by Christina Wright
Choosing which utensils to use for eating different types of food is similar to choosing which wine glass to use for different types of wine. Obviously, you wouldn't use a teaspoon to eat spaghetti or a fork for measuring sugar into your morning coffee. But did you know that there's a difference between red wine glasses, white wine glasses and champagne glasses? There are specific types of wine glasses for nearly every type of wine. These different wine glasses can be identified by their sizes and shapes. Read on to discover which wine glasses are right for the wines you prefer to drink.
Why the glass matters: The wine glass you choose can enhance or detract from the way you experience the wine you drink. Wine is an experience for all your senses. The sound of stemware being toasted can be like crystal bells. The stem or bowl of a wine glass feels both delicate and strong in your hand. The "legs" and "tears" of the wine on the inside wall of your glass as you swirl the wine around and the champagne bubbles that ripple up the length of a slender flute are a lovely sight. The intricate aromas of the wine captured in the glass are like a bouquet just before you sip, and the fragrant smell of the wine heightens the taste. The relationship between wine and glass is inextricable, so you definitely want to have the right wine glasses in your home.
Who needs wine glasses: For a true connoisseur of fine wine, a complete set of handmade, mouth-blown crystal stemware is an investment that will be enjoyed for a lifetime. For those who usually have a few bottles of wine on hand for enjoying a glass of wine with dinner, a set of stemware that includes the three basic types of wine glasses -- red, white and sparkling -- will be perfectly sufficient.
Red wine glasses: Red wine glasses are typically larger than white wine glasses and have a wider bowl for catching the bouquet of the wine's aromas. The shape of a red wine glass varies according to the age of the wine.
The correct glass for a young red wine is fundamentally similar to a bodied white wine glass, with a large bowl and a straight lip. In fact, you can use the exact same glass for both types of wine.
Bodied and mature red wines are best in a taller glass with a slightly narrower opening in order to better capture the more complicated aromas.
Full-bodied and very mature red wines are best enjoyed in a large-sized glass with a wide bowl and tapered mouth. The larger size of this glass allows proper oxygenation to take place in wine that has aged a long time and has developed milder, rounder tannins. This glass is perfect for wines produced from robust grapes, such as sangiovese or cabernet sauvignon.
White wine glasses: White wine glasses have a narrower bowl than red wine glasses in order to better complement the lighter, more delicate aromas of white wines. The shape of the wine glass also varies by the age of the wine.
For young and crisp white wines, the main characteristic of the glass is the shape of the opening, which should be nearly straight or even slightly flared outward. This shape of glass is meant to properly introduce the flavors of a young, crisp wine to the mouth by directing the wine first to the tip of the tongue for more sensitivity to sweetness and then to the sides of the tongue for more sensitivity to acidity. This shape of glass also directs the aroma of the wine delicately to the nose to complement the delicacy of the wine.
For bodied and mature white wines, the body of the glass is generally larger as is the mouth of the glass. This allows the more complex aromas of mature white wines to bloom within the bowl. Unlike a lighter-bodied white wine glass, the lip of a mature white wine glass does not flare outward and is instead straight. The straight lip of the glass first presents the bouquet of the wine to the nose and then directs the wine to sides and back of the tongue prior to the tip in order to properly showcase the roundness of a bodied wine.
Sparkling wine glasses: There are four basic shapes of sparkling wine glasses, or champagne flutes as they are commonly called. Each shape is best suited for particular production methods and perlages.
The first sparkling wine glass is a demi-flute. This glass is narrow and tall for showcasing bubbles but slightly shorter than a regular flute. A demi-flute is perfect for dry sparkling wines that were produced using the Charmant or Martinotti method. These wines have a less refined perlage, with coarser bubbles.
Classic-method sparkling wine is best enjoyed in a tall, narrow flute. The tall body of this champagne flute favors the development of a refined perlage. The narrow diameter heightens the fresh, delicate aromas of young, non-vintage sparkling wine.
For vintage classic-method wine, a tall flute with a wider body and tapered mouth is best suited for capturing and enhancing the more complicated aromas of a matured sparkling wine.
The last type of sparkling wine glass is the cup. For aromatic sweet champagnes, a wide, shallow bowl is best. The cup shape is particularly suited to rich and aromatic wines, such as Asti Spumante, because of their sweetness. A large, wide opening has the benefit of mitigating the aromatic strength of the grape while allowing other aromas to develop. Because these wines have less perlage, showcasing the bubbles with a tall, narrow glass is not as big of an issue.
Different glassware artisans make a wide variety of differently shaped glasses for all different types of wine. The general rule of thumb for choosing the best wine glass for the job is to consider the color, maturity, sweetness and acidity of the wine. Keeping these factors in mind will help you choose the best glass.
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