Choosing the right wine glasses involves six factors:size, shape, design, weight, material and aesthetics. The size of the glass is dependent on by what sort of wine you intend to enjoy from it. Generally speaking red wine glasses are larger than white wine glasses, and the ones meant for the best wines are bigger than the ones employed for everyday wines.
In my own case, I use a 17 oz.(480 ml.) capacity glass for ordinary red wines, and a 12 2/3 oz. (360 ml.) one for whites. As for Bordeaux, and similarly tannic, full-bodied, high quality reds, I use a 23 oz. (650 ml.) glass that was developed with Bordeaux particularly in mind. I naturally don’t fill my Bordeaux, or any other wine glass, to the brim. For one thing, considering that a regular wine bottle only contains 750 ml. of wine, there wouldn’t be a whole lot left for anyone else to have if I did, and for a differentreason, each the large size of the glass and the fact that it’s widest at its halfway point enable the wine to “breathe” by affording a broad surface area of wine to be in contact with the air in order to promote oxidation. Oxidation assists in softening the tannins of a sturdy red that could otherwise be overly harsh, and lets you appreciate to a greater extent the complexity and various flavors existing in a noble red.
White wine, on the other hand, has far fewer tannins, and generally speaking, doesn’t gain anything from oxidation. A smaller glass is also better for whites because they are served at cooler temperatures. Clearly, it will take a longer time to drink a greater quantity of wine, and you would like to drink up each glass of white wine before it has a can get too warm. One white wine which is an exception to these rules is high-quality white Burgundy, such as Chablis or Montrachet. These excellent quality whites do gain from air exposure, and should be served at the temperatures of common red wines, from 55 to 59 degrees Fahrenheit. Depending on the quality level, I generally serve white Burgundy, and other top-notch Chardonnays, in 14 4/5 oz. (420 ml.) glasses or my 17 oz. red wine glasses.
The largest glasses are normally reserved for good Burgundy. I use 26 1/2 oz. (750 ml.) glasses, but I’ve seen Burgundy glasses as big as 31 3/4 oz. (900 ml). But a discussion of Burgundy glasses really brings us more into the realm of shape than size. Burgundy is a rather delicate and very fragrant red. Like Bordeaux, Burgundy is usually drunk from glasses developed for it specifically Burgundy glasses are balloon shaped: really wide in the center, but tapering up to a fairly narrow opening at the rim. The broad center provides enough surface area for the the wine’s fragrant bouquet to waft up from, while the narrow top retains the terrific Burgundy bouquet in the glass, preventing it from dissipating so that you can fully enjoy it.
A different variety of uniquely shaped wine glass is the champagne flute. These champagne glasses have slender, tall bowls to prevent their bubbles from dissipating too quickly. Tulip shaped Champagne flutes are preferable to straight-sided or trumpet-shaped ones due to the fact that, like most wine glasses, the narrower mouth serves to focus the bouquet inside the glass. To speak of shape in general, I prefer diamond-shaped glasses. They are attractive and a benefit of the diamond design is that it’s easy to see where the widest point of the glass is, which is also the point to which it ought to be filled.
As far as design goes, traditional, long-stemmed glasses are definitely preferable to stemless glasses. The stem serves several critical functions. First, by lifting the bowl up off the table, it lets you see the color of the wine. Second, it helps make it less difficult to swirl the wine in the glass to aerate it and get an idea about how much of body the wine has as it drips back straight down the sides of the glass. Third, it is a convenient handle which prevents your hand warming up the wine, and your fingers smudging up the glass.
Weight and balance are also important to consider because you want a glass that feels good to hold. This is a highly subjective area, but I myself don’t like heavy wine glasses, so I prefer those made of thin glass. A thin rim is also nicer to drink from. There is a disadvantage to thin glass though, that can cause inconvenience and added cost: it chips and breaks easily. A way around this dilemma is to buy glasses reinforced with titanium instead of lead. Titanium wine glasses are not merely more sturdy than their leaded counterparts, they are also lighter and maintain their clarity better.
As for material, you certainly should go with fine Austrian or German crystal. Which’s seriously not as costly as it sounds. You can get beautiful, elegan,t machine-made crystal from well known makers at affordable prices, particularly if you shop around on the Internet. Of course, their top of the line hand blown glasses have a tendency to be very pricey, but it’s not necessary to pay a premium when you can get really good glasses for considerably less, including the titanium versions.
That brings us last but not least to aesthetics, the most subjective area of all. It’s an crucial one however due to the fact, in the end, the whole purpose of nice wine glasses is to act as an classy foil for whatever wine you are having so aesthetics is every bit as big a consideration as functionality. In essence, I’d say determine how much you want to invest in wine glasses and get the ones that you feel are the most beautiful among the ones that fall within your budget.
You can, if you’re so inclined, buy a different size and shape of glass for every single well-known sort of wine, but that’s overkill, IMHO. I can’t see any reason to buy a special glass for Syrah, for example. If you’re drinking a high quality Syrah, like a Hermitage or Penfolds Grange, it’s best to serve it in Bordeaux glasses. If it’s a more everyday version of this trendy varietal, you can simply use everyday red wine glasses. The same goes for other powerful, full-bodied reds. In the case of a superior Pinot Noir, you had best use Burgundy glasses because Burgundy itself is made with Pinot Noir grapes. If it’s a more ordinary Pinot Noir, regular red wine glasses are a better choice because the high-capacity Burgundy glasses will just make the wine’s ordinariness much more noticeable.
In my opinion, a full set of wine glasses should include regular red wine glasses (that can also be utilized as water goblets), Bordeaux glasses, Burgundy glasses, white wine glasses, (for Chablis and other top-rate white Burgundies, you can use red wine or Bordeaux glasses), and champagne glasses. You may want to add some specialty glasses to that list if you are a Brandy drinker or make a habit of drinking dessert wines, but normally, you should be prepared for any contingency with these 5 kinds of wine glasses.
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