This post, like many of the blog posts I’ve taken on in the past, starts off with one great idea and then veers off into an unexpected direction never to find its way back to the original plan. This was supposed to be a fantastic, informative and visually stunning post about which type of wine glass is the best for each specific wine varietal. Compelling, no?
So with a few wine glass samples in hand, I sat down to start scrutinizing which of these glasses would best capture the subtle grapefruit tones of a chilled, light rosé when a little detail hits me: I don’t know ANYTHING about wine. I mean, I do know the difference between a white and red wine (most of the time … ) but as I stared at the six wine glasses lined up next to my computer, I have no idea which of these are white wine glasses or red wine glasses. And I work at Sur La Table! Admitting this will probably cost me my job (not really, but I AM sure that everyone here will now point and laugh when they see me walk down the hall). Luckily my search for knowledge on the world wide interwebs has netted some interesting information. This stuff is probably all remedial for all of you but at least you can get a nice chuckle out of my mind being blown by stuff you’ve known for years.
Apparently, unless you’re a wine aficionado or sommelier (or any Real Housewife), you really only need two types of wine glasses to start out building your wine glass collection: white wine and red wine. Of course I’m dying to know which is which! The red wine glass is the one with the larger bowl. The top of the glass will taper to help direct the wine to the right place in your mouth, the center of your tongue. Why? To balance the flavors of fruits, the acidity and the tannins and give you the true intended taste of the wine. Remember those sweet, salty, sour, bitter tasting experiments you tried in gradeschool? Certain areas of the tongue have stronger flavor receptors for particular types of flavors. Make sure your wine is hitting the right places.
White wines are less bold in flavor so your white wine glass will be the smaller, shorter one, unless you’re one of these ladies. In general, it’s recommended to own 6 standard red glasses and about 4-6 standard white glasses, and if you go for a set you’ll get the best value.
How can a glass actually affect taste? The bowl shape is apparently the biggest indicator. The width of the opening as well as the depth of the bowl determine how much air circulates over the surface area of the wine. This shape, accompanied by swirling air into the wine, softens tannins and activates the aroma. Apparently you’re supposed to smell your wine before you drink it … and you probably already knew that.
Stems or stemless? Even though I prefer white wines (red wine makes me wheeze) I originally bought stemless glasses due to lack of storage space. While these are easier to store in a small kitchen, they warm chilled wines if you tend to hold your glass while you sip.
Another factor to keep in mind is material. Crystal wine glasses are on the high end of the wine glass spectrum. Different properties in the type of crystal allow it to better aerate the wine and allow the glass to have very thin rims. It’s also the most delicate and will likely need to be hand washed, but newer variations have evolved and some are now dishwasher safe. Not that I have a dishwasher … Crystal also has small little knobby things on the surface that help to aerate your wine when swirled in the glass. (That totally reminds me of that scene in Rear Window with the brandy. Distracting!)
Glassware is less pricey and more durable but cannot be spun quite as fine, nor does it have the aeration properties of crystal. Acrylic is a good option for outdoor parties as it’s the most durable, but you wont get the best experience if you’re serving a high-end wine (for that black tie barbecue maybe?). Wine Folly has a fantastic questionnaire to help you select the right material.
After all this book research, I did decide to pony up and get myself a few real, adult glasses. I picked the Schott Zwiesel Pure Light-Bodied White Wine Glasses. In the interest of full disclosure, I will admit that I only bought two glasses because there’s no sense in having more wine glasses than seats at my dining room table.
What are your suggestions for setting up your first collection of wine glasses?