Kitchen Essentials – Wine Glasses

By / Magazine / March 29th, 2009 / 1

Back in the day, an everyday tumbler was a normal receptacle for wine. Just as common were those classic wine glasses shaped like shallow bowls. Somewhere along the way, someone must have realized that wine tastes best when it’s sipped from the right glass. Try it for yourself. You’ll probably notice that aromas and flavours change according to the way the glass is constructed. Now, a new kind of problem has emerged. Visit any store that stocks wine glasses and you will find yourself faced with long aisles of stemware from which to choose. Tapered, stemless, large or small bowl … is it all really necessary?

Excess is a very real danger here. It is, in fact, possible to buy a wine glass for almost every type of wine, and for every type of grape, for that matter. Who has enough space to store that much glassware? I would worry about shattering glass every time the floor shook! On the other hand, it is necessary to own a few different types of wine glasses that vary in style and quality.

If you’re confused, sit tight. I have some tips that will help you navigate the aisles of glasses you’re sure to encounter the next time you’re out shopping.

The bowl

As a general rule, the glass should hold, at the very least, eight ounces of wine. A good pour measures about half that at four ounces. You will have to consider swirling capacity, too. Most red wine glasses have large bowls because reds need a lot of room. Giving them a robust swirl will aerate them properly and release their complex aromas. Most white wine glasses tend to have smaller bowls. Whites and rosés can have aromas that are as complex as reds, so you might think that the bowl should be just as large. Actually, the shape of the white wine glass serves a different purpose. The smaller and narrower bowl allows the chilled wine to keep its temperature longer.

The top

The top of the glass should taper in (think tulip), so that the opening is narrower than the bowl. This shape concentrates all the subtleties of the wine’s aroma. The champagne glass of your parents’ or grandparents’ vintage was the saucer style. Unfortunately, the wide opening at the top allowed all the carbon dioxide gas in the wine to escape too quickly, resulting in a less than bubbly bubbly. Today, the flute shape sets the standard because it maximizes those bubbles.

The stem

Stemless wine glasses are now de rigueur. They’re better than drinking wine out of an everyday tumbler, but they do present a problem. Because the only way to hold a stemless glass is by wrapping your hand around the bowl, you risk warming the wine too much, which makes the alcohol more volatile and throws off the balance. It also means that your hand is in the way when you’re examining the wine’s colour. Stemmed glasses are also better for practicing the art of swirling.

If you want to go hog-wild and stock your cabinets full of glasses, then you should definitely pay a visit to a store that has a good selection of quality stemware. Oh, make sure you walk by those made from coloured glass, or those that have painted designs on them. As nice as they are as pieces of art, they do obscure the look of the wine. Otherwise, it’s best to own some basic glasses consisting of a set for white, a set for red and a set of champagne flutes. Don’t forget a set of liqueur glasses, too, for those evenings when nothing but a sip of something sweet will do. Keep in mind that storing glasses in wooden cabinets, particularly upside down, is a no-no. The glasses invariably end up smelling like a wooden cabinet  — something that’s made worse when liquid is added. Try to store your glasses away from anything that imparts odours.

Now that you have these tips in hand, go out and have fun shopping!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Looking at the small things that make life great and the people who create them.

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