It may seem like something only Hyacinth Bouquet would get in a flap about – what wine glass to serve which wine in. But does it really matter?
Well just because a vessel can contain liquid doesn’t mean it’s best suited to serving wine. Think about the difference between slurping tepid white wine from a plastic cup, with sipping that same white wine, chilled, in a sparkling crystal glass. See? Unless you’re a complete philistine, you will appreciate that the latter offers a much more enjoyable experience. The weight of the glass, its sparkliness, the golden colour, all can be appreciated so much more when you’re drinking out of a decent wine glass.
So far so good. But what about different shapes of glasses for different wines? What on earth is that all about? Isn’t that some ploy by wine glass manufacturers to flog us glasses we don’t need, or an attempt by posh, red- trousered wine buffs to make us feel even more inadequate in the often intimidating wine world?
There is a logical explanation, however, behind the preference to use different style wine glasses for different wines, though unless you’re a professional wine taster, you can get away with a couple of different varieties.
Think of Champagne, for example, or any sparkling wine come to that (no, not all sparkling wine is Champagne, but that’s another story). Typically, Champagne is served in a tall slim glass known as a flute. This is to retain the bubbles, which gives the drink its fizz, for as long as possible. If you serve champagne in a standard wine glass, the larger surface area means that more bubbles can escape. Though you may think that’s all hypothetical as the wine’s not going to be in your glass for long enough for the fizz to go flat.
But it’s only relatively recently that Champagne has been served in flutes. Back in the day, Champagne was poured in flatter, rounder glasses called coupes, which look very pretty, especially when balanced precariously on top of each other in a kind of Champagne glass acrobatic show, but there’s a far greater risk of not only all the fizz evaporating, but of you sloshing the contents all over the floor.
But what about still white wine? This is traditionally served in a medium sized regular shaped wine glass with a U shaped bowl, enabling the wine to maintain a cool temperature.
Red wine is always served in larger glasses. This is to increase the surface area of the amount of wine that comes into contact with the air, giving the wine and its aromas room to “breathe”. It also allows room for the drinkers nose to dip into the bowl to appreciate the aromas – after all, our sense of smell and taste are intricately linked.
But its not all about the size, the shape too, is important, the afficianados will insist.
Some wine regions, with their particular styles of wines have developed very characteristic shapes of glasses. The classic French wine regions of Bordeaux and Burgundy are good examples, where they created their own glasses to best complement
However, for most amateur drinkers, a single quality glass can be used for reds, white or rosés; just be sure not to overfill when serving. It’s half full, not half empty remember!
If it’s within your budget there are also wineglasses that are designed to showcase specific types of wines – such as one for Pinot Noir that’s different from one for Cabernet-based wines. The sizes and shapes of the bowls are said to influence the intensity and complexity of the aromas, while the shapes of the rims determine where the wine initially lands on the tongue, affecting the perception of its taste.