Whether a novice to the world of wine or a seasoned wine connoisseur, you will want to choose the right stemware to fully enjoy your wine. Choices range from budget-minded to ultra-high end glasses, from simple and modern to intricately decorated crystal patterns. First, let’s talk about the different shapes of glasses and how they are meant to be used.
Champagne flutes are used to enjoy Champagne or other sparkling wines, such as Prosecco. They are tall and narrow to preserve the carbonation present in these wines and allow the development of bubbles that give Champagne its signature pop. These glasses should always be held by the stem to avoid transferring body heat to the wine.
A white wine glass is smaller than one made for red wine, since white wines are meant to be consumed chilled. Warming would occur faster with a greater surface area. This glass has an open shape to help you fully appreciate the crispness of a nice Pinot Grigio or Chardonnay. These glasses should also be held by the stem.
There are two types of red wine glasses: the Bordeaux and the Burgundy, named for the types of French wines they are usually used to drink. The Burgundy is the largest glass in a collection because the delicate wines form the Burgundy region generally need a large area in which to concentrate their aromas. The Bordeaux glass is goblet-shaped, like the Burgundy, but is slightly smaller to accommodate the more robust flavor of these wines. These glasses may be held by the stem or by the “bowl” of the glass if you prefer, as red wine is usually served around room temperature.
A recent trend is stemless wine glasses. Although not yet a classic in the wine world, reputable high-end companies such as Riedel manufacture these glasses, and it looks as though they are here to stay. These glasses have the advantage of being sleek and modern as well as more durable than their top-heavy counterparts. They also will not be quite as easy to break when using or washing.
The very finest wine glasses are made of crystal, are colorless so you can fully enjoy the color of your wine, and have a thin lip. The thin lip allows the wine to flow into your mouth at the proper rate, fully releasing the flavors of a fine wine. A thick lip accentuates negative characteristics of a wine, including acidity and bitterness. If you are a casual wine drinker, feel free to explore the world of whimsical colors and patterns. Lenox and other fine crystal purveyors sell many beautiful and elegant patterns. Glasses range from $1 per glass to over $20, so there is truly something in every price range.
Cleaning your stemware is a simple process and should be done frequently. If stemware is not used often, be sure to wash it in hot sudsy water and rinse it completely clean before pouring a wine into it. Despite its smooth appearance, crystal has many microscopic etchings in its surface and can soak up unsavory smells, hindering your enjoyment of a fine wine.
A basic stemware set of four types of glasses will last for years of enjoyment if properly cared for. After this basic primer, you need not be intimidated at the start of your journey into the world of wine!