...where size and shape
WASTED WITHOUT THE RIGHT TOOL
if one has mastered the wine tasting regimen of seeing,
swirling, sniffing, sipping and savoring, the method is
moot if the only available serving vessel is a "Dixie
cup" or a "jelly
glass". A glass designed for drinking wine has specific
properties designed to enhance the sensory experience.
for wine don't have to be expensive. Discount department
stores stores often sell a box of six for $10 to $15.
Yard, garage, or tag sales are a good source for 25¢
to $1 wine glasses. Sometimes mixed sets are more
interesting than matched ones. For several years, the
only wine glasses I owned were those I collected from
charity wine tastings.
A traditional wine
glass has three parts:
... the bowl,
... the stem,
... and the
Let's work our way up,
evaluating the critical features of each part.
TALL, SHAPELY, AND
WITH A NICE FOOT
The foot or base should have a broad enough shape to
prevent the glass from tipping over too easily, even when
the bowl is filled to halfway. The foot also should be
attached firmly enough to the stem to avoid snapping if
held by the foot and swirled.
The purpose of the stem
is to prevent body heat from the hand from warming the
bowl and thus the wine. The stem needs to be long enough
to grasp, while not too tall as to make the glass
unstable. The stem also needs to be sturdy enough, as
well as firmly enough attached to both the foot and the
bowl, to avoid breakage in normal use and
Tinted or cut crystal may have its
own intrinsic beauty, but these designs should be reserved for water
service. The bowl of a wine glass should be transparent and without
design that might obscure or prevent observing the color and clarity
of the wine. Although not as durable as molded glass, lead crystal
has the transparency and brilliance to allow wine to show its best.
The shape of the
bowl is the most important feature of any wine glass. It should be
curved and smooth on the inside to not inhibit swirling. Best that
it also tapers inward slightly towards the rim. This
keeps the wine's smells focused towards the nose and somewhat prevents
them from escaping into the atmosphere.
Of the two most common wine glass
shapes, the "tulip" does a better job than the "balloon". Manufacturers
such as Riedel produce many different glasses specifically designed
to each serve a different type of wine. These may provide slight enhancements
to enjoyment, but are by no means required.
A proper wine glass should be large enough to contain a full serving
without approaching being halfway filled. A glass of from ten to fourteen
ounce capacity works well. This provides adequate space for both swirling
without spilling and to gain the "chimney effect" that concentrates
and directs the vapors that carry the wine's smells. A glass of this
size is also not so large as to be awkward or unwieldy.
International Organization for Standardization (ISO)
has recognized a particular shape that is the accepted benchmark at
all wine judgings and competitions. It is also suitable for the average
wine drinker as an all around, every day glass. It should be made
of transparent, colorless glass with a lead content of up to 9%. Its
dimensions are just under 6 inches (155 mm) tall, with a two inch
(5 cm) tall stem and a four-inch (100 mm) tall bowl, about two and
a half inches (65 mm) at its widest diameter and two inches (46 mm)
across the rim.
has it that the broad, shallow "Champagne glass" was
modeled on Marie Antoinette's mammary attributes. This
information may provide passing social titilation, but
these saucers-on-stems condemn chilled bubbly spirits to
brief life. Tall, narrow flutes prolong the chill and the
bubbles much better.
Either an ISO glass
(pictured) or an all-purpose wine glass, similar in shape
and proportions to our illustration, may be used to serve
both white and red wines and even sparkling or dessert
A dozen or so of these
is a good place to start. Let usage guide your inventory;
if you serve mostly reds and sparkling wines, for
example, add a dozen Champagne flutes.
No matter the size, shape, or cost of the wine glasses,
if washing by hand, use the hottest water possible and
only a very little hint of detergent, a drop or two on a
sponge. Rinse thoroughly. In the automatic dishwasher,
wash wine glasses by themselves and use no detergent.
Immediately after the cycle, remove any water spots with
a soft lintless cloth before storing.
Murray Almond, writing on The Wine of the Week site,
Real Riedel Glasses for
testing the vessels, both by expert and novice, he
provides his conclusions.