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Jul 21

Glassware Matters Part 2: We Can’t All Afford Riedel

I've written print articles on choosing the correct glassware. But I tend to focus on regular,
affordable glassware – not Riedel. It's important to note that wine
will always taste better in the proper glass, whether it's Riedel or
not. Riedel glasses just take things to a different level.

We can't all afford Riedel. If you're like me, you've got some Riedel, but you don't pull it out all the time for fear of breakage and the pain in the butt of cleaning it. So here are just some general glassware tips that apply even to those Joker glasses. Whether Riedel or not, glassware makes a huge difference in how a wine tastes and smells.

Admittedly, I've read articles and studies that dispute this, but when you think about it, it makes sense. A glass can direct where the liquid hits your tongue and you have vaguely different taste sensations on different regions of your tongue (although the tongue map itself has been debunked). The same with smell – it's common sense that a larger bowl will release more aroma than a closed in bowl. On top of that, we've tried this at home countless times. Cabernet doesn't taste as good from a Champagne flute, etc. Try it – you'll be surprised.

The differences in glass shape can be subtle and include the
depth, width and overall curve of the glass. The size of the bowl determines
how much or how little liquid can be swirled, affecting exposure to the air.
The shape and thickness of the rim directs the wine to specific parts of the
tongue with different taste sensitivities. Finally, the diameter of the opening
concentrates or expands the wine’s bouquet.
  • Red wine glasses are characterized by their larger bowls, often
    compared to the shape of a balloon. The wider bowl helps accumulate the aromas
    and aerate the wine.
  • A white wine glass often has a smaller bowl and straighter sides,
    shaped similar to a tulip. The smaller shape allows less air to circulate, and
    has less effect on the chilled temperature of the wine.
  • Champagne and sparkling wine are best drunk from flutes. A flute
    allows the wine to bubble from a single source at the bottom. The coupe, which is a flatter style glass
    with an open mouth, is not recommended as it lets air, and bubbles, escape the

Buying a stemware set for each varietal can get expensive. In
fact, professional tasters and wine judges use just one type of glass. In an
all-purpose wine glass, you only need a couple of things:

  • Clear
    Clear glass, as opposed to tinted, allows you to view the color of
    the wine, which you often can’t do in the bottle. The color of the wine can
    often be a tip as to whether the wine has gone bad. For this reason, you also
    want to avoid cut-glass and heavy crystal. Save those decorated glasses for
    iced tea and water.
  • Shape.
    A glass with a tulip-shaped bowl is important. The curve helps hold the bouquet
    of the wine. The bowl should also be large enough so that you can swirl the
    wine without spilling. Generally, the opening of the glass should not be larger
    than the widest part of the bowl.
  • Thin rim.
    A wine glass rim should hardly be noticeable and should never impede the
    wine from reaching your mouth. A glass with a thick rim can get in the way of
    the wine. The rim, along with the shape of the glass, can help direct where the
    wine hits your tongue.
  • Stem.
    The breakable stem on a wine glass actually serves a purpose. It allows you to
    hold the glass without affecting the temperature of the wine. If you hold a
    wine glass by the bowl, the warmth of your hands will warm up the wine. The
    best wine glasses have stems that were obviously pulled from the bowl, which
    adds stability and strength, despite the fragile appearance.

No matter what wine glass you choose, take care when washing the
glasses. Wine glasses can hold the scent of your dishwashing detergent and the
detergent may also leave a residue. For your better glasses, eschew soap
altogether. Treat your  stemware as
you might a fine cashmere sweater. Wash your stemware by hand under hot water
and hang to dry.

When it comes down to it, you can drink wine out of a jelly glass
if need be. But to best expose the flavors and colors of the wine, you want to
pay a little attention to your glassware. A basic collection should include
several tulip-shaped, all-purpose glasses, as well as some champagne flutes. A
more tailored collection that won’t break the bank might include 2-4
balloon-shaped glasses for red wine, 2-4 tulip-shapes for whites, and several
champagne flutes.

Glassmakers at Riedel follow the maxim that content determines
shape, and form follows function. While the type of glass may enhance the
experience, remember that the contents of the glass is what is truly important.
A friend of mine made the comment that she will “drink my wine out of a dixie
cup if I must. What’s important is the wine!” Let’s raise a glass to that!

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Posted by Michelle at 8:15 am in Knowledge, Tastings, Wine Misc, Wine Tech | Permalink | Comments (6)

6 Responses to “Glassware Matters Part 2: We Can’t All Afford Riedel”

  1. Pete says:

    Well said – proper glassware absolutely makes a huge difference in wine enjoyment. The “tannin tamer” theory has some truth to it in that a larger bowl will help to get more air to the wine than a small glass. This will help in effect to decant the wine in glass. Please check out my blog post on decanting here http://acoupleofwines.blogspot.com/2009/07/decanting-demystified.html Decanting your wine and putting it in the proper glassware will enhance your overall wine experience. One other note – there are some very nice affordable Riedel glasses out there as well. Their “Wine Series” is about $40 for a set of 4 and well worth it. It is the same basic bowl styles as their much more expensive glasses which are well over $40/glass.

  2. Michelle says:
    You’re right!  In fact, I was just recently reminded that Target (yay Target!) carries a line of Riedel glasses that are quite affordable. (http://bit.ly/tePcA) If I was getting married now, I’d definitely register for Target’s Riedel Vivant sets, which retail for around $40. 
    Thanks for commenting!
  3. David Honig says:

    While they are not cheap, Ravenscroft has a line of glasses that are perfect doppelgangers for Riedel at half the price.

  4. Jen says:

    Loving this post a lot. Currently seeking inexpensive glasses for a tiny new kitchen. I haven’t had proper glasses since moving to SF. Looking at the $5 per glass point, which I recognize is entirely too cheap for “quality”, but is the price point I’m at – considering we break glasses and plates pretty regularly. CB2 has some interesting offerings in the $5-6 range, and BBB has a couple as well. Sorting through the options as we speak. Thanks for the advice!

  5. garfinkel says:

    They’ve done blind taste testing with wine expects. The result? They couldn’t tell the difference from a specialize and non-specialized glass. It is all a marketing gimmick. Save you $$$.

  6. Thick rims on glasses has got to be the thing I hate most about drinking wine outside the home. You’d think restaurants would get it right!

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