About The Author:

"Roger, The Wine Guy" is Roger Yazell, CWS. He is a member of the International Wine Guild and has had a long time admiration of wine. After careers in broadcasting, advertising and marketing account management, he explored his love of wine in hospitality, wholesale and retail sales. The intent of Roger's Grapevine is to share stories, history and information that will add to the reader's love, enjoyment and appreciation of wine and sake'.

Questions, requests for topics and comments are always welcome via email: rogerthewineguy@gmail.com.

(Note: The Wine Guy is currently undergoing chemotherapy and this blog will be on hiatus for the duration and into a recovery period. The Wine Guy is planning to celebrate his recovery with a trip to the two wine producing regions in Argentina and that should provide for some interesting new blogs. Meanwhile please enjoy the archives and feel free to email in the interim.)

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Glass Can Make a Difference!

The Wine Guy prefers glass
stemware for his favorite wines.
People getting together and learning about wine don't always heavily discuss the importance of glassware.  It was a question, I would sometimes be asked about when I was in retail but not very often.  Perhaps that is why I've never blogged about wine glassware.  Not until today anyway.   The other day, when I was at a loss for something to blog about, I so mentioned my "writer's block" on Facebook and one of my old friends suggested the topic of glassware.  It occurred to me that his suggestion was something worth talking about.  Proper glassware CAN make a difference but most wine drinkers don't understand why.  So here goes:

First things first....yes, the proper glassware can often make a difference in taste!   Here's a little test you can conduct yourself (in fact, it makes a great tasting theme if you like to hold such an event with your friends).    Assemble a collection of different drinking vessels.  Include a plastic glass, styrofoam cup, coffee mug, juice or water glass, traditional wine glass (maybe even a couple of different wine glasses).  Proceed to open a bottle of one your regular favorite wines and then sample a taste in each different container.  98% of you will  notice a difference in the taste of the wine as you progress through the various samples.  A significant number of you, after doing this kind of taste test, will be tempted to scream "unholy heathens!" the next time you attend a high priced fundraiser and are served wine in a plastic cup.  If you try the test and don't happen to notice any difference in taste, then the rest of the material contained in this blog is probably worthless and irrelevant, (with the exception of my cautionary note below about plastic).....just go enjoy your wine!

The first thing to remember is that wine has a lot of different chemical compounds that may react with the lining or base material of your vessel.  As an example, many types of plastic may interact chemically with wine, particularly red wines.  I suggest avoiding, whenever possible, drinking wine from plastic glasses. For the same reason, I try to avoid red wines that use artificial corks made with plastic and I never store them or keep them on the shelf for any length of time at all.   

Key elements of a basic wineglass
The preferred material for wine drinking, of course, is glass and leaded crystal is preferred because it is the most transparent, refracts ambient light well and allows the best visual examination of the wine, as well as enhanced aeration.   Traditionally, most wine glassware is also stemmed.  Allowing unimpaired visual examination of the wine is actually one of the main reasons stemware is preferred.  It eliminates smudges and fingerprints around the glass.  Additionally the stem allows for longer maintenance of the correct wine temperature after the glass is filled.  The bowl is also an important feature of wine glassware.  In most still wines, the bowl is larger in the base region (near the stem) than at the mouth.  This allows for easy swirling and aeration of the wine to release flavors and aromas and it directs those toward the nose and palate through the size and shape of the  mouth opening.

Typically, red wine bowls are wider, allowing for more surface area in the wine.  This enhances visual color analysis, allows for more aeration and fuller olfactory examination of aromas.  Openings vary somewhat in size and shape for different varieties of red wines.  This has a tendency to direct the wine toward that part of the plate where the wine's features register the best.  (Example: toward the back of the mouth for richer, fuller bodied and higher alcohol content wines).    White wine glasses typically have smaller, more u-shaped bowls.  This reduction in size and surface area helps maintain the cooler temperatures white wine is served at and offers a more conservative, yet more direct route for appreciation of the more subtle aromas often associated with white wines.   In the case of sparkling wines, the bowl disappears into an elongated flute which aids in the conservation of those decadent bubbles while directing them to an narrow but enjoyable exit at the mouth of the glass.

Many of you have observed professionals tasting wine on TV or at wine shows.  The noisy sloshing they do is literally to move the wine to different parts of their palate to examine the different taste characteristics.  The heavy sucking of air is aeration of the wine within their own mouth.  These tasters will sample many different kinds of wines in a singular glass.  They typically use an ISO wineglass for all tastings.  ISO is the acronym for International Standards Organization.  Since the size and shape and even the density of the glass can affect the taste of wine, their standard tasting glass  provides a baseline  for professionals to compare the tastes of different wines.

"The tasting glass consists of a cup (an "elongated egg") supported by a stem resting on a base. The opening of the cup is narrower than the convex part so as to concentrate the bouquet."
 ISO page on Wine Tasting Glasses

There can be many different kinds of stemmed wineglasses.
For the wine drinker wanting to maximize the drinking experience, wine glass makers such as Riedel have created many different glasses for the different varieties of wine.  They all operate on the basic principles above with some variations in design that enhance the special characteristics of each type of wine.   If you want to learn more about the different shapes of varietal wineglasses, you can visit the website of a quality manufacturer (such as Riedel) or use the following link to FSW: www.foodservicewarehouse.com/education/fundamentals-of-wine-glassware/c27439.aspx

For the average wine drinker, a red, a white, a sparkling and a dessert wine glass should offer all the variety you will ever need.  However, if you have a particular varietal or blend that is your standard favorite, there can be something truly special about having a glass specifically designed to insure that you get the maximum enjoyment of your favorite wine.

The Riedel "O" wine tumbler
There is one type of glass we haven't discussed.  Many of the top manufacturers of wine glasses have, in recent years heavily promoted stemless wine glasses.   Riedel initially introduced theirs (the "O" series) as a basic white and red wine glass and has gone on to develop a number of styles with different mouth openings and shapes specific to varietal recommendations.  Riedel describes the glasses as being for "casual wine drinking".  The basic advantage to the stemless glasses that I see is that they are heavier with a lower center of gravity and less like to tip over and less likely to be broken in a party situation.  In that regard, they are a viable contribution to the world of wine glasses providing a better alternative to styrofoam or plastic cups. Otherwise they function very well for your glass of juice at breakfast. (That's a subtle hint as to the Wine Guy's preference in a wineglass.)

Are fancy wine glasses essential to enjoying your favorite glass of wine?   Not neccessarily.   Can the style of the wine glass make a difference in the taste experience?   Yes, it can make a difference, sometimes subtly, sometimes dramatically, depending upon the wine and glassware involved.  My recommendation for most wine drinkers is having the four basic types of glasses:  white, red, sparkling, dessert.  If you don't drink dessert of sparkling wine, one could even get by with a basic burgundy glass or better yet, find a supply of the standard ISO tasting glasses.  

I didn't go into great detail but I hoped this blog provided some basic information that was helpful as you continue to explore the wonderful word of wine.  As always, whatever type of glass you pour into, keep on sampling and let your taste buds guide you to a wonderful wine experience.


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