There is quite a bit of discussion on the proper glassware, also referred to as stemware, which will allow the wine drinker the best experience possible. Some, if not most, of the information out there is valid, but the final decision is up to you, the buyer. What I hope to accomplish in this column is a little wine 101 education to help you make an educated decision.
Colors and Design
Who hasn’t been excited to receive a perfectly hand-painted wine glass? How about a personalized etched wine glass at a tasting event? And branded stemware that is handed out, along with a tasting fee, at your favorite winery tasting room? I have a drawer full of them, and even more line a curio cabinet in my dining room. However, trying to evaluate the color of a wine is near impossible in any of them, along with expensive cut crystal and, lest we forget, colored glass. I suggest you put these all away too.
A wine glass in an odd shape, say too large or too small of a bowl, makes it difficult to detect aromas. However, a smooth sided crystal wine glass, in the traditional Cabernet Sauvignon (also for Merlot and Bordeaux) shape is perfect. Another shape, a glass with a more bowl-like appearance, is suited for getting the most from aromas and flavors in Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Those types of glasses are what you should expect when visiting a wine bar or wine-themed restaurant. At home the traditional shaped Cabernet glass is more than acceptable.
Crystal and Riedel
Just as I stated above, colored or cut crystal stemware makes it problematic to judge your wine’s color. Along with that, some small tulip-styled shapes that crystal glasses are sometimes made in are not conducive to evaluate taste. With that all said, a thinner crystal-type glass is considered more acceptable than a thick glass with an equally thick stem. The wine glasses I prefer to use, and constantly have to replace are Riedel and Spiegelau.
Note: Many people have either attended a Riedel (pronounced like needle) tasting seminar or espouse the greater benefit of tasting from a Riedel glass, including famed wine critic Robert Parker. In fact, they have a whole line of glasses depending on the wine varietal you are drinking. Many are skeptical of the purported differences, and an article in Gourmet Magazine attempted to dispel the test results. But they do have their true believers so you might want to see for yourself. For me, the jury is still out, but I’ve never turned a Riedel glass down.
Eve Bushman has been reading, writing, taking coursework and tasting wine for over 20 years. She has obtained a Level Two Intermediate Certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust, has been the subject of a 60-minute Wine Immersion video, authored “Wine Etiquette for Everyone” and recently served as a guest judge for the L.A. International Wine Competition. You can email Eve@EveWine101.com to ask a question about wine or spirits that may be answered in a future column.