About two weeks ago, I went to lunch with some friends. We had a wonderful time, and some wonderful wine. We chose a Simi Sauvignon blanc (2016) as it was priced right and was light enough to complement our salads and seafood.
Not expecting anything fabulous, I took a sip. Love!!! It was fragrant and fruity, a citrus finish, but with no bite. Seriously, this common bottle of wine was a winner.
When I hit the market the following week, I found the Simi and bought two of the three bottles on the shelf. Took it home and chilled it for dinner. I got out my new, beautiful crystal wine glass with the frilled edge, and sipped.
Not the same. Ugh. What happened to the fruits, the lemon? About all I tasted was a citrus finish, and I couldn’t detect those fragrant aromas.
Was it really not as good as I remembered, or was it something else?
The glass at the restaurant was a popular shape that I also have at home. It was tapered at the top, but had a wide bottom. My frilled glass was the opposite. Could that be it? Is there a reason for different wine glass shapes – I mean, in reality, not just in the “wine snob” world?
Night two, I poured the Simi into the tapered glass. Taking a sip, I detected the aromas I remembered from our lunch out. Even better, I could taste the fruits. Bright, yet smooth finish. Verdict: the shape of a wine glass made a profound difference.
Please don’t think I’m a wine snob. In fact, I chuckle when someone does a taste of a bottle at a restaurant. Have you ever actually seen someone say, “Blech! that’s awful, I send it back!”?
My favorite wine joke was delivered by Leslie Knope: “I’m gonna be direct and honest with you, I would like a glass of red wine and I’ll take the cheapest one you have because I can’t tell the difference.”
But I am telling you, by my own research, that glass shape matters. It was an eye-opener. And I’ve since read that wine experts have shown that when serving the same wine in different shaped glasses, people actually think they are drinking different wines. Now, I’m looking at my wine glass collection critically and realizing I’ve got some work to do.
Whites and Reds
The basic difference here is size. Reds tend toward a bigger bowl to allow more exposed surface area. Surface area and depth of the glass will determine how much ethanol vapor is dispersed before hitting the nose. The more dispersal, the smoother the taste. The widest, tallest bowls with a gentle taper (or, sometimes, even a bit of flare near the rim) are appropriate for deep, heavy reds with a lot of tannins.
Lighter reds tend toward a slightly smaller bowl and more refined taper.
Continuing this logic, because whites are more subtle in flavor, they are served in a glass with a more pronounced taper; though an oaky white, like Chardonnay, should be served in a bowl that is wider and taller than, say, a Sauvignon blanc.
Temperature also plays a role. The bigger the glass volume, the more time the wine has to warm up. Since whites are served at a lower temperature, a smaller glass is appropriate. Just have a second glass if you want more! It is better to pour again than to allow your white wine to warm up as you leisurely sip.
Roses? Most that I’ve had are light-bodied tending towards dry. You probably want to stick with the white wine guidelines when choosing your glass, since considerations of temperature, age, and aroma are similar.
By the way, when pouring the wine, the glass should be filled less than half way, in consideration of aroma and evaporation. It’s not about stingy.
What About Tumblers?
Tumblers have been all the rage for a while. But, in truth, if you think about aroma and temperature, you’d only want to use them for a lighter red (a heavy red would require a larger, taller bowl than the tumblers I’ve seen). Stick with stemware and you won’t go wrong. The stem keeps your body temperature from heating the wine. Okay, if you have pets and/or kids, you are allowed to use tumblers, because any wine is better than no wine!
Crystal or Glass?
There are a several of considerations when choosing crystal or glass. Which should you choose? Here are some things to think about:
- Thinner is better (Wouldn’t you know!). Your mouth experiences more of the wine and less of the vessel. Crystal is usually thinner because it is strengthened with minerals. But today, there are glass glasses (ha) that are strengthened with borosilicate. Check out BODUM’s SKÅL wine glasses, for example.
- The rim should be thin, too. Inexpensive wine glasses have a rolled rim that keeps them from getting chipped easily. But, that rolled rim interferes with the mouth feel of the wine as it hits your tongue.
- Crystal tends to be clearer. This allows you to see the color of the wine, and enhances your enjoyment of it. Yes, looks do matter!
- By the same token, decorative, colored stemware interferes with the wine’s visual interest, diminishing the experience. You might be skeptical about this, so I offer anecdotal evidence. When I was just starting out furnishing and appointing my first apartment, I bought some cool-looking purple tall glasses. Problem was, I never really wanted to use them. Milk or OJ in a purple glass? No, thanks.
Leaded or Unleaded?
Traditional crystal is made with lead. European crystal tends to have a higher lead content than crystal made in the U.S. If you are worried about lead, you might think you must forego crystal.
However, some crystal is lead-free. This crystal is made with titanium and zirconium. It can be spun very thin, has a “crystal clear” appearance, and is extremely durable. Crate and Barrel carries the Schott Zweisel brand made with Tritan.® My Schott Zweisel wine glasses are my absolute favorite. At $14 a stem, they aren’t cheap, but they are beautiful, thin, and enhance the experience!
In the end, what really matters is that you find what pleases and brings enjoyment to you. That’s what this blog is all about. If a Mason jar filled with ice and pink Zinfandel floats your boat, go for it! Don’t worry about appearances; it’s about experiences.
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