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Thursday, November 6, 2008

The question of what type of glass wine should be served in has become important to certain wine drinkers. It has even become a question of which specific glass, for what particular wine, as there are several crystal glass makers to choose from and each one markets a fleet of different "stems" intended to reveal the best qualities of particular wines. On the fringes of this debate there are many who don't see the point. Isn't the green colored glass goblet they've been using for years good enough? What about a simple juice glass? That's what they use in those great little Italian trattorias, right?

It really wasn't until Claus Riedel, the Austrian crystal magnate, introduced a set of glasses in the 1960's, specifically engineered to compliment wine, that anyone imagined such an idea. Today, George, the 11th generation Riedel, has taken his dad's idea to it's logical extreme with numerous glasses, some very expensive, intended to focus the aroma and flavor of specific types of wine for maximum enjoyment. To their credit they don't claim some mystical goal for their crystal glasses. It's all about sensual enjoyment. But they market glasses for chardonnay, sangiovese, Bordeaux, Pinot Noir and even a glass for water and a cup for espresso, all made from fine crystal. And Riedel isn't the only one. Schott Zwiesel is another company and, along with them, virtually every manufacturer of glassware has come out with a line of wine glasses. So, what's up?

To keep it simple, the shape of a wine glass does make a difference. The basic tulip shape, with a fat bulb and an opening that is narrower at the top, allows the aroma of wine to rise up from the liquid but be trapped within the glass. Then, you stick your nose in and take a nice whiff and you really smell the wine's aroma. From a juice glass or a wide, open-top glass much of that aroma escapes before you can smell it. The swirling that wine drinkers do - you've seen it at restaurants, it may seem pretentious - is really intended to release the wine's aroma. 90% of what we think of as taste is actually aroma so, appreciating that element of the wine is pretty important. It doesn't have to be an expensive crystal glass but that tulip shape, or a variation on that form which holds the aromatics in so you can sniff, will help you enjoy your wine more.

Wine is also beautiful from a visual standpoint I have an arts background and I have always felt the visual appeal of wine is powerful. The golden hue of a French white Burgundy makes you expect full, oak influenced tastes and the complex aromas while the dark almost opaque reds get you ready for big flavors and aggressive textures. And a tinge of deep gold in white wines or brick orange in reds, tips you that the wine may be older and more mellow or intriguing. Where would you be on color if the wine glass you were using was blue or green? So, I think it makes sense to use a clear glass that allows you to see the color accurately.

A glass that has a stem, the narrow column that supports and connects the bowl to the foot of the glass, is an advantage from a visual perspective as well. It allows you to hold the glass without obscuring the wine in the glass. Also, if you hold the glass by the stem or the foot, the heat of your hand will not affect the temperature of the wine. White wines, sparkling and most rose wines are served chilled and a rise in temperature can affect their taste and feel of the wine in your mouth. That's getting a bit fussy but, there it is. Temperature is another factor is wine appreciation.

If you want to buy some glasses for wine drinking there are many lines to choose from. They range in price from $8 per stem (that's "wine talk", a stem is a single glass) to $30 and more. Get glasses that are clear, bowl shaped with a narrow opening and stemmed. They don't have to be crystal but some enthusiasts think that fine crystal is preferable to glass. The finer the glass, the more expensive generally, the more fragile, so beware of that.

Do the experiment at home. Pour some wine into a water glass and some into a stemmed, tulip shaped bowl. Swirl, sniff and taste. Compare. There is no difference to a wine drinker who simply gulps and swallows. Noticing the differences between wines and the characteristics of individual wines isn't for everyone. But, if you slow down and pay attention I think you will notice that an actual "wine glass" will reveal more of the wine's quality than a simple straight sided glass.

If, after you've experienced the affect of a nice stemmed glass upon your favorite wines you think different shapes have an impact on different wines, I suggest that you can confine your choices to four basic shapes and be ready for most any wine. Choose a "fluted" glass for Champagne and sparkling wine. The flute shape is better than the wide "saucer" shape. Choose a medium sized tulip-bowled, stemmed glass for white wines and another that is larger with a taller bowl for your reds. And, if you like, you can have what is called a "balloon" bowled glass, its much larger and rather pear shaped with a narrow opening. The balloon shape is best for Pinot Noir and Nebbiolo based wines, so, if you're into French red Burgundy or Italian Barolo you should try that glass. The glassware debate is not exactly new but it is another aspect of wine appreciation that can add enjoyment and understanding to your drinking experience. As with all interesting life pursuits, wine is one that you can choose how deeply you want to get involved. The experiences of sensation are always better when you slow down and really take notice. A lot of effort goes into making fine wine and there certainly are differences between different grapes and the resulting wines so, I think that if you do slow down and notice the wine you will see the value of having a glass (or glasses) that will reveal the most to you.

By Warren Gregory

Check Out the Related Article : 5 Iron Wine Rack Designs That Protect Your Wine Investment


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