I remember watching my Grandmother sipping red wine from a juice glass that had been poured from a gallon jug with a handle. There were no fancy wine glasses with stems in her house, or my parent’s home either. The first time I can remember seeing my parents with any kind of real wine glass, was in the 1960’s at the Brotherhood Winery in upstate New York. I remember because they were so excited that they could bring them home with them. Wow.
Today wineries everywhere still provide wine glasses, of varied size and shape, stemmed and not, and if you pay for the glass with their winery name on it, you take it home too. As more and more people learn more about different wines, and visit more wineries, many still find themselves sipping wine at these in small-stemmed wineglasses. I always find it amusing, without showing it, at the tasters trying to swirl the wine in these, small volume, stemmed wine glasses provided by the tasting room.
Only a couple of years ago, while visiting wineries in Southern Oregon, I came across a winery offering “Champagne”, and I knew I just had to check this out. Now keep in mind that many of the greatest wineries in the world today, started out as small backyard ventures. So with an open mind I approached this small winery tasting room behind the house. Inside I joined six other people awaiting a taste or two. When the wine attendant entered the room, she stated that we would have to pay $25 for three tastings of her “champagne”. I watched as she started arranging small plastic opaque cups along the bar to pour the “champagne” in for our tasting.
I can still hear her almost scream, “where are you going” as four of us walked out to our cars.
Wine glasses come in a variety of shapes and sizes, some with stems and others without. The main reason you would drink wine from a stemmed glass, is to not change the temperature of the wine in the glass, which hopefully is served at proper temperature. Another reason for a stem is simply so as not to form “smudges” on the bowl, which would make the wine inside less “pretty”. Rest assured, “smudges” don’t alter the taste.
The actual bowl of the glass, that contains the wine, can be in a variety of shapes and sizes, each one affecting the aeration as well as how much aroma of the wine is trapped contained.
Glasses used for big reds, such as Syrah, Cabernet and Zinfandels are wide at the bottom full in the middle, allowing for good aeration and opening while swirling to prepare for your sniff. When serving white wines they are most often served in narrow glasses to retain the lighter aromas to stay, and also give less exposure to outside temperatures. Lastly your sparkling wines, like Champagne need to be served in what is called Champagne Flutes, tall and slender. This specific quality not only keeps your expensive Champagne chilled, but also allows viewing of all the tiny bubbles as they rise to the top.
Now a basic rule of thumb so to speak, is that your wine glass needs to be of a size that allows it to contain a full pour, yet not be over the halfway mark. This in fact will allow you to swirl your wine, get a good sniff and sip, without spilling it over the top of the glass.
Many a tasting challenge has been preformed, by wine “experts” worldwide, trying to determine just how effective size and shape bowls will change a wines structure and bouquet. Most will agree that in fact sipping a well-structured wine from a glass with wide body and opening, allows it to further breathe. Swirling properly, there is a change, and opening that can be noticed with the nose as well as the palate.
My reflection on the subject of wine glasses is this. The better the wine, the more important the wine glass. I firmly do believe that both body and structure of high quality wines deserve the proper wine glass.
That being said, if you are just starting out in the world of wine, and haven’t yet reached the awarded “Wine Snob” level, but are visiting local wineries and bringing home some good “drink now” wines, here’s a tip from the “non- wine snob consultant”. If I was to buy just one kind of glass to use with all wines in my home, it would be the Vinum XL Pinot Noir Glass from Riedel. This particular wineglass was developed specifically for the Oregon Pinot. However, it is rumored that one of the best French Vineyard Champagne Winemakers samples his wines from this glass, and if he can, why can’t you?
I will leave you with this last thought, or should I say, “call to action”. As a pretty knowledgeable wine guy, with a better than average wine palate, I despise having the Airlines tell me how great the wines are that they are serving, yet they serve it in plastic cups. I’ll eat with a plastic knife and fork, but a guy must have his standards, really. I say let’s protest! When’s the last time a plane was hijacked by someone holding a wineglass?
If you can’t have some humor in life, especially when conversing about wine, then what do you have?