Nov 26, 2011  •  In Food, Geek, Guest Posts, Home

Guest Post: Discovering the Differences a Glass Makes

When Maggie asked me if my readers might be interested in a post about wine glasses and how they affect the taste of wine, my reaction was, “Uh…heck yes!” I may have been jumping the gun a little there, but all I knew was that *I* wanted to learn more about wine glasses!

So here’s one for all the wine aficionados out there. Even if you enjoy just the occasional glass of wine, I’m sure that you would enjoy this post all the same. I know that I sure learned a lot from reading this piece, and now I’m craving more! 

Did you know that the shape and makeup of a glass affects the taste of wine? Did you know how much it affects the taste? And the smell? Yeah, I KNOW you think I’m crazy, but I promise you I’m not. It really, really does. But let me back up a little bit.

See, I love wine. And while my tastes have gotten a bit more refined as I’ve gotten older (and I’ve learned more from my Dad about different wines and what I personally like), I still believe that the best wine is one you enjoy. Not necessarily one that has a high score or rating from those organizations that rate wines. Because your taste buds are your own, and what if you just don’t like that type of wine? Wine is subjective and meant to be enjoyed, so drink what you like! But what’s not subjective (to me, anyway) is the type of glass that you drink the wine from.

See, one of the most amazing things that I’ve discovered about wine (and beer too, actually) is how much of a difference the glass makes. Now, I know exactly what you’re thinking, and that is that I’m totally full of it, a wine snob and c’mon, all that talk about glasses is just a marketing ploy to get you to buy more glassware. I know you’re saying that because I said all those things when my dad first did a glass tasting for my family to prove what a difference the “correct” glass makes for a wine.

Now, I put correct in quotation marks because while various companies each make their own glass for different wine varietals, I think all wines are improved when drunk out of a leaded crystal glass without a lip, regardless of whether you are drinking it in the proper shape or not. But the shape really does make a difference, I promise!

Having the proper glass at every stage in the winemaking process is key — this is
prior to bottling, making sure our blend was still tasty!

For a little bit of background, my love of wine comes from my father. He’s also passed on this love (or obsession, depending on your point of view) to my husband, to the point that when my husband and I got married we blended our own pinot noir that we served at our wedding. But the other part of this love that we all share is a desire to make sure that when you taste the wine, you’re tasting the wine itself.

What we discovered when we started tasting wine out of different glasses is that the normal glass you might find at a restaurant is just that — made of glass with a rolled edge around the top. But this type of structure means that the wine just sits in the bottom of the glass (as opposed to getting aerated when you swirl the wine in a leaded crystal glass), and when you drink it, there’s a bit of a catch due to the rolled lip. All of these things combine to take a wine and make it taste flatter, not as rich as it otherwise could be.

This is what a glass tasting at my parents house looks like. The placemats help to provide
a reference point for each of the glasses so that you remember which one is which. The
small glass in the lower left of the placemat is referred to as the “joker” glass. This is the
type of glass that you see at many restaurants — small bowl, made of glass with a rolled
lip. Not ideal. When we see restaurants with this type of glass now we usually drink beer.

But, back to the shape of the glass itself. I have come to love Riedel glasses which make up the majority of my husband’s and my collection.* As a family company which has been in business for 11 generations, you can’t argue with the quality of the product that they produce. They were also one of the first companies to create a specific glass for each varietal of wine.

Hearing this is when I figured that clearly it must be because they’re trying to sell more glasses. But, trying wine in its proper glass demonstrated to me how much effect the glass has on the wine.

For a Chardonnay with its higher alcohol content (relative to other white wines) the wider opening and shallower bowl reduces the alcohol you smell so that your nose is not overwhelmed (see the glass at top left of the placemat). For a Syrah you want a deeper bowl with a medium opening to provide enough room to let the wine breathe and focus the wine as you smell and taste it (see the glass at the bottom right of the placemat). Each different shape is designed specifically with the characteristics of the varietal in mind so that you end up with a purer, more accurate taste of the wine when you drink it.

A different tasting at my parents – you can see four different types of Riedel glasses on the table.

I could write a lot more on this subject, but instead I think I’ll end by asking if any of you have tried wine out of different types or styles of glasses or if you just think I’m totally crazy?

*There are other companies out there making equally excellent wine glasses, but my experience is with Riedel glasses. Also, please note that they have no idea who I am, I just really enjoy their glasses!

About the Author:

I’m a Northwest girl who spends my time goofing around with my husband and dog, traveling, trying to improve my photography and enjoying great local wine and beer. I’m also obsessed with the most ridiculous natural disaster movies you can think of (seriously, how can you deny the awesomeness that is The Core or 2012? That’s right, you can’t). You can find more of me over at A Long Far View or writing as Mrs. Eggs Benedict on Weddingbee.

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2 Responses to “Guest Post: Discovering the Differences a Glass Makes”

  1. Amanda says:

    I knew there were different glasses for whites/reds and for champagne, but I had no idea there were specific glasses for each type of wine! I’m definitely curious about this now!!

  2. Jenn says:

    We love our pinot noir glasses and, yes, it does make a difference drinking out of the mammoth pinot noir glass as opposed to a “standard” wine glass.

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