Choosing a Vessel

It’s Valentine’s Day, which means there’s only one question to ask: Is there a “Mr. Right” when it comes to wine glasses?

Do you actually need to go out and buy every single variation of wine glassware to ensure you use the “right” one? What about those funky shapes?

Having recently (last year) registered for wine glasses, these questions popped into my head. Crate & Barrel alone has an obscene amount of glassware to choose from – from tulip shaped to flat-bottomed cylinder, and balloon-shaped to martini glass shaped – all for wine! Don’t get me wrong, I love C&B, but when I looked at all the options, I just didn’t know how far down that rabbit hole I could go!

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Here’s a sample of the glassware I own. Lots of shapes and sizes. It should be noted that my favorite glass broke while cleaning it to prepare for this picture, and that the two outermost glasses hold full bottles of wine. Yep, I have two!!

Now that we’ve asked the question, time for an answer:

The short and simple answer is “yes”, the shape of your wine glass does matter and should be changed, depending on what you’re drinking. But do you actually need to have a specific Chardonnay glass when you drink chardonnay, and a Pinot Noir glass when you drink pinot noir? Not necessarily.

Wine glasses are shaped in a way to accentuate or bring out the aromas within the wine (the bowl, or widest part of the glass, allows these aromas to open up). They also have certain tapers (think about how the glass narrows from the bowl to the rim…that sort of traps the aromas) and rim sizes, which determine how much wine hits your palate – and where it hits your palate. Wine aficionados and experts would suggest a drastic difference in how that wine tastes depending on the glass, and while it may not be as noticeable by us more casual drinkers, you can rest assured that you won’t get fined by the “wine-police” or turn a good wine “bad” by not drinking it in the ideal-shaped glassware.

What I summarized from several articles and books is that you should at least have glasses specific for drinking reds and whites, and if possible, sparkling wines. As I normally do, I have to cite Wine Folly for the amazing illustration of appropriate glassware by type of wine:

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Snapshot taken from ‘Wine Folly: The Essential Guide to Wine’ by Madeline Puckette and Justin Hammack. Published in 2015.

I find that this helps put my tastings into perspective, and think about how else I can further my wine education. That being said, you won’t find that I’ve rushed to the store to buy different shaped wine glasses to match up to this picture…never say never though!

Overall, here are Jamie’s questions to consider:

  1. Can I fit my nose into the glass? The answer should be “yes” so you can pick up on the primary and tertiary aromas from the wine. That scent will impact how the wine tastes as well, so it’s extremely important to be able to get a good whiff.
  2. Will it hold my wine? The answer should also be “yes.” You saw my giant “full bottle” glasses! Sometimes you have one of those days/nights!

One other thing you should keep in mind: consider whether you use stemmed glassware versus stemless. One of the benefits of using a stemmed glass is that if you hold the glass properly (by the actual stem), you won’t heat up your wine with your hand. This helps keep your wine closer to the recommended serving temperature, which will maintain the integrity of the flavors. I also think it’s more fun to swirl the wine in a stemmed glass.

If you’re interested in check out a few articles I found to be insightful (and some quite technical), here are some recommendations for continued reading:

Happy Valentine’s Day, and cheers to all!

2 thoughts on “Choosing a Vessel

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