Need Glasses?

Grapes on the Vine

The world’s leading glass company, Riedel, conducts regular seminars around the world to demonstrate the effects of stemware on our impressions of wine.  About a year ago we had the pleasure of attending a tasting event lead by Maxmilian Josef Riedel, 11th generation of the over 250 year old family-owned company.  Working with Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon, we noticed a striking difference in each wine when served in its “ideal” glass shape versus other glasses – more captivating aromas, better flavours, and a much longer finish.

We’ve always known better wine glasses not only enhance the beauty of a table setting, they always add to the pleasure of the wine tasting experience. But is it realistic to have a different glass for every wine you are going to drink? We’re often asked if there’s an “ideal” wine glass shape to start your collection. 

Without naming brands, here’s what to look for in good stemware:

  • Clear is best. It allows you to see the colour of the wine, without it being distorted by the appearance of the glass itself.  Avoid tinted or cut glass.
  • The thinner the better. A lighter weight glass with a thin rim lets you concentrate on the feel of the wine in your mouth, not the feel of the glass.
  • Large, but not too large. Larger in size, at least 12 ounces, gives you room to swirl your wine without having it slosh over the sides.  Goldfish bowl-sized glasses are best for margaritas, not wine.
  • Tapered for still wines. The tulip-shaped bowl, tapered in toward the rim, concentrates the aromas and enhances the taste experience.
  • Flutes for sparkling wines have been the norm, but the tapered glass that you use for still wines works as well. Flutes seem concentrate the bubbles more in the glass, but for certain sparkling wines the nuanced aromas are sometimes masked. Avoid the saucer-type glasses unless you’re building one of those sparkling wine glass towers.
  • With or without a stem, is a good question. While a glass with a stem means you can hold the glass without getting fingerprints on the bowl, or warming up the wine, stemless glasses are handy and less subject to breakage.

If both white and red wines are going to be served, an all-purpose glass works well. To better highlight the qualities of each, serve white wine in a smaller glass, about 12 ounces and red wine in a larger glass, 16 ounces or greater.  

When trying to decide what to spend on stemware,  Riedel recommends spending the same amount per stem as you would on an average bottle of wine. Although there’s an initial investment, well cared for, good stemware can give a lifetime of enjoyment.

Finally, how much to pour?

When serving wine with a meal, glasses should be filled to the widest part of the glass bowl, about three or four ounces per glassful. This allows for more aeration, for the wine to “open up” and release its aromas into the air. This also gives enough room to swirl the wine, again to release those aromas into the bowl of the glass so that you can enjoy them. 

For sparkling wine, do a series of small pours to just over halfway up the flute glass. This will prevent the bubbly from foaming up and spilling over.