There is a wine for everyone. But a little-known fact is that there are different types of wine glasses for every type of wine, be it Cabernet, Bordeaux, or Pinot Noir.
In Wine There is Truth
Winemaking is as old as the hills. According to scholars on the subject, wine dates to as far back as 6,000 BC and seems to originate in an area today known as Georgia. In fact, a cave complex found in Armenia (in the village of Areni) is commonly believed to be the world’s oldest winery. Early mentions of wine can be found in the Naturalis Historia, a treatise on nature, written by Roman philosopher Pliny the Elder between 23 and 79 A.D. Indeed, De Toren’s opulent Book XVII is named for the volume in which the subject of winemaking occurs.
Through a Glass Darkly
The wine glass, on the other hand – or should we say the idea of using glass as a hollow container for the purpose of drinking wine – goes as far back as ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. Wine drinking vessels from this period resembled cereal bowls, and it was only around the 4th century C.E., thanks to the introduction of the glass blow pipe, that the wine glass began to evolve. Early glassware was reserved for royalty and the rich. It would take several innovations before glassware could become commonplace. The discovery of lead oxide in the late 1600s ensured that glass could be blown with clarity. The discovery of the coal furnace led to the creation of a more durable glass. The continuous furnace, originating in the 19th century, helped push the technology further. But it was only with the invention of automated glass blowing in 1903, where machines could blow glass instead of the traditional mouth-blowing methods, that glassmaking became standard, and the wine glass as we today know it – stemware goblets composed of three parts: the bowl, stem, and foot – became everyday objects.
The Shape of Things to Come
Today, wine glasses come in many different shapes and sizes, each shaped to enhance the type of wine it was crafted for. In fact, the discussion of which wine glass goes with which wine is enough to start an argument, albeit an argument easily settled over a good Cabernet. Here is some prevalent thinking on the matter.
One of the tallest in the red wine glass category is the Cabernet Sauvignon with a wide bowl that allows the wine to breathe properly, capturing the aroma by means of the narrow mouth. The intent here is to intensify the smell of the wine. Overfilling this type of glass is not recommended. Smaller amounts of wine ensure the wine remains as fragrant as possible when it is consumed.
The Burgundy wine glass, perfect for lighter-bodied reds with more delicate flavours, has a wider bowl than that of the Bordeaux glass, and often has a lip that is quite thin. The shape allows for the glass to accommodate aromas of wines that are more delicate, ensuring that the drinker will experience the taste of the wine first on the tip of the tongue, and then throughout the mouth.
Bordeaux wine glasses are the tallest of the red wine variety, but with a much smaller bowl, the perfect shape for full-bodied wines such as Merlot or Cabernet. The height of the glass ensures that when you drink from it, the wine will easily travel to the back of the mouth instead of remaining up near the tip of the tongue.
Shorter than the Bordeaux wine glass, but with a slightly larger rim, is the Zinfandel glass, shaped to ensure that one experiences the full flavour and the aroma of the wine. This type of glass also has a smaller bowl than that of the Bordeaux or the Cabernet wine glass, yet is still large enough for the wine to breathe.
Last, but not least, when speaking of red wine glasses, the glass with the widest bowl of either the red or white wine family is the Pinot Noir, ensuring that the wine has as much contact with air as is possible. In addition, the bowl is large enough for the wine to be swirled and a crystal-clear glass will allow the user to observe the wine during the swirling action. While Pinot Noir glasses have slightly shorter stems than other red wine options, the biggest differentiator, of course, is the turned out rim which directs the flavours and aroma of the wine directly to the nose and mouth.
Odd Wines Out
In addition to the range of red wine glasses, several types of white wine glasses exist. Sparkling wines are best enjoyed using amongst others a Vintage, Tulip, or Flute glass. For dessert wines, there’s the Port, Madeira, Sherry, and Sauternes glasses. Add to that some exotic ways of drinking red with the Alsace, the German Hock (with its unusually small bowl), and the Tumbler. And while on about glasses, a whole host of cocktail glasses take up the rear such as the Delmonico, Cosmopolitan, Collins, Rocks, Snifter, Martini, and Margarita, not to forget the Coupe, Marie Antoinette’s contribution to history, the other being the guillotine.
In a (C)lass of Its Own
Of course, the discerning wine drinker – one discerning enough to identify the correct glass – will already know about the exceptional Bordeaux blends available from De Toren. There is the opulent Book XVII (crème de-cassis, fruitcake and fig scented bouquet with a palate that is ostentatious), the De Toren Z (a soft, approachable ruby-hued beauty) and the De Toren Délicate (redolent of roses and ripe-for-the-picking strawberries). But that’s not all, there’s also the iconic Left Bank-based blend, the De Toren Fusion V (complex flavours of liquorice, black cherry, cedar, and dark berries) and not to mention the pride of the cellar, the bold and powerful The Black Lion (arguably the most luxurious 100% Shiraz ever produced in South Africa).