If you happen to be a budding wine enthusiast, and have yet to give much thought to the vessel from which you imbibe your delicious grape nectar, then you are missing out on the full experience. Toss away your red plastic Solo cups and your Mason jars, and treat your wine with the respect it deserves. After all, a lot of time and effort was put into the making of your favorite wine, so giving it a proper vessel is only right.
Our discussion today will begin by explaining the basic features of wine glasses and how they contribute to the maximum enjoyment of wine, then, we will discuss the different types of glasses, telling you which wines belong in them, and why certain wines are matched with specific glasses. If you’ re brand new to this world, and would like to become and expert while drinking your favorite Chardonnay at the house, this article on wine 101, along with this course on the basics of wine tasting, will start you on your path to becoming an amateur sommelier.
Before You Buy
Before heading to the wine glass section of your local housewares merchant, there are certain aspects of the prospective receptacles that you should be aware of first. As you may or may not already know, not all wine glasses are created equal, and each of the subtle features of a wine glass contribute to the overall sensory experience of wine tasting and drinking. Here are all of the parts of a wine glass to consider before spending your hard earned money. If the wines of the West Coast are of special interest to you, and you’d like to learn more about them, this course on the wines of California wine country will tell you all about them in everyday language that anyone can understand.
No matter what material your wine glass is made of, it should at the very least be crystal clear. Along with the taste and smell, the color of your wine is meant to be fully appreciated. Not only is a wine’s color beautiful to look at, and an important part of the wine tasting experience, true connoisseurs are able to tell what kind of grapes were used in the wine’s making, as well as the wine’s age. Frosted, colored, or any other glass you can’t see through is frowned upon when enjoying wine. The best materials for wine glasses are crystal and thin glass.
- Bowl Size
This is where the most variation in wine glasses comes from. The size or a wine glass’ bowl must be large enough so that not only can a sizable amount of the wine can be poured in, but also leave enough room for the wine to be swirled around in. For those novice wine tasters that may think swirling is superfluous, this is done in order for the wine’s aromas to be released, and for the wine drinker to have a complete olfactory experience with the wine. Another reason bowl size is important is that it dictates where the wine will fall on the tongue. Certain wines benefit from being directed to the front, back, or sides of the tongue, depending on the flavors it exhibits.
While the stem of a wine glass looks fancy, it does have practical reasons for existing. First off, fingerprint smudges stay off the bowl of the glass, and secondly, it prevents the warmth of the hand from heating up wines that are best served chilled.
- Bowl Shape
The final characteristic of the wine glass, the shape of the bowl, is meant to enhance the wine’s bouquet. Bowls differ in height, thinness, size of the opening, and how the rim is tapered. These, like the size of the bowl, influences the wine’s bouquet, temperature, and where it will fall on the tongue.
Types of Wine Glasses
As you can probably already tell, there are almost as many different types of wine glasses as there are wines. While it’s not necessary to purchase a different set of glasses for each wine out there, you can more easily break down any potential glass purchases to just match the major wine types, for example, red, white, etc., instead of buying glasses specifically for pinot noirs, glasses for cabernet sauvignons, and so on. That’s how we will tackle this subject today, with the types of wine glasses being broken down into the major classifications of wine: red, white, sparkling, rose, and finally, dessert and fortified wines. We will also discuss some specific glass and wine pairings, as some glasses are truly meant for specific wines, otherwise, we’ll keep our discussion pretty broad today.
- Red Wine Glasses
Because red wines have stronger aromas than any of the other wines out there, your typical red wine glass will have a larger, fuller bowl, with a larger opening, allowing for easier smelling. The more surface area there is in a red wine glass, the more opportunity there is for the wine to come into contact with the air, allowing for a bigger bouquet. While most glasses of this type will suffice for any red wine, those passionate about red wines on the heavier and lighter sides might want to invest in glasses designed specifically for those wines’ features.
Bordeaux glasses, which are meant for fuller-bodied, heavier wines such as Cabernets and Merlots, are taller than the average red wine glass, but with a slightly smaller bowl, which allows the wines to go directly to the back of the mouth for maximum flavor. Conversely, the Burgundy glass is designed for lighter, full-bodied wines, like the Pinot Noir, and has a bowl that is shorter, but larger than normal, meant to place the wine at the tip of the tongue, enhancing its more delicate flavors. If you have a red you’d like to have with dinner, and want to do the wine justice, this course on gourmet food recipes will help you have a fine dining experience at home.
- White Wine Glasses
More U-shaped than the red wine glasses, those meant for white wines have another feature to spotlight: temperature. A major delineation of white wines is age, and which glass you use depends on your wine’s age. For younger whites, which tend to be on the sweet side, glasses have an opening that’s slightly larger than normal, meant to direct the wine to the sides and tip of the tongue in order to emphasize its sweetness. The older, more bold whites should be drunk out of glasses with straighter and taller bowls, which place the wine on the back and sides of the tongue. As we’ve already mentioned, most wines can be paired up with foods that nicely complement each other. If you’d like to learn more about this process, this course on food and wine pairings will teach you the basics of this handy skill.
- Rose Glasses
There are two types of glasses designed specifically for Roses. The first is for the younger varieties, which are crisper, and less sweet than the older types. These glasses have a flared lip that allows the wine to run out of the glass, and onto the tip of the tongue, where sweet flavors are most enjoyed, in addition to the flavor being more balanced, and any bite being minimized. For the older Rose varieties, a slightly tapered rim is preferred, with the bowl looking almost like a shorter red wine glass. If you simply want to dabble in Roses, but still want to use the correct glass, white wine glasses will suffice, as Roses and whites are made in much the same way.
- Sparkling Wine Glasses
The glasses designated for sparkling wines have the least amount of differentiation: there’s only one. More commonly referred to as the Champagne flute, this glass is much narrower than those used for non-carbonated wines. The reason for this is twofold: to capture the flavor, as well as to maintain the beverage’s carbonation.
- Dessert and Fortified Wine Glasses
Because of the sweetness of these types of wines, as well as their higher alcohol content, a smaller glass is used when drinking them. The smaller glass is meant to direct the wine to the back of the mouth so that the sweetness doesn’t overwhelm.
Don’t get too flustered by the abundance of wine information out there. Between the types of grapes that go into them, the fermentation and aging processes, drinking practices, and now glass types, it can seem like a pretty demanding hobby to have. While there is a lot to know and learn, it’s also very rewarding, and unlike most other hobbies, it gets you drunk in the process. If you want to dig deeper into the world of wine, this course on becoming a wine connoisseur will fill your head with knowledge, before its subject makes you forget it.