I have a sort of weakness for stemware…. the second shelf in our cups/glasses/mugs cabinet has been completely overtaken with various wine glasses. I can explain, though! Sometimes when you visit a tasting room, you’re given a branded wine glass to take home with you, and I can’t help if I have a few of those, right? Right. And then there was that time when I had to buy those adorable geometric pink glasses for the Shel Silverstein shoot, and that time I attended a wedding where they gave vintage/antique glassware as their favors. So really, it’s not my fault.
When it comes to a basic arsenal of wine glasses, there are three generic shapes to have: one for big reds, one for smaller whites, and one for bubbly! If you want to get into particulars, there are actually hundreds of different shapes of glass based on the different grape varieties, blends, and even years, but basic wine enjoyment calls for just the three mentioned above.
First, a bit of basic background on wine glasses- ever wondered what the purpose of the stem is? It’s to keep your hands from warming the wine. There’s argument over whether or not red wines benefit from the warmth of your hands, but anything chilled should undoubtedly be kept away from fingers. The stem also keeps the bowl of your wine glass from unsightly fingerprints! Because the ideal serving temperature of wines can vary from 45-65 degrees, fluctuations due to body heat can change the flavor and aroma of your wine. Whites, as a general rule, should be held by pinching the stem. You can do the same with reds, but it’s not incorrect to hold a red by the bowl- some argue it helps in aging the wine a little as you drink it.
The first glass in our lineup (on the left) is a standard red wine stem. Generally, the larger the red wine glass, the better! A large glass gives your wine room to breathe, which is also why when you pour, you’ll only want to fill your glass 1/3-1/2 of the way, and you’ll want to stop pouring when you reach the widest part of the bowl. This opens up the wine at the largest possible surface area, allowing the wine space to decant and aerate. Some of the fuller-bodied reds do best when decanted (poured into a big bulbous crystal vase-looking thing for an hour +), but if you don’t have a decanter or don’t feel like waiting an hour for your glass of wine, make sure you have some big fat stemware to pour it into.
The second glass (middle) is a white wine glass (for non-carbonated whites). Red + white glasses are similar in shape (they both have the sort of tulip shape) but white glasses are typically more narrow. This is to KEEP them from oxidizing (breathing) as quickly as reds- most whites will be lighter in flavor than reds, and they don’t need as much time/surface area to aerate.
The third glass (on the right) is a flute- use these for anything carbonated like champagne or sparkling wines. The reason for the narrow opening is to reduce the surface area of wine coming in contact with the air, slowing the wine from oxidizing too quickly. Ever seen those wide-mouthed champagne glasses? Don’t use those- your champagne will go flat in about three minutes. And flat champagne is gross. Flutes are another glass you’ll want to grip by pinching the stem to keep the wine from warming.
See? Easy peasy! You can get a basic set of four red, white, or champagne glasses at Bed Bath & Beyond for $20. When you’re looking for glasses, remember to buy CLEAR, delicate glass- anything too chunky will make your wine tasting more cumbersome.
Happy Wine Wednesday!