First glass goblets
The glassware production process has been labor intensive for a long time. However, even in our time, machines are not able to repeat the quality of handwork in the production of crystal glasses. The glass was fragile, which added value and value to the products. Glassware was passed on as an heirloom. Glass as we now perceive it, transparent and shiny, appeared in 1674, when the technologist Georg Ravenscroft invented the composition of lead glass – crystallin. This was the reason for the dishware boom in the countries of continental Europe at the turn of the 17th and 18th centuries. The aristocracy and the emerging bourgeoisie were the drivers of this boom. It was then that the main types of glasses for various drinks were developed. At the beginning of the 18th century, there was an active trade between the countries, which contributed to an increase in the range of glasses along with the growing popularity of new drinks. Glasses on high legs for red and white wine were supplemented with short-stemmed glasses for brandy and gin, spherical and “shooting” glasses, known to us as shooters (from the English shot). There is a version that the glass acquired this name for a sharp blow of an empty glass on the table.
We are all different, and our tastes differ, from those who think food is just fuel to those who have a secret family recipe for risotto or steak sauce. A similar difference exists among wine consumers, from a 3.99 euro bottle from the supermarket to signature wines from the world’s best vineyards. From those who drink and do not attach importance – from what, to those who have a glass of a special shape for each type of wine.
I believe that a wine glass should be viewed as a tool. A good analogy is the sound quality of music. You can have high-end hardware and a great jazz record, but if you have low-quality speakers or mono playback, the sound isn’t as enjoyable as possible.
Size and shape matter
For ease of understanding, let’s disassemble the glass into three components: a bowl, a leg and a stand.
The different shapes of wine goblets affect how we perceive the aroma, altering the rate and concentration at which our nasal receptors receive wine vapors. The larger the bowl, the wider the area of contact of the drink with air. The larger the surface area, the higher the amount of volatile compounds, the better the aromas of the wine can circulate and emerge.
There is a wide variety of molecules that evaporate from the surface of the wine, which form the aroma, and it is very important to direct the vapors in the right way to the place where our nose meets the glass. Therefore, you should not fill the glass by more than a third, since this is usually its widest place, after which it gradually tapers upward in order to better capture and focus the wine vapors.
Avoid glasses with small bowls – the exception may be for fortified and dessert wine glasses. Glasses intended for red wine tend to be larger, as red wines take longer and more air to open.
Remember, bigger isn’t always better. For example, in the case of very delicate and delicate wines, especially older wines of a fragile nature, an oversized glass can quickly dissipate aromas. Conversely, young concentrated wine can appear closed (no aromas) because it needs more air to evaporate the nuances.
In addition, key features such as the fineness and clarity of the glass should be considered when choosing the right wine glass. Transparent glass allows you to see the color better and tell a lot about the wine without even trying it. The thinner the rim of the glass, the more the taster can focus on the perception of the wine in the mouth and less on the feel of the glass. It is known that thin glass is more labor-intensive to manufacture, usually handmade, and therefore much more expensive. Don’t be discouraged, thin glass will not make the smell or taste of the wine better, it rather affects the overall perception. The weight of the glass also matters. It’s like with the weight of cutlery, just the opposite. Studies have shown that consumers find food more sophisticated and refined when the cutlery is heavy. Elegant glasses let you focus entirely on the aroma, while heavy, thick glass shifts the focus to the weight of the glass rather than its contents.
We figured out the aroma and perception, but what about the taste? In April 2015, scientists from the Tokyo University of Medicine and Dentistry traced the dependence of the taste of wine on the shape of the glass used. Research has shown that different shapes of glass help distribute wine in the mouth and affect receptors in different ways. “Accordingly, glasses should have not only a complex but also a functional design that will allow you to fully enjoy the wine while tasting,” summed up the professor of Tokyo Medical and Dental University Koji Mitsubayashi.
Now about the legs. The stem of the glass has three different functions. Firstly, it makes it possible to hold the glass without touching the bowl, thereby not heating the drink with your hand (which is especially important for wines served cold) and leaving the glass clean and transparent, without fingerprints. The second point is that our hands have their own unique aroma due to the use of lotions, creams and other perfumes, which can interfere with feeling the true bouquet of wine, and the leg allows us to keep the hand farther from the nose of the drinker. Thirdly, thanks to the stem, you can rotate the wine in the glass and make swirls. I suppose you have seen this or done it yourself. For what? – you ask. Swirls improve the aroma and taste of the wine by rotating, which is more rapid oxygen enrichment – aeration of the drink. At the same time, the walls of the glass are washed with wine, thereby increasing the evaporation area and the intensity of the aroma.
There are two ways to rotate wine in a glass:
* “Social”, when you rotate the glass just in your hand;
* “Tabletop”, when you hold the stem of the glass with two fingers and rotate the wine inside the glass on a hard surface.
Before using the first option, I recommend practising so as not to pour yourself or your neighbor over by rotating the wine glass in your hand. Practice at home with water and remember not to pour more than a third of your wine into your glass.
What is what
Pinot Noir, Nebbiolo, Barbera – three varieties of red wines, which are usually best revealed in the so-called “Burgundy” glass – with the widest, round (apple) bowl. This form works well with complex Chardonnay as well. (1st see image below)
For wines made from thicker-skinned grapes such as Cabernet, Merlot, Sangiovese, Zinfandel / Primitivo, Syrah, Tempranillo, Grenache, Dolcetto, Aglianico, elongated glasses with a slightly narrowed bowl are best suited. They are designed to get a lot of oxygen in contact with the wine to impart fruity aromas and reduce tannins. This shape concentrates aromas more than a wide bowl. This glass is called “Bordeaux”. (2nd see image below)
For white wines, glasses with a smaller bowl are usually used than for red ones. The main reason is that the aromas of white wines are lighter. The small shape makes it easy to detect wine aromas while minimizing the amount of oxygen in the glass to keep the drink fresh.
Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Gris / Pinot Grigio, Albarino, Chenin Blanc, Gewürztraminer, Grüner Veltliner, Pinot Blanc – in other words, most white wines are usually best suited for long, narrower glasses like Bordeaux, and also smaller size. This shape allows the fruit aromas to be concentrated at the top of the glass. (3rd see image below)
You can serve rosé wines in white wine glasses. Narrow bowls usually work better, and a longer stem will help keep the beverage warm. This form maximizes the fruity aromas of rosé wines. (4th see image below)
For champagne and sparkling wines, I recommend two different types of glass. For the finest sparkling wines, vintage champagnes or prestigious cuvées, opt for a “burgundy” glass similar to that used for red wines. If you happen to have a bottle of mature, rich champagne with complex aromas, then a classic glass for white wine will do just fine.
The bowl, in my opinion, is a historically established association with glass for sparkling wine. Not the best option if you want to appreciate the drink – the bubbles quickly dissipate, the aroma cannot be collected, and the small depth of the glass leads to spilling of its contents. No one knows where the rumor came from that vintage bowls repeat the shape of Marie Antoinette’s breasts, perhaps these are men’s fantasies. In fact, this glass was developed in England specifically for champagne around 1663, that is, almost 100 years earlier than the French queen was born. (5th see image below)
Dessert wine glasses have a conical bowl shape, which makes it easy to rotate the wine and balance the ratio of wine to air. The glass helps to emphasize the acidity of the wine and cover up the excessive sweetness. (6th see image below)
Ports and sherries have a higher alcohol content, and for them a smaller version of a white wine glass with a small, thin shape and a narrowed neck would be the best choice. This design helps to focus on the aromas of fruits, oak and spices, instead of being drowned out by alcohol fumes. (7th see image below)
Summing up, I want to note that the size and shape of the glass can change the perception and emphasize the bouquet of wine, and by pouring it into the wrong glass, you seem to rob yourself. My recommendation is to buy glasses that are enjoyable, and the decision about which manufacturer to choose, how many types of glasses and what design depends on personal taste and capabilities. After all, the price of simple glass, but of the correct shape, is lower than the cost of one bottle of wine. Do not forget that good glasses are also a wonderful gift that will always be useful to your relatives and friends and will enrich with new aromas, tastes and emotions.