If you have been wine tasting recently, or shopping for new glassware, you may have noticed an overwhelming variety of glass shapes and styles. Some people think it’s only the wine that matters, and that the abundance of glassware is just marketing hype to increase sales. They believe that the wine will taste the same out of any vessel; whether it’s a mason jar, coffee mug, straight from the bottle, or the “appropriate” glass for that particular style of wine. However, according to Claus Riedel, the specific shape of the glass helps a wine drinker to pick up every aroma of the wine and also direct the wine to the exact part of the mouth that would allow him/her to taste that wine best.
An article in Gourmet Magazine
in 2004 reported that studies at major research centers in Europe and the U.S. suggest that Riedel’s claims were nonsense, scientifically. And, according to Linda Bartoshuk, an internationally known researcher specializing in the chemical senses of taste and smell, “Your brain doesn’t care where taste is coming from in your mouth, and researchers have known this for thirty years.” Yet, in February of 2015, a Japanese medical group conducted a study with a special camera that photographed ethanol vapors as they left the opening of a glass. This showed how wine aromas enter your nose, proving that selecting the proper glass is important for the best tasting experience.
So, who is right? While it may be hard to know for sure, any serious wine drinker will have multiple sets of glasses. Understanding the different types of wine glasses and what makes them ideal for one type of wine over another is essential to getting the most out of your wine collection. Below is a summary of the basics, as well as several glass shapes and the wines that taste best in them.
Anatomy of a Wine Glass
- Allows your glass to stand upright.
- Allows you to hold your wine glass without the heat from your hands warming your wine, and without creating smudges on the bowl which will distract from the visual enjoyment of your wine.
- Serves a myriad of purposes; here you'll find the most variation between glasses. The bowls of all wine glasses will be tapered upward with a slightly narrower opening at the top than at the bottom. This shape helps to capture and distribute the wine's aroma toward your mouth and nose. The bowls of wine glasses are also designed to allow an amount of surface area appropriate to the wine. Red wine glasses will have a larger amount of surface area for the wine to allow it to breathe, while white wine glasses will have a smaller amount of surface area. Champagne glasses will have a very small amount of surface area for the wine so that it retains its carbonation.
- Imperative to achieving the full experience from your wines. The thinner the rim, the less the glass distracts from the wine as you sip; a good wine glass will have a "cut" rim that is smooth to the touch and does not inhibit the wine as it flows out of the glass. Less expensive glassware may have rims that are rolled or bumpy. While these glasses are still functional, and very much practical for everyday use, they may distract from the wine itself.
The Color -
The best wine glasses are crystal clear to allow the beauty and subtleties of the wine to show through. Colored glasses and those with decorative accents may offer a beautiful appearance, however, if showing off your wines, clear glasses are the way to go.
Crystal vs. Glass
Crystal is glass with lead monoxide in it and, depending on what country you live in, can vary from 1% (in the US) to 30% (in Europe). Using lead or lead-free crystal for wine glasses is popular for two reasons. For one, the minerals cause the glass to have light refraction which gives stemware a sparkle. Secondly, the inclusion of minerals in glass makes it sturdy enough to be spun very thin. Regular glass doesn’t shine the same way as crystal, but it is more affordable and also tends to be more durable.
Basic Glass Shapes
More Specific Glass Shapes