When bad glasses happen to good wines, the result can be underwhelming to say the least. Some would say it’s akin to pouring money down the drain. But why does an inferior wine vessel make a choice vintage taste like two-buck chuck? Singapore-based wine writer Curtis Marsh pours out the answers.
As long as I can drink from it, does it matter what kind of glass I use?
Absolutely. The shape of the glass affects not only the taste but also the bouquet or aromas. How the shape and lip of the glass delivers the wine to the mouth and on the tongue plays a big part, as do the tannin levels in red wines. The aromas of different grape varieties behave very differently and require specific shapes. For example, Pinot Noir needs a wide bowl and narrow mouth to capture its wonderful aromas – which is vital when you consider it’s a wine you spend more time sniffing than you do sipping. Above all, the wine glass needs to be sufficiently large to swirl the wine, allowing it to aerate and release its qualities.
Can I use the same glass for reds and whites?
It depends. Personally, I don’t think there is such a thing as an all-purpose glass. You can however make use of certain shaped glasses for both red and white consumption. For example, I use a Red Burgundy/Pinot Noir glass for White Burgundy/ Chardonnay. I also use a Riedel Vinum Grand Cru Riesling glass, which is tulip-shaped, for Chianti/ Sangiovese. Likewise the Vinum Shiraz glass is good for most aromatic whites. You will find with experimentation these four shapes are suitable for a wide range of grape varieties and styles.
Are more expensive wine glasses better?
Good news: this is not always true. Expensive glassware does not necessarily make it the best for one’s optimum enjoyment of wine. For example, cut crystal glasses, while nice to look at, tend to be very thick and heavy, thus limiting the amount of space to swirl the wine.
Bottom line: you want a glass that doesn’t detract from the colour of the wine so choose one that’s plain and clear rather than one that is ornately designed or made of coloured or frosted glass.
What kind of glass should I get for champagnes – fluted or tulip-shaped?
Well, it depends on how much you like your bubbles. Flutes actually don’t do justice to the bouquet of champagne or sparkling wine. Champagne glasses have always been a victim of fashion, whether it’s the old dish shape or the flute, neither of these glasses allow you to swirl the wine and the flute’s very narrow mouth does not enhance the bouquet. Flutes were designed to maintain or increase bubble activity. A tulip-shaped glass is better for enjoying the delicate aromas of champagne and sparkling wines.
Curtis Marsh offers a few cake-wine pairings:
This article first appeared in RWS Invites magazine (April 2013 issue)