Why is it that we spend so much time thinking about what to put in our wine glasses and so little time thinking about what glass we’re putting that wine into? Perhaps we take these vessels for granted, or perhaps it’s just a basic lack of education – and if it is indeed the latter, well, we’re here to remedy that. I don’t know a single wine professional who didn’t, at some point, snarf down a bottle of good (or even great) wine out of a subpar container. I’ve personally quaffed a 2006 Casanova di Neri Tenuta Nuova out of a hotel coffee mug and more than one bottle of bubbly out of picnic-friendly plastic, but when it comes to “proper” service, there is a right, a wrong, and a definitely delicious.
A Shape For Every Grape
Every grape has its own innate characteristics that, in the hands of a skilled winemaker, bloom into something remarkable and distinctive. Much like different haircuts suit a different face shape, many experts argue that each varietal is best showcased by a wine glass specially designed to capture, funnel, and present the wine’s bouquet. While you could conceivably invest in literally dozens of specifically designed glasses to encompass almost every liquor, wine, and wine-based liqueur on the market, these are the few we recommend looking into:
- Burgundy – Pinot Noir is delicate yet complex, often accompanied by a rough, “barnyard” odor that benefits from a little aeration. The wide bulb of a Burgundy glass always those deep flavors to swirl and mellow out, while the relatively narrow mouth funnels the softer notes to your eager nose.
- Cabernet Sauvignon/Bordeaux – Rich, deep, luscious, and full, these wines need the extra surface area of these often over-sized goblet, helping to mellow out the tannins and acidity without letting too much oomph escape.
- The basic white glass looks a lot like a smaller version of the Cabernet Sauvignon/Bordeaux goblet. Whites are a little simpler, a little easier to drink, and they need a little less coaxing – hence the less fussy glass.
- Chardonnay – Wide and featuring a far less narrow mouth than it’s red wine counterparts, this glass enhances the round, nutty, buttery notes of Chardonnay while still letting the fruit breathe and show.
- Nothing better than a flute when it comes to serving sparkling wine. The small surface area and narrow mouth keep the bubbles from dissipating too quickly, as they would in one of those old-school Mad Men-type saucers.
*Note: A truly great wine will taste truly great in almost anything you choose to drink it out of. A not-so-great wine, on the other hand, can be served in a Waterford crystal goblet and it won’t matter one whit. Start with the Cab/Bordeaux glass, the basic white, and a flute, and go from there.
The Great Stem Debate
I love the look of stemless glassware, in fact I own two sets, but I rarely actually use them for wine. While they look cool placed next to a carefully crafted dinner for your closest buds and your wine will probably taste just fine as you laugh and sip, holding the glass by the goblet instead of by a stem increases the chances that the heat from your hands will warm up the wine and alter both the flavor and aromas. Is it a noticeable enough difference for you to care? That’s up to you – hence the great debate.
Cleaning and Your Wine Glasses
Whenever possible, don’t use soap. Soap, especially those frou-frou scented ones, leave a residue, and that residue taints your wine. Rinse your wine glasses out immediately after using them, and if residue remains, wipe it away with a soft sponge or lint-free towel (you can polish them after with that same towel). If you need soap, use non-scented, gentle varieties and rinse thoroughly. Your nose and mouth will thank you.