I was once one of the skeptics who didn’t entirely believe that glassware made a significant difference when it came to drinking wine, that is until I put it to the test myself. I took two wine glasses of the same shape and size, one Riedel crystal glass, and one from the dollar store. I poured the same wine in both glasses and began to explore. I was absolutely amazed at the difference. The aromas were noticeably different in each. The dollar store glass gave off a somewhat chalky odor, overpowering the delicate fruit and earthy aromas of the wine, where the crystal glass sent all of those aromas directly to the nose. From first smell, I was a believer. Then, I sipped the wine from each glass, and once again, my world was changed. The aromas flowed on the palate in just the right spots from the crystal glass, where as in the dollar store glass, the wine just sort of landed flatly on the palate. I didn’t understand the hows and whys, but I knew glassware absolutely made a huge difference.
This fall, I was fortunate to attend a seminar with Maximilian Riedel, glassmaker and 11th generation CEO of Riedel crystal glassware. We were presented with five different handcrafted Riedel crystal glasses: Cabernet Sauvignon, oaked Chardonnay, Syrah, Pinot Noir, and basic white wine. The sizes and shapes of each glass were noticeably different, but each one was thin, light, and incredibly beautiful. Over the course of two hours, Mr. Riedel led us through one of the most fascinating seminars I have ever attended, sampling some very high-quality wines in each glass. We’d go back and forth between glass, smelling and tasting, seeing for ourselves how the delicate nuances of each wine was either enhanced or dulled, depending on the glass it was served in. I left absolutely amazed. I was even more thrilled when Mr. Riedel announced each attendee would be able to take the glasses we used at the seminar home with us! That collection is now my prized glassware that I use when I want to truly taste a wine to its fullest.
Glassware makes a huge difference in your wine tasting experience. The way a glass is shaped can direct its aromas to the nose properly, and it can cause the wine to flow on the perfect spot on the palate, almost like magic. You don’t need to spend a fortune on glassware to enjoy your wine, but investing in a set of moderate or high-quality glassware, even if just for special occasions, will truly enhance your appreciation and ability to taste the nuances of a wine. Neither do you need a different glass for each varietal. Although they are available and are crafted to enhance each specific varietal, you can achieve a similar effect with basic glasses. For instance, I serve my white wines in a differently shaped glass than my red wines. I serve my oaked Chardonnays in a differently shaped glass than my Rieslings, and I serve my Pinot Noirs in a differently shaped glass than my Cabernet Sauvignons. Each wine is so unique in its aromatics and texture, and a specifically crafted glass for each truly brings out the best. For every day consumption, however, I suggest having two different glasses—one for whites and one for reds.
How to Choose the Right Glassware
In general, red wines are bigger and bolder than white wines, and these require a glass with a bigger bowl to allow the aromas and flavors to be expressed to the fullest potential. The smaller bowl of a white wine glass helps to preserve the aromatics and floral aromas. This simple rule will elevate your wine experience. The stem on your glass matters, too. Although stemless glasses are attractive and popular, the stem of a glass plays an important role in maintaining the temperature of your wine. Temperature is extremely important in the aroma, flavor, and texture expression of a wine. Holding a wine glass by the bowl itself, and not the stem, can easily change the temperature of the wine in your glass.
Next time you’re serving wine to friends and family, check your cabinet and be sure you’re using the right glassware for your wine!