Regardless of the type of wine - red, white, sweet, dry, light, robust - or any varietal in between, it is important to serve and drink wine from the appropriate glass that best suits the particular characteristics of a specific wine in order to maximize taste and experience.
Indeed, the vast variety of wine glasses are designed to meet the needs of an even greater multitude of wines. Just as one man's pleasure is another man's pain, the best wine glass suited for a Pinot Noir will fail miserably when paired with a Pinot Grigio.
Developing an understanding of the wide range of wine glasses, therefore, is fundamental toward fully enjoying a wine collection and providing a memorable experience for your restaurant customer base. Let's take a closer look.
Anatomy of a Wine Glass
From the top down, there are four parts to a wine glass - the rim, bowl, stem and foot. Examining each separately, the rim should be smooth (as opposed to bumpy or rolled on the edge) to allow the wine to flow effortlessly from the glass.
The best wine glasses will have a thin smooth rim that allows for easy sipping; while less desirable glassware may have a bumpy rim that detracts from the experience of the wine. The bowl provides appropriate volume to house the wine and tapers upward toward the top of the glass to create a narrower opening from which to sip while distributing aroma toward the nose.
Bowls will vary considerably according to the type of wine glass - for example, red wine glasses have wider bowls than white wine glasses to allow the red wine to breathe; flutes designed for champagne and sparkling wines have tall narrow bowls that aid in preserving fizz.
The stem is where the wine glass should be held, as body heat transfers when holding a wine glass from the bowl, warming the wine while smudging the glass, detracting from both taste and appearance. Finally the foot functions as a base for the wine glass to stand upright on a table.
Wine Glasses - Crystal or Glass?
While all crystal is glass, not all glass is crystal. Crystal is a subset of glass - but what are the differences between the two? For starters, crystal is a bit of a misnomer, as crystal is not crystalline or quartz-like in nature, but rather it includes minerals - usually lead.
The lead softens the glass and allows it to be spun thinly, allowing for a thin but strong and durable rim. The lead also refracts light, allowing for sparkle in the glass and a more luxurious presentation.
However, because crystal is porous, it is not dishwasher-safe and must be hand-washed - although there are crystal wine glasses that are mineralized with zinc and magnesium (instead of lead) that are safe for the dishwasher.
Glass is less expensive, harder, lighter, non-porous and dishwasher-safe - but wine glasses made from it do not refract light (they don't sparkle) and generally include a lip at the rim that reduces the full enjoyment of the wine.
Red vs. White Wine Glass
Red wine glasses and white wine glasses differ in size and shape, with red wine glasses having larger, rounder, fuller bowls designed to accommodate the robust aromas and flavors associated with red wines.
While red wine glasses are generally taller than white wine glasses, the Bordeaux wine glass is among the tallest red wine glasses, its somewhat smaller bowl suited for heavier Merlots. Meantime the Burgundy glass, with its wider bowl, is best suited for lighter Pinot Noirs that deliver delicate flavors.
Meantime, the bowl of a white wine glass is more upright and narrower, preserving a cooler temperature while releasing aromas. Mature white wines possessing bold flavors should be served in a tall, straight glass; sweet young white wines are best served in a glass with a somewhat larger opening.
More Types of Wine Glasses
Rose wine glasses typically have short bowls and are chosen appropriately according to the age of the rose wine. Younger, sweeter rose wines are best housed in a wine glass with a slightly flared lip that allows the wine's sweetness to better align with the taste buds, while older rose wines are best served in a slightly tapered wine glass that enhances the full-bodied flavor of the wine.
Dessert wines, with their higher alcohol content, are best served in considerably smaller wine glasses befitting a smaller serving. Sparkling wine glasses are tall, upright and narrow, designed to retain the carbonation and flavor of the champagne, prosecco or asti within them.
Finally, stemless wine glasses offer a more contemporary style than their traditional stemmed wine glass counterparts, with a similar variety of bowls that can suit a large multitude of wines. Stemless wine glasses are also less fragile, thereby having a lower replacement cost than traditional stemmed wine glasses.