Enjoy your wines in the proper vessels!

/ Updated on May 31, 2014

Thanks to our original Chaser of Grapes, Bill McManus, for this great article about wine glasses and what goes with what. Enjoy!

While cruising in the Baltic Sea during my last vacation, I and three others signed up for a Riedel wine tasting. Riedel manufactures crystal stemware. There are many types, but we would be tasting from the “Vinum” series.

We had 5 glasses arranged in front of us, two for red, two for white and a “joker.” I had no idea what to expect, so I just sat back and allowed myself to be educated. They started with an introduction to the Riedel Company and its history. You can Google them and read to your heart’s content. It is an interesting story.

And then the tasting began. Our reds had already been poured because you want the wine to “open up” or “breathe” before you taste. After the brief introduction, we were told a little bit about each wine glass, the shape, size of the opening and overall use of the stem. Mind you, most wine tastings I have attended had just one glass, or at the most, two: One for white, and one for red.

We started with a French Sauvignon Blanc in a typical glass suitable for tasting white wine. Most of you would have called it a Chardonnay glass, but it is made specifically for Sauvignon Blanc or Fume Blanc. We swirled the wine in the glass, smelled the aroma and then took a sip.  This glass is designed to have the wine go directly to the back of the palate rather than fall over the sides of your tongue. That is due to the acidity of the wine.

I was still curious as to this “joker” glass in front of me. I finally got the answer when the leader of the tasting told us to pour the wine from the original glass into the “joker.” I could not believe the difference in the smell and taste of the wine. What was originally a wonderful fruit forward, somewhat acidic wine turned flat and uninteresting.

We next switched to the Chardonnay glass which looked strangely like a red wine glass. It is designed just for the Chardonnay grape wine which is less acidic than a Sauvignon Blanc or Fume Blanc. It has a large bowl with a good sized opening. This design forces your mouth to spill the wine over the sides of your tongue rather than direct it to the back of the palate. It was wonderful. Again, we were asked to pour the wine (chardonnay) into the joker and, again, the wine went flat.

This routine went on for a while. We moved on to the Bordeaux and then to the Burgundy.  Each time, switching glasses to see how it changed the smell and taste of the wine.

I was a bit skeptical going into this tasting. I knew that there were different designs of glasses specifically for different varietals, but I did not know just how dramatic a difference it makes when you pair up the wines with the correct glasses.

So, I now have a set of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Burgundy and Bordeaux glasses for the tasting of my wines.

You don’t have to go out and purchase these glasses, but if you ever have the chance to do a tasting like this, I would highly recommend it. It is quite an an introduction to the art–and science–of wine glass technology.

Here's to you. Cheers!

Bill McManus

About the Author

Of course, our original grape chaser, Bill McManus, continues to lend his technical expertise to explain and demystify wine terminology. View all articles written by Bill McManus

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