There is nothing better than being served (a great) wine in a great glass – it truly gladdens the heart of a wine enthusiast! A top wine is obviously fantastic in any glass of any shape or size, no one is disputing that, but isn’t it just all the more enjoyable when served in the perfect glassware? We are human beings after all and sight, touch, smell and taste are only four of our senses, but each and every one of these 4 senses are occupied when appreciating wine. The engagement of these senses is undoubtedly vital in influencing our experience, hence our take on why glassware is so utterly important when drinking wine.
We have invested some time in trying to understand what exactly it is of a glass that influences wine and why…
The Bowl Shape & Size
Wine tells a thousand stories through means of aromas and a glass with a larger bowl allows for greater circulation of the wine’s aromas. The bowl of a wine glass is also known as an aroma collector. They come in different sizes, big or small and there is no set rule for which wine needs to have which bowl, but a greater bowl allows for greater aromatic sensation. With wine, the aromas are released as the alcohol volatizes from the surface of the wine, allowing the wine to open up. So, having an increased (bigger) surface area is beneficial in optimizing the release of these aromas while drinking the wine. The same is true when decanting a wine or swirling wine in your glass, since it increases the surface area to which the wine is exposed. Red wines are therefore generally served in a glass with a bigger bowl for this exact reason. White wines on the other hand are often served from glassware with a slightly smaller bowl, since the smaller bowls help maintain the temperature (slightly chilled) of the wine.
The opening of a glass and the size thereof is very important and hence the different types of glassware for different cultivars or wines. It is believed, and we have tested it too, that the opening of a wine glass determines the area the wine lands or is delivered to, within the mouth, i.e. on the tongue and this influences the first taste of the wine. Red wines are bigger and more robust and therefore the opening of the glass is usually slightly bigger so that the wine lands towards the back end of the tongue. The reason behind this is that the front taste buds of the human tongue might profile it as slightly bitter, due to these receptors being a little more sensitive than the back. The opposite could be said for a sweet wine, since the small opening will deliver the sweetness of the wine to the front of the mouth or tongue. So, even though you may not have thought so, this does after all influence the taste sensation when enjoying wine.
This is purely preference, but the general feeling is that how thinner the lip or rim of a wine glass (same goes for whisky or cognac), the less in the way the lip is and the more pleasurable the drinking experience. A thinner rim avoids any distraction from being able to sip or consume the wine, i.e. it is less obstructive and smoother.
The Length of the Stem
Yes, believe it or not, this does actually play a vital role! A wine glass with a longer stem allows you to hold the glass without having to hold it around the actual bowl, as this would interfere with the temperature of the wine. Think of a champagne flute, they generally have very long, beautiful stems and this is exactly why – to ensure the champagne is served chilled, as initially intended. White wine glasses also usually have a slightly longer stem than red wine glasses, as the wine is also served a little cooler or more chilled than red wines. The new stemless wine glassware is absolutely stunning, but are they that practical when considering the functionality of a wine glass’s stem? Glassware with longer stems undoubtedly look more elegant, so know it is confirmed that the stem length is both a personal and practical preference.
Glass vs Crystal
This is purely preference, but generally fine lead crystal is thinner than glass and this makes a big difference to the drinking experience. A glass lip might be slightly thicker, whereas a crystal glass with an ultra-thin lip is phenomenal when it comes to igniting the touch sensations. The same goes for whisky and cognac glassware.
Plain, Coloured or Patterned Glassware
Again, it comes down to personal preference, but if you are a little bit more serious about your wine and wanting to examine it, the plain glassware is the better option. The clear glassware will better allow you to visually examine the wine’s colour in terms of intensity and viscosity.
So, essentially it still comes down to personal preference and your desires or objective when drinking wine, but there is after all merit in doing some research and testing, before purchasing your next set of wine glassware.