Glassware Still Matters…A Lot
By: George Balling
Nothing makes a great glass of wine even better than a great glass. While we can all stop short of ordering every Riedel glass in every varietal shape they offer, we probably can manage to cover most of the requirements of drinking out of really well-designed stem, or stemless ware. Even more importantly our local restaurants most times do and at all times can select well designed and manufactured glassware to enjoy our choice of wines.
While Riedel has set the standard for the best wine glasses and has earned that reputation over many decades there are many choices, including some Riedel products that won’t break the bank. The Riedel restaurant series of both stemmed and stemless glasses are what we use here in the shop for our wine tastings and are so affordable it is a bit of a mystery that they are not more widely used around town in all local restaurants.
What Riedel offers in design are also available from other manufacturers for both at home and commercial use. Here are a few of the key features needed for a great wine glass.
First, the glass must always have a cut as opposed to a rolled edge. There is only one reason for a rolled edge glass. They are cheaper to manufacture. In commercial settings the only establishments that use rolled edge glasses are doing so because either they don’t know better or they don’t take wine seriously. You can tell a cut edge glass quite simply by feeling it. The rim of the glass is flat with no lip at all. It’s important as it allows the wine to more cleanly hit your palate and is less likely to drip. When you are buying glasses for home whether you prefer stemmed or stemless the cut edge is the first thing you should look for.
After finding glasses with the proper edge the bowl shape is the next most important part of wine glass design. The bowl should be generous and have a tulip shaped curve to it. This allows the aromatics of the wine to fully develop in the glass. Again like the proper edge glass it is possible to find a fully shaped bowl glass in both stemmed and stemless and across price points. Recently one of the more popular designs for wine glasses are those with a flat bottom, that still have the tulip shaped sides. The glasses are beautiful and function well for all wines, they are used in tasting rooms across all wine regions right now. We offer a line of glasses made in Italy in this style and they are not only great to drink out of, but are very popular with our customers.
One other note on the shape of the glass, 90% of what we taste in wine is actually what we smell in wine. This is why a glass that can help develop the proper and generous aromas is so vital.
There is much discussion among wine consumers about stemmed versus stemless glasses and which is better to drink from. Interestingly, this is not one of the big factors in proper glassware. The argument goes something like this, a stemmed glass prevents a change in the temperature of the wine from being held in your hand. It also makes the wine easier to swirl to better develop the aromas. While both are true, I have heard from many who enjoy stemless glasses just as well. The best advice is to chose the glass you like the best, stemmed or stemless is just not that big of a deal. I do suspect I will hear ample disagreement on this one point.
There has been much written and invested in designing wine glasses for all the different varietals of wine that are made. We have tasted out of many of them and they do make a difference. We do not however have all the different shapes at home. It is not practical for us from either a financial or space standpoint. What we recommend is finding a glass shape that works well for your own consumption and that works well with multiple wines. We can help you with the selection.
One final note on pricing. We carry wine glasses with cut edges from $10 in both stemmed and stemless. We have them with bowl shapes designed for white, red, or sparkling wines which will allow most all of us to drink wine out of better glasses. When you dine out, pay attention to the establishments that take their wine programs seriously by offering the proper stemware, chances are if they are taking their wine glasses seriously they will be offering better wine selections as well. We all want and should feel comfortable asking for that.