How To Choose A Wineglass

November 30, 2011 § Leave a comment

Serving your best vintage in the proper glass makes all the difference to the taste

There are those who make a great display of swirling, sniffing, swilling and spitting, but for most of us drinking wine is a more leisurely pursuit. For members of the “uncork, pour and glug” brigade specialist glasses for different vintages is a hassle too far. But Andy Evans, one of the wine experts at John Lewis, is keen to demonstrate how, even for an untrained palate, slight differences in the shape of a wine glass can alter the taste.

Most of us appreciate that sparkling wine tastes better from a flute than a tumbler. “That is because the long shape of the flute draws out the length of time the bubbles display. In a traditional glass the wine goes flat very quickly,” Evans says. However, the difference between pouring my sauvignon blanc into a 380ml or 490 ml white wine glass is less obvious. “All glasses are designed to be filled to the widest point,” Evans says, pouring far less in than I am accustomed to. “This allows the air to get to the wine and oxygenate it, and allow for the aroma to develop,” he says.

(which reminds me of a story – family goes to a restaurant, wine waiter pours small sample into glass for madame and monsieur to sample, indignant small child pipes up “My mum drinks way more than that!”)

“The height of the glass is specific to the type of wine. The smaller of the two white wine glasses is for highly aromatic white wines, including reisling and sauvignon blanc, while fuller-bodied wines, such as chardonnay and viognier, need more of their surface area exposed to develop their aroma.”

Indeed there are more “fresh green notes” emanating from the narrower glass with the wider glass giving off a more mellow tone. He then tastes and I drink a sip. The narrower rim and angle of the smaller wine glass expertly delivers the wine directly to the centre of my tongue. “This is so it avoids the outside of the tongue and ensures that your initial impression isn’t one of acidity,” Evans says.

The larger glass delivers the wine in a more even flow across my tongue. “The broader rim and shallower angle deliver the wine more evenly. If you have an oaked chardonnay you want to pick up the acidity evenly.”

A red bordeaux served in three red-wine glasses in the new Connoisseur glassware range (johnlewis.co.uk) is equally surprising: the slightly narrow 590ml glass delivers the wine perfectly on to the front and sides of the tongue, avoiding any bitterness from the wine going to the back; the ball-shaped 600ml glass tips the wine to the front of my mouth, picking out sweet tones; while with the 660ml glass, wine floods down the centre of my mouth. I’m surprised that I can detect the difference in taste that this brings.

Wine buffs have always sworn by Riedel’s glasses but John Lewis’s new range offers non-buffs the chance to experiment too. If, though, it still feels bothersome trying to store and use a multitude of glassware Evans suggests that the most versatile glasses are likely to be the larger white-wine glasses and the largest red-wine glass.

Of course there are other things that you can do to enhance the flavour of your wine, such as serving it at the right temperature (most white wine is best at 7-8C and red at 16-18C), and decanting all but the oldest of wines. Aeraters are fine, too. “They work but it seems a bit of a shame to rush things,” Evans says. Having spent all that time choosing a glass, I agree.

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