Why Should You Use a Proper Wine Glass for Serving Wine?


    A large part of enjoying wine lies in savoring its aroma. The wine glass has to gather the wine’s aroma so you can savor it when you drink.

    If you use a regular mug and fill it to the brim, all the characteristic vapors of the wine will be gone by the time you start to sip.

    But, there’s more to it than just enjoying the wine’s aroma.

    First, let’s step back to see how the modern wine glass came to be.

    A Brief History of the Wine Glass

    The earliest form of wine glasses are believed to be the silver and pottery goblets used by the Romans in the third century.

    The wine glass that you know today, with the base, stem, and bowl, originated in the 1400s in Venice, Italy, where some of the best glass makers were centered.

    But it was Claus Riedel in the 20th century, who was the first to acknowledge the correlation between the wine’s taste and the wine glass shape. He launched the first series of glasses designed to suit a wine’s character.

    Since then, the wine glass has evolved to suit the different shapes and styles to suit the character of different types of wine, and Riedel continues to be a leading glassware brand.

    Wine Glasses: Anatomy and Materials Used

    How does a wine glass shape influence the drinking experience?

  The wine glass shape is not only meant to collect the wine’s aroma but also influences how much wine flows into your mouth. It determines whether the wine moves across the tongue or spreads to the side.

    This can actually make the same wine taste quite different indeed!

    Parts of a wine glass

    The wine glass can be a machine-blown or handmade glass and has these four parts, from bottom to top:

    1. Foot

    This is the flat base section of the glass that will hold the glass upright on your dining table. A small foot can make the champagne glass imbalanced, and the glass will easily topple on your dining tables. Too large a foot might get stuck under your platters and flatware or tableware.

    2. Stem

    The stem is the thin, neck section where you usually hold the wine glass or stemware. Holding it there prevents you from heating the wine with your fingers. It also keeps you from smudging the bowl with your fingerprints.

    3. Bowl

    The bowl is where you’ll see the most variation in wine glasses. The opening will usually be smaller than the shoulder (widest part of the bowl). This shape captures the aroma of the wine.

    The bowl’s width determines the surface area of the wine. Some wines should be allowed to “breathe” more than others — this is typical of aged reds with intense, complex aromas.

    4. Rim

    The thinness of the rim can affect how you perceive the wine’s taste. A glass with a thin rim is much better than a thick rim glass, as it’ll let the wine flow smoothly into your mouth.

    Wine glass materials

    Wine glasses can be made of many different materials. While glass and crystal are the most common, alternate materials like acrylic and silicone are also used.

    1. Soda-lime glass

    Most glasses are of the soda-lime variety. It’s the same type of glass you’ll find on your window panes or food jars.

    When used for wine glasses, it has the advantage of being more affordable than crystal. It’s inert and nonporous, meaning it won’t absorb chemical aromas, so it’s always dishwasher safe. That said, soda-lime wine glasses will tend to be thicker than crystal stemware and are more durable.

    2. Crystal

    Crystal wine glasses contain 2-30% of added minerals, which is its primary difference from regular whiskey glasses. Those minerals could be lead, magnesium, or zinc, allowing the crystal to be spun much thinner than glass but still retain structural strength.

    Crystal glassware also refracts light better, making your wine look sparkly in the glass.

    However, the addition of minerals to the crystal makes it porous and not always dishwasher safe.

    You also have the option of leaded vs. lead-free crystal stemware:

    Historically, all crystal glasses had lead added, and many still do. Leaded crystal wine glasses are safe, as your wine won’t stay long enough in the glass for the lead to leach into it.

    But some glass manufacturers have moved to lead-free crystal because of the potential health concerns (like storing liquor in a leaded decanter for a longer period).

    Lead-free crystal glasses typically have magnesium or zinc additions and are usually dishwasher safe.

    Manufacturers like Schott Zwiesel have gone a step further, patenting a crystal called Tritan?, which has infused titanium and zirconium. This makes a highly break-resistant lead-free glass.

    3. Alternative materials

    Other materials commonly used for lower-end wine drinking glasses would be acrylics, metals like stainless steel and silicone.

    Wine glass decoration

    Most high-end wine glasses won’t have designs on the bowl, as you don’t want to distract the view of the wine. You may come across a few exceptions like the Mikasa Cheer White Wine Glasses that have designs on the bowl.

    However, you’ll often find finely decorated stems on some of the wine glasses.

    In the 18th century, glassmakers would draw spiral patterns on the stem. You’ll find these even now on antique and vintage glassware.

    What is a “Standard Pour” of Wine?
 
    Usually, in restaurants, a tumbler glass would be around 5oz (~150ml). This portions a 750ml bottle of wine into five servings.

    For wine tastings, the standard is around 2oz, which is enough to experience the wine’s aroma and flavor without being affected by the alcohol too fast.

    Dessert wine servings are around 2oz, too, as these wines are much sweeter and have more alcohol than other wines.

    1. Red Wine Glass

    Red wine glass has a round, wide bowl, like balloon glasses. The shape increases the exposed surface area of the wine, allowing more oxygen to interact with the liquid. Brief exposure to oxygen helps smoothen the complex flavors and tannins in red wine. 

    There are three types of red wine glasses:

    A. Bordeaux glass

    This tall glass with wine decanter is meant for bold, full bodied red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, or Bordeaux Blends.

    The glass is tall, but the bowl isn’t quite as large. The bowl’s height creates more space between the wine and nose, allowing room for ethanol vapors to escape, letting you get more of the wine’s aroma and less alcohol vapors.

    Some Bordeaux wine glasses to consider:

    Zalto Denk Art Bordeaux Glass with glass charger plate

    Schott Zwiesel Tritan Pure Bordeaux Glass

    B. Standard (Medium-bodied) wine glass

    This is an excellent choice for medium- to full-bodied red wine, like Syrah or Malbec. The smaller opening will soften the spicy expression of some of these wines as it hits your tongue, but it keeps the aroma in the shot glass.

    C. Burgundy (Bourgogne) glass

    The Burgundy glass is designed for light, delicate red wine like Montrachet. The broad bowl creates space for aromas to collect, and a shorter lip directs the wine to the tip of the tongue so that you can taste more of its subtle flavors. The Pinot Noir glass is an example of the Burgundy glass. Also, there is bear glass.

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