A Guide To Wine Glass Shapes And The Best Brands On The Market
Thanks to the expertise of the good people at Laville Wines and Spirits Village Mall Bugolobi, I now know that the shape of your wine glass does actually affect the taste of the wine. Scientists discovered that at 13°C, the alcohol concentration in the centre of the wine glass is said to be lower than that around the rim. Wine served at a higher temperature, or from the martini or straight glass, does not exhibit a ring-shaped vapour pattern. This ring phenomenon allows us to enjoy the wine aroma without interference of gaseous ethanol. Accordingly, wine glass shape has a very sophisticated functional design for tasting and enjoying wine.
Wine glass shapes
There are four features to a wineglass which each serve critical roles.
The base: The base quite possibly is the easiest of all the parts to understand. It makes sure the glass doesn’t tip over.
The stem: The stem serves two distinct purposes. The first is to allow the drinker to hold the glass without touching the bowl. If you hold a wine glass by the bowl you risk heating the wine from your body temperature. It’s not ideal, especially for wines that need to be served cool or cold. If you feel your wine is too cold, cupping the bowl is the most effective way to warm the wine up. The second is holding the glass by the stem will keep the drinker’s hands away from the rim of the glass. Our hands have their own unique scent which most of the time is increased in intensity through the use of fragrant soaps, lotions and perfumes. These scents can overpower, mask or change the aromas from the wine so the design of the stem allows these scents to stay as far away from the drinker’s nose as possible while still allowing for adequate control of the glass. Some professionals even go as far as to hold the base rather than the stem for this reason.
The bowl: The bowl of the glass is where the wine is settled. The best glasses have a wider bowl than rim to allow for proper swirling. The swirl releases volatile aroma compounds and creates a vortex in the center of the glass towards which these compounds are drawn. When the drinker then puts their nose in the glass after the swirl they sniff in a concentrated amount of the aromas directly out of the glass. This allows for even the most nuanced of aromas to be detected. The larger the bowl, the more surface area the wine can cover. The more surface area the greater amount of volatile compounds can be released. Keep in mind that a wine glass usually shouldn’t be filled to more than one-third the total height of the bowl in order to have proper swirling room. Otherwise you risk losing your wine in a wild swirling accident and again, avoid the spilt wine at all costs!
The rim: This rim is the point where the wine makes contact with the taster’s mouth. The thinner the rim of the glass the more seamless this transition is and the more the taster can focus on the perception of the wine in their mouth and less on the feel of the glass.
Best glassware for each wine
Whites will typically have a smaller bowl and will be a bit smaller in size than reds. Reds will have a wider bowl but may be shorter overall than the whites. Depending on the glass company you prefer (and there are several good ones), they may have developed a glass for every variety of wine.
Red: Look for a wide bowl and a narrow rim. You also want the glass to be fairly tall to allow for a generous swirl. Older reds can occasionally benefit from being poured in a white wine glass to capture the more delicate flavors.
White: Look for a narrower bowl than a red glass, however it should still have a narrow rim. White wine glasses absolutely need a stem. I can’t stand drinking chilled white wine out of a stemless glass.
Sparkling: You can use a white wine glass for the sparkling wine. However, nothing adds a sparkle to this experience like a flute of sparkling wine. For sparkling wines, look for a long, narrow, elegant bowl. Look for flutes that have an etching in the base to allow for the bubbles to form. This is called nucleation. Bubbles will only form on surfaces that are not perfectly smooth which is why with very clean wine glasses you sometimes don’t see any bubbles at all if they are not etched. The height of the bowl allows the bubbles to stay in solution more easily. This keeps the wine from going flat quickly. It’s not important to be able to swirl sparkling wine. The bubbles will bring the aromas to the top of the glass for you to smell without swirling.
Glass or crystal
Although the material from which your glass is made doesn’t affect the taste, it can affect your perception of the wine. Crystal is a strong material so the rims can be made thinner without breaking. Wine glasses made of glass usually have thicker rims which can make tasting awkward. Glass is also more fragile and breaks easily. Make sure to choose un-leaded crystal since there is a chance that the lead can leach into the wine if it is leaded. This is especially important when choosing a decanter!
The best brands
Riedel, Spiegelau and Schott Zweisel remain firm favorite brands. They are highly respected and have stood the test of time. Each makes several ranges, so you can gradually ease yourself into the world of fine wine glasses without having to go straight to the most expensive.
Eisch: They are elegant, with nice weight to the stem, and they have good-sized bowl to enhance aromas and flavors.
Govino: Govino is made from a proprietary BPA free polymer (i.e PETG – a clear amorphous thermoplastic). They are obviously not fine crystal, but they are really surprisingly thin and feel good to drink from. An added bonus is they are also shatterproof, so perfect for large and outdoor gatherings, and reusable.
Peugeot: This well-known French car manufacturer is into wine glasses, since 2006 when it acquired a French wine glass producer. If you really feel like splurging out try the “Les Impitoyables” etched range – especially their Champagne flutes.
Libbey: The current ranges are stylish and are made from reasonably thin glass. However, their best ones are quite expensive.
Stolzle: Made in Germany, these glasses are elegant and are produced from fine lead-free crystal.