Saturday, January 5, 2013

Wine Glasses: What Kind, Why, and Where to Get Them

Does it matter what kind of wine glass you use?  In a word, yes.  The experience of tasting and drinking wine is all about observing the colors, aromas, and flavors of what you’re drinking.  Your wine glass is either enhancing or detracting from your wine experience!

Shape?  Tulip.  For both red and white wines, the best overall wine glass is tulip-shaped:  wider at the bottom, with the sides sloping inward toward the top.  The width at the bottom exposes more of the wine’s surface to air, releasing more aromas for us to smell.  As a general rule, aim for pouring the wine up to or slightly above the widest part of the glass.  If this doesn’t look like much, just think it means you get to have another glass!  The smaller opening at the top directs those aromas toward the nose, rather than letting them escape the glass.  Thinner glass is also preferred.

Size?  Big.  The size of the glass should be big enough to accommodate a 6 oz pour, yet also leave room to swirl without spilling.  I recommend a 16 oz glass, but you could go as low as 12 oz.  You could also go bigger, but anything larger than 16 oz becomes inconvenient to hold, clean, and store.

Stem?  Yes.  You need a stemmed glass.  A stem prevents the warmth of your hand from warming up the wine (more about service temperatures here), and also prevents any smells on your hands (soap, lotion, food) from interfering with the aromas of your wine.  Stem-less wine glasses are popular lately, but their advantages are all about convenience, not about what’s best for the wine experience.  Yes, they may be easier to hold, more difficult to knock over on a table, or easier to fit into the dishwasher, but they won’t do your wine any favors.  Besides, stems are just classier and more fun!

Color?  Clear.  When tasting (or judging) a wine, the first thing you look at is color.  Color can provide information about the type of grape, the style and age of the wine, or whether the wine might have a fault.  The visual aspect is part of the overall sensory experience of wine, so avoid colored or patterned glasses.

For sparkling?  A standard wine glass, like the one above, is fine for tasting and drinking sparkling wine, but the classic Champagne flute is the best choice.  The tall narrow shape allows the bubbles to be displayed to their best advantage, and the narrow opening at the top maintains the bubbles longer.

Where to buy them?  You can buy your wine glasses anywhere, but if you’re like me you want something functional, inexpensive, and easy to replace.  The best solution I’ve found in Houston is to shop at Ace Mart Restaurant Supply.  I buy the 16oz Libbey 7510 glasses by the case.  You can also buy them online here. At roughly $4 per stem they meet all the above requirements, and I don’t mind too much if one breaks.

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