Have you ever noticed that wine glasses are NOT a standard size or shape? Is there a reason for this – and is it just about the way they look or does the shape of a wine glass actually affect the flavour of the wine?
There are three parts to every wine glass;
- The base – this part is needed to keep the wine glass standing!
- The stem – this is the part you hold which connects the base and the bowl.
- The bowl – this is the part that holds the wine.
When filling a wine glass, always aim to fill the glass around one third, or to where the bowl is at its widest to maximise the wine’s contact with the air. You need enough space left in the glass to collect those vital aromas! Essentially, although all of the above parts may vary, it’s the size and shape of the bowl that makes all the difference.
Smell is crucially important in how we appreciate wine. Our nasal passages can detect many thousands of different flavours and this is why a wine’s nose is a critical part of our perception. If the aromas have dissipated, the taste of the wine loses much of its intensity. Fresh and zesty white wines suit glasses with smaller bowls to concentrate the delicate aromas, while full-bodied wines need a larger bowl to allow the more complex aromas to shine through.
RIEDEL are one of the most well known wine glass designers (they created the “Montrachet” glass, which better emphasises a creamy texture because of the wider mouth) and they have acquired some scientific explanations as to why the shape of a glass influences the bouquet and taste of alcoholic beverages.
“The first discovery was made while enjoying wine. The same wine displayed completely differently characteristics when served in a variety of glasses. The differences were so great that experienced connoisseurs were made to believe that they were tasting different wines”.
RIEDEL were then able to create glass shapes in which the wine, vinified from specific grape varieties, seemed to improve!
The main obvious difference you may have noticed (aside from the slim flute of a champagne glass!) is between red and white wine glasses. The bowls of white wine glasses tend to be smaller in shape because the aromas are lighter – they can also maintain a cooler temperature and preserve floral aromas. However, different types of red and white wine still have their own glasses.
Pinot Noir glasses for example, have a large bowl that is one of the widest of any wine glass while Syrah or Shiraz glasses are smaller than most red wine glasses. The choice of which red wine glass to use is all to do with mitigating the bitterness of tannin or spicy flavours to deliver a smoother tasting wine. A standard wine glass is perfect for medium to full-bodied red wines, with spicy notes and/or high alcohol.
Depending on what you drink the most, you may also want to invest in some speciality wine glasses such as Port glasses, which have a small size and narrow mouth to reduce evaporation (as it’s a high alcohol wine).
Finally – what the wine glass is made of also matters! Leaded or lead-free crystal is the best, giving a sparkle and an elegant feel. The glass should however not be frosted or coloured and you should clearly be able to see the wine through the glass inside.
If you’d like more information about any of the wine courses or events The London Wine Academy offer, please do get in touch – we’d love to hear from you and answer any questions you may have (including those about wine glasses!)