If you’re a budding wine drinker (or you know one) looking to ensure you have the most essential wine accessories, but without laying out big bucks, this is the right guide for you.
PART 3 – Something to drink the wine out of – glasses
Although you could drink wine out of almost any kind of drinking vessel, glass is pretty much the best material for your …erm… glass known to man. Coffee mugs and polystyrene cups can hold liquid, but nothing beats the real thing. So, now we’ve established the material, it’s time for a fairly fundamental statement:
The type of glass you use makes a significant difference to how a wine smells and tastes.
As you’re reading a wine blog I’m assuming that this is of some importance to you. Here is a summary of the important characteristics of a good wine glass:
A proper wine glass needs to have a stem by which it can be held. This ensures that any chilled white wine isn’t heated up too quickly by a grasping hand and the bowl isn’t smudged with fingerprints (which makes examining the wine much more difficult). Of course, if you want to put it down on a flat surface then it will also need a foot to rest on.
It’s far more pleasant to drink from a thin wine glass than something which could double as a coffee mug. A cleaner edge means that you have precise control over how much you pour into your cakehole – which is a good thing, surely.
The glass should be transparent, not coloured, and not etched. Being able to see the wine properly is an important part of evaluation and appreciation.
A good glass needs a wide bowl with a narrower rim so that the aromas are gathered within the glass rather than evaporating out into the ether. It also means that when the glass is swirled to get the wine in contact with air, the wine stays in the glass…
Swirlability also depends (in tandem with shape above) on the capacity of the glass – it’s a lots easier with a bigger glass. Many wines, particularly reds and / or oaked wines, need space in the glass to breathe, so they are better if the glass isn’t too full. A bigger glass means a reasonable pour without filling it too high.
Let’s start by naming and shaming a few different types which you should avoid if looking to acquire some glasses:
1. Paris Goblet
The standard vessel of many French restaurants – those without at least a Bib Gourmand at least. They fulfil the very basic task of holding wine, but don’t hold enough and no good for swirling.
What am I, a fecking peasant? Tumbler’s are fine for water and water of life, but not for wine.
3. Champagne Flute
Traditional Champagne flutes are dead. Flutes might look pretty, but they aren’t that great for anything other than basic Prosecco or Moët. Anything I serve at home with a high Pinot content or significant ageing gets put into a white wine glass as a minimum, or even a (larger) red wine glass.
Now, I do have a few Riedel flutes, and they’re are wider than most, so they’re not too bad for the basic stuff.
4. Champagne Coupe
Supposedly made in the shape of a famous French woman’s breast (though the story varies), the coupe is great for making Champagne towers, but not for drinking the stuff – the aromas dissipate too quickly and so do the bubbles.
5. Cut Crystal
Waterford crystal by John Rocha. Don’t get me wrong, it’s really pleasing on the eye, worth of display in a cabinet, but it’s about as much use as a chocolate fireguard when it comes to appreciating wine. The lip is too thick, the pattern interferes with examining the wine and the lack of a decent bowl shape means if you swirl a wine you’ll probably end up wearing some of it.
6. INAO/ISO tasting glass
This might be a surprise for some, but although “official” tasting glasses are de rigeur on most wine course and at some trade tastings, they’re actually too small for many wines. As an example, when I was tasting a subtly oaked white Louis Jadot Burgundy earlier this year, the oak was over-emphasised by the ISO glass.
At bigger pro-events the tasting glass of choice is usually the Riedel Vinum Chianti Classico/Riesling, a significantly larger glass.
So, if you are on a budget, what sort of glass should you go for?
There are several high quality glass manufacturers, and many of them make different ranges which get more and more wine-specific and correspondingly more and more expensive!
But if you’re on a budget these are out of reach. I would suggest you could do with something cheap and cheerful such as this:
Even better would be something with a taller bowl, such as this:
If you drink quite a lot of white wine as well as red, then it’s worth getting some slightly smaller ones for white so that the wine doesn’t warm up too much – important for sweeter wines, for example.
Riedel Sommelier and Zalto glasses belong in another post entirely…
Part 1 looked at something to open bottles with
Part 2 looked at something to pour the wine into