, making it especially attractive. The added cost and fragility can, however, outweigh the sparkle.
Traditional wine glasses have long stems, enabling one to hold the stem and thus prevent the bowl being warmed by one’s hands. Good quality stemless glasses, however, are increasingly popular for casual dining. Although contact between fingers and bowl is unavoidable, the shapes retain all the characteristics of their stemmed counterparts, while being less susceptible to being knocked over.
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