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The Glass Actually Matters

15! 15 people coming to my house tonight to try 9 different wines! Cabernet, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Rose, Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay……ahhhhhh! Luckily I just bought that 16 piece stemless wine glass set the other day. That should do it. Wait. No. I think I heard different wines need different glasses? Is that even true? It’s all just glass, right? I thought the different glass sizes and shapes were just for looks. Am I going to look stupid now? Do I need to cancel the party? Do I need to go buy 100 different glasses? Please help!

So, does the glass really matter when drinking wine? That all depends on the purpose of the wine. Are you just wanting to get drunk and run naked through your yard? Then no, the glass doesn’t matter. Use a shoe if you want. However, if you are actually wanting to “taste” the wine and experience all of its flavors and aromas, then yes, the glass can make a huge difference. But where do you start? Don’t worry, that’s what we do here at Vastewine.

The Basics

I know, I know. There are so many different types of wine glasses out there! At first glance, it may seem like one big marketing ploy just to get you to buy multiple sets. However, there have been scientific studies done, most recently in Japan, showing that different glasses paired with different wines exploit the aromas and flavors in unique fashion. The vapors produced from wine showed different effects depending on the shape of the bowl. Red wines and white wines have very different characteristics, so the actual shape of the glass can determine how much of these flavorful aromas escape to your senses, and how quickly they do so. The vapors produce aromatic compounds directly to your nose, and these compounds are responsible for most of the flavors in each wine.

Ok, so now that you know that there is an actual reason for using different glasses, we can move on to which glasses work best for which wine! Not only are there major differences in the compounds of white and red wines, but there are subtle variations within each grape variety that will require different stemware. So let’s get to it!

White Wine

When it comes to white wine, typically a smaller bowled glass will be the way to go. A smaller glass will help preserve the floral aromas, engage higher acidity, deliver more explosive aromas to your nose due to the smaller opening, and helps maintain a cooler temperature that so many white wines need. However, there are exceptions. For example, a full bodied white wine like Oak Aged Chardonnay and White Rioja’s, will actually do better with larger bowls. These full bodied wines are best when they exhibit a creamy texture, and the larger bowl enhances that. The floral aromas in these wines is not the catch like most of the other white wines, therefore a larger opening works perfect.

Red Wine

Ok, it’s about to get a little more complicated. When choosing the perfect glass for your red wine, it’s not the aromas you are going for. So yeah, you guessed it….. a wider mouth glass will do the trick. Instead of a florally aroma, red wine glasses are tailored to mitigate the different levels of bitterness and spices to make a smoother taste.

There are 3 basic red wine glasses (see diagram.) The first one is for full-bodied red wines with high tannins. Examples of these wines are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Bordeaux blends. This glass is often known as the large “Bordeaux” glass. You will experience more aroma compounds as the ethanol has more room to evaporate. Also, the wider opening will give these bold wines a smoother taste.

The second glass is for your medium to full bodied wines that are spicy or peppery. These include Malbec, Garnache, Syrah, and Sangiovese. This is also known as a “standard” glass. With a smaller opening than the large Bordeaux glass, the standard allows these spicy medium bodied wines to hit your tongue faster and with more punch. Zinfandel and Petite Sirah are also examples in this category.

The last glass (that would be number 3 for those of you counting) is for your floral reds such as Pinot Noir and Gamay. This glass is known as the aroma collector or “Bourgogne” glass. The bowl on this bad boy will be even wider, allowing the more floral red wines to compound together for an overall better taste.

Specialty Glasses

So you know what to do with those red and white wines now, right? Ok good. Well there are a few other “specialty” glasses you might want to keep around just in case. Port wine (a desert wine) has its own glass shape. It is small in size and has a very narrow mouth in order to reduce evaporation. This bad boy also packs some high alcohol content. Oh, and we can’t forget the Champagne! Seriously….can anybody hear me? Could somebody please bring me some champagne to celebrate the end of this article? Nobody? Ok, fine. Anyways, Champagne “flutes” are usually tall and extremely narrow, so that when it hits your nose and tongue you get a serious bite.

As you can see, there are quite a few variances when it comes to wine glasses. There are even universal wine glasses out there that can make any wine taste good. Also, you don’t have to spend a lot of money on wine glasses (unless you want to of course.) It’s all about personal preference. You may even find that some wines, for YOUR palate, actually work better in a different glass than I listed above. You just never know. These are just guidelines. As always, the most important part of drinking wine is that it makes YOU happy. It’s for you to enjoy.

So, farewell. Don’t forget, enjoy every bottle, every sip.

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