A couple of weeks ago there was a flurry of discussion on wine glasses on Facebook. Some people are sold on Riedel and others had no preference. The question that I pose is, “What is the purpose of the wine glass to you?” The reason that I ask this is because all of us have different interpretations of what drinking wine is all about.
For me, I have specific criteria and expectations from a wine glass. Here is a list of key turnoffs for me when it comes to wine glasses:
· Too small of a bowl which creates two issues. First, if you twirl your wine, and most of us do, you will end up wearing it. Second, if you can’t twirl you cannot help the wine open up and display its aromas and flavors.
· Painted or stenciled logos on glasses that festivals, wineries and some wine bars that want to tell people where the glass came from or where you are. Logos or stencils detracts from allowing one to view the brilliance and beauty of the wine.
· Glasses that are too thick are awkward and distort a wines appearance. I like a wine glass that is light and delicate that can be held comfortably by the stem or base.
· Glasses without stems result in finger prints on the glass and difficult to hold when you get the larger red versions for wines like Pinot Noir. By holding the bowl directly it causes the wine to change temperature.
When you make a decision to buy wine glasses you will begin to realize that there are many different shapes and sizes for every style of wine that you drink. There is no correct or proper glass dictated by official guidelines. Perception and visual appeal are very important. Some examples are champagne glasses or flutes which are long and slender. This allows one to see the bubbles ascending in this beautiful beverage. This sets an image of sensuality and romance. Imagine a newlywed couple at their reception drinking champagne from a universal wine glass verses drinking from champagne flutes. The image is quite different. If you have a thin Pinot Noir glass with a fine Pinot wine then you can see the brilliance of the wine through the glass as well as it beautiful red color. These views setup the aesthetic perception of wines that make them so appealing and beautiful.
There are also advantages to a specific size and shape of wine glasses for different wines. Traditionally wine glasses with larger, broader bowls are used for bold red wines with bigger bouquets, and narrower wine glasses are used to concentrate the more delicate aromas of lighter white wines. However, within the red wines, a Zinfandel glass and a Pinot glass are different in size and shape. Why? Pinot Noirs are generally aromatic and given a large surface area will provide an intense bouquet of fruits. Zinfandels are less aromatic so a narrower glass helps concentrate the aromas of the Zinfandel wine which allows the nose to pick up all the subtle aromas.
If one looks at the Riedel lineup for wine glasses, you will notice that they have designed their glassware to enhance the aromas and flavors of specific varietals for both red and white wines. Robert Parker Jr. of the Wine Advocate wrote, “The finest glasses for both technical and hedonistic purposes are those made by Riedel. The effect of these glasses on fine wine is profound. I cannot emphasize enough what a difference they make.”
Then there are the proverbial stemless wine glasses. I am going to let the wine snob side of me loose for a minute. Wine glasses are suppose to be held by the stem or base. The reason is that you do not want to warm up the glass of wine that was hopefully served around cellar temperature if it was a red and slightly cooler if it was a white. Next, the finger prints on the glass bowl detracts from the beauty of the wine. The ultimate question is how does one twirl these stemless glasses? So the stemless glasses lose on all counts in my book. I have also found that the larger stemless glasses used for such wines as Pinots are uncomfortable and awkward to hold.
Once you have the proper glass for your wine proper fill height is also critical. For a red wine you only want to fill the glass one third to one half full. I like to fill red wines to the curve of the wine glass bowl which is about one third. By not filling the glass it allows you to twirl and smell the aromas as they rise inside of the glass. It also allows you to tip the glass at an angle and observe the color and brilliance of the wine. For white wines the glasses are smaller and narrower to intensify the aromatics. The fill height for white wines should be one half to two thirds of the glass.
During the Facebook discussion on wines, I was glad to see that I am not the only wine snob when it comes to glassware. It’s nice to sit down and have a beautiful wine of your choice poured into a glass that allows the wine to strut it’s stuff. We drink, share and enjoy wines out of passion and love. If we are drinking for effect, then it really doesn’t matter what it is served in. Who needs a glass! I do not believe that is the case with the crowd that follows and reads Eve’s Wine 101.
(Editor’s note: Rusty is leading Grape of the Night: Merlot this Monday, 3/8 at Valencia Wine Company at 7pm. http://www.valenciawine.com/ The Tariff: Buy one bottle, discuss and share it with a couple dozen other guests.)