There is nothing more frustrating than going to a decently nice restaurant, perusing the wine list for the perfect wine to go with dinner, only to have the waiter bring out a small, thick-rimmed glass for my wine. Ugh. Restaurants do this because **newsflash** glasses break. However, you deserve better!
Wine is one of the ultimate experiences to explore the senses. Wine engages sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste; so it is important to consider the many variables when investigating a bottle. One factor that might be overlooked is the importance of stemware! For today, let’s focus on the appropriate glass for the appropriate wine, and where to find some great deals to spice up your wine cabinet.
Each wine has a specific glass that will showcase and display the wine - which allow the drinker to engage the olfactory system, explore the surface area and legs of residual sugars, and preserve temperature for ideal drinking condition. It may sound super geeky, but there is a science to it! Being a creature of bad habits, let's begin with the bubbly. When in doubt... always begin with the bubbly.
Champagne/Sparkling Wine - There are some heated debates over the ideal stemware for sparking wine. Commonly, we see bubbly served in a flute - a tall and skinny vessel usually at the end of a long stem. It is hard to deny the elegance and sophistication of the flute glass, it symbolizes pleasure and luxury and is always a hit at restaurants and dinner parties. However, the narrow rim of the glass prohibits the nose to explore and enjoy the grapes. It’s awkward top heavy shape is easy to break and can be a nuisance to clean. For all things bubbly - I recommend a normal white wine glass. The bowl, as it’s known, provides ample space for the wine to breathe and yet the effervesce is still contained.
White - White wines are typically served in smaller bowled glasses with a long stem. This is designed to preserve the bouquet in the bowl while providing close proximity of the wine and nose to deliver aromas. The style of this glass keeps hand temperature away from the juice to maintain ideal temperature of the wine.
Red - For red wine, there are a variety of glasses to choose from depending on the style of wine (full bodied, medium-light, or Rose!). For now, let’s keep it simple. These glasses are designed with a large bowl that creates surface area for the wine to breathe. The bowl delivers the aromas while keeping the ethanol burn away from the nose, (if poured the correct amount). This is important because it will completely affect the wines drinkability and overall experience.
Dessert - These glasses are typically small in design - which makes sense… it’s the last hoorah after a satisfying meal! Such dessert wines like Ports or Sauternes are high ABV, the small glass is great to reduce alcohol evaporation and is a perfect portion.
A note about stemless glassware. Stemless has become increasingly popular over the last 10 years probably because it is less prone to breakage and less likely to tip over. Both attributes make it a welcome addition to your collection. However, you should be aware that the more your hand comes in contact with the bowl, the more that the wine will warm up. That is generally not beneficial for wine, but perhaps the benefits outweigh the drawbacks here. If you do opt for stemless, go for a larger vessel for all the reasons mentioned above.
At the end of the day, (or at the end of the bottle) it is important to find the right stemware that matches your drinking habits and preferences. The right glass with the right wine delivers the satisfaction of the palate and senses, connecting you to the vineyards and soils of the Earth. A function of the glass is the vessel. How much should you spend? A good rule of thumb is be willing to spend the same amount on a glass as you would on a bottle of wine.
Here are some interesting resources to get you building your wine cabinet:
First, as you know from my previous blog, I’m a huge fan of Costco. So when you are there looking for some everyday wines, see what they have in their housewares section. While selection changes from warehouse to warehouse, there’s usually an option or two. $25 for a set of 8? You won’t be crying when one inevitably breaks.
Next up is Riedel, a company deeply rooted in wine industry. They are reliable in quality and availability and have a range of price options to meet your budget. I personally like the Vinum Series.
The splurge…. Our friends at Zalto make some of the most beautiful stemware on the market today. They are huge! They make quite a statement on your dinner table, but more importantly, they led those young red wines breathe! Perhaps I’m biased, but these monsters plus a bottle of Claudine Cab would be an ideal Christmas gift!
As the recipient of many well-intentioned but unused wine gifts, I feel compelled to act on behalf of all wine drinkers.