The Perfect Wine Glass: When Size (and Shape) Matters

By Fabiana Santana

Different types of wine glassesSingle women listen up: It’s time to start drinking like a grown-up!

Pack away the margarita glasses with the pelican stems, push the old beer mugs embossed with your college emblem to the back of the cabinet, and throw away the mismatched wine glasses you grabbed from the yard sale last summer. It’s time to add some sophistication to your palette, and your stemware.

You know that glassware can have an effect on the taste of wine. Otherwise, why would all the different options exist? But not all glasses are created equal.

If you are a wine lover, or even a novice just starting to appreciate wine, having the right wine glasses can really make or break the experience. Wine glasses are the instrument in which the wine flows into your mouth. The shape and size of the bowl will effect the flow of the wine, and ultimately its taste and texture.

Different shapes are fine-tuned to enhance the characteristics of different grape varieties. Glasses with larger bowls, for instance, allows the wines surface to breathe more oxygen and come to its full flavor potential and are ideal for red wines, while white wines favor a mid sized glass. Spirits and liquors are reserved for small glasses and flutes are the best option for champagne. But, if you have walked through the registry section of a department store lately, you know that it is not as simple as just choosing a glass for red wine.

So how do you choose the right wine glass?

“Ask yourself ‘ what do I like to drink ‘”, says Maximilian Riedel, CEO of Riedel Crystal USA, the leading wine glassmaker in the world, “and buy a set for that type of wine.” Some wines do double duty – a Cabernet glass will work for Merlot and a Shiraz glass is interchangeable for Syrah.

“People shouldn’t buy glasses and not use them, keep them in their box or in the cupboard forever. That destroys them. They can actually take on the taste of the wooden cabinet when they are not used,” said Riedel.

Rotate your glasses so that you are not always using the same one in your set. Max’s grandfather Claus Riedel was the first person in the long history of the glass to design its shape according to the character of the wine. He designed Riedel wine glasses that would deliver the typical components of the grape variety while maximizing the flavors and integrity of the wine. Max’s rule of thumb: your wine glass cost should mirror that of the wine bottle. So if you are a novice experimenting with $10-15 wines, find a glass that rests within that price point ($40-$50 for a set of four).

Still not convinced that a wine glass can affect your wine? Try this tasting experiment at home.

What you need:

  • 1 all purpose, every day drinking glass
  • 1 good wine glass specific to your varietal
  • 1 plastic cup
  • Wine

Pour a few ounces of wine into the wine glass. Swirl it, look at it, smell it, and finally taste it. Write down your thoughts as you go.

Pour the remainder of the wine into the all purpose glass and repeat.

Finally, pour it into the plastic cup and repeat. What do you notice?

Most likely, the plastic pour will have no smell and a very different flavor while the all-purpose might be a mixed bag of aromas and different body experience.

Visit Riedel’s Wine Glass Guide for a long list of glasses for every wine variety and find the one that suits you best. Oh, and chuck those red plastic cups. Your days of drinking wine from plastic are over!

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