If you’ve been buying fantastic quality wine for a while now, you’re probably looking for a sure-fire way to up your wine aficionado credibility. The best trick? Knowing what glass to use. It can change the flavor profile and bring out the true depth of the latest bottle you’ve picked up.
Scientists have done studies on this. In Japan, they used a ‘sniffer cam’ to measure the ethanol vapor escaping from different glass shapes. You may be wondering just how shape matters at all; well, the aroma and bouquet are impacted by the difference in size between the widest point of the bowl and the opening.
In 1958 Claus Reidel made a rare appearance in Santa Barbara County in December to state his case that physics plays a critical role in the enjoyment of wine. These glasses were nuanced in shape and height, and their design matched the subtleties of almost every grape imaginable. Reidel identified that wine will display different characteristics when served in a variety of wine glasses— after all, it was all physics.
Scientists and wine lovers since believe size and shape impacts taste because of a few different factors. The first important factor is oxidation. The more oxygen which is allowed to circulate, the better the aroma release. The shape of the rim also matters. If you can direct the liquid to specific points on the tongue, you change the drinking experience. Scientists have discovered when you stimulate different and smaller areas of the tongue, you can really register deeper and more complex flavor notes. This, however, isn’t because of any tongue map, but rather because you’re concentrating that stimulation in a small area.
Temperature plays a big part; it’s why white wine glasses are narrower to keep them from heating up as quickly. Unlike us in summer, white wine needs to be cold to really give us its full potential! People have always said that the sense of taste is more than just what hits your tongue. Smell, color, experience, touch, and so much more all have a part to play.
Who are we to argue with scientists and sommeliers?
We know that not all wine glasses are created equally, and the shape of the glass can impact the flavor quite dramatically. So next time you want to enjoy that 2016 Maroon Reserve Merlot you really need the right glass.
But what is the right glass?
There are really four components to every proper wine glass. The base, the stem, the bowl, and finally, the rim. The base, as you’d expect, is what gives the glass stability, and after a few, you’ll probably be thankful for that! You should always hold your wine glass by the stem, which allows you to hold the wine glass without affecting the bowl. This is because temperature matters and if you’re holding onto the bowl instead of the stem, you’re running the chance of heating up the wine with your hands. Finally, the bowl is crucial to determine the changes the most across differences in size and shape which will affect the oxidation of the wine.
It’s the oxidation that makes red wine, for example, mellow out, releasing their bouquet and making the experience more complete. This brings us to the rim. Often these will be tapered slightly to direct aromas but most importantly these should be thin. The thin rim promotes a better drinking experience, and when you’re drinking good wine, you want to factor in the rim size for a better experience.
There is a standard catch-all wine glass that will sort of work for different wines. However, you won’t get the same experience. You should only be using this if money and space are an issue. These can come with, or without, a stem and will have a bowl shape that falls between what would be suitable for a red or a white.
Typically, your red wine glass will need to be much bigger and have a more rounded bowl with a large opening. This allows for more air to circulate amongst those complex bouquets and flavors, which improves the taste by smoothing out some of those complexities.
These glasses are really for those lighter red wines. They have a large, broad bowl with a far narrower rim. The rim makes it easier to drink but also is designed to make sure the wine hits your tongue tip, allowing you to draw out far more subtle flavors. The broad bowl allows for those important aromas to develop!
If you’re a fan of the fuller red wines, you’ll want to mellow those tannins. That means you’re going to need a large, tall bowl. The purpose of this is to enable the wine to go further and cause the ethanol to disperse a bit. The rim directs wine to the back of the mouth to reduce that astringent taste.
These glasses usually have an average stem but are characterized by their large bowl and the much wider base. This glass is designed to get the most amount of oxygen into the glass to balance out those bouquets, soften those tannins and give you a fantastic drinking experience.
These glasses tend to be a little bit taller than the standard, and usually, the bowl has a bit of a taper at the top. The whole point of this taper is to direct those fruity scents directly to your nostrils. While you’re enjoying those aromas, the wide bowl, traditional with a red wine glass, is causing enhanced oxygenation to make those tannins less intense. This leaves you with those concentrated jammy flavors we all love!
Well, there are about five different glasses you should be aware of here if you prefer your white and sparkling wines over your reds. These glasses tend to be a lot narrower and more compact than their red counterparts, and this is really to lock-in that cool temperature while ensuring these more delicate tipples don’t suffer a loss in the aroma.
For those more full-bodied white wines, you’ll want a glass with a wider opening to ensure that the sweetness comes through. The bowl is often a little bit bigger, but not like a red wine glass, to allow for some air circulation which enables those aromas to be balanced and balances the acidity with that subtle sweetness.
For the light to medium body white wines that also include wines like a White Bordeaux and a Pinot Grigio, you’ll need a tall glass with a slimmer bowl. The tall stem allows your heat to keep well away from the wine as you never want it warm! The narrowness of the bowl allows for those delicate flavors to be preserved and enjoyed.
This type of wine glass is typically a lot smaller and includes a much smaller rim designed to ensure the wine’s sweetness doesn’t overpower the palette. That makes them perfect for your Rieslings and other sweeter wines. It will also work well for any other wine that is low tannin and high acid.
A wine glass that’s designed for sparkling wines and champagnes is usually very narrow and fluted and perfect for celebrations! They can have a slight bulb in the middle, known as a tulip glass. Both are great as the upright, narrow nature of the glasses allows for the carbonation and flavor to remain intact. Where you might want to consider the tulip design over the traditional flute is if you want to allow more breathing room for those more mature, complex sparkling wines.
These ultra-specialist glasses will make you stand out at the dinner party when you present those sweet wines to pair with your dessert. The taper on the rim is very pronounced to allow for the optimal balance between the air and the wine surface. The shape also allows for the acidity to come through, ensuring it isn’t too sweet on delivery.
As well as the shape requirements for each type of wine you should also pay attention to the materials the wine glass is made of. Color says a lot about wine, especially to an aficionado like yourself, so be sure to pick a clear glass. You will want to be careful with crystal as, while they refract light beautifully, they are also a lot more delicate. Consider the guests you're sharing your wines with. Maybe Clumsy Carl should be served with a generic red wine glass. Plain, clear glass is more long-standing and a much better overall option for most.
Now you know all about the multitude of glasses you may find yourself wanting to experience your favorite producers in a variety of glasses to see how it shapes the taste! Including glassware, there are many other factors to consider that will shape how a wine tastes—weather, mood, and even the company you're with. Book an experience with us to experience wines differently.