Which came first, wine or glass? Turns out, glass is about 1000 years older. That might be one of the reasons why the glass you drink your wine from is actually important. If you love drinking wine, you probably aced Wine 101, but you may not have taken the Glass Class. Ladies and gentlemen, consider this "crash course" in crystal stemware the next step in your wine education on your way to becoming a Master Oenophile. Riedel knows what it's all about, so we are taking their top tips and lessons about glassware to teach you all you need to enhance your wine drinking experiences. Let's start with the basics.
Parts of a Wine Glass:
Dependent on the grape varietal of your wine, the glass you should choose may vary in size and shape, as well as the diameter of the rim.
Four Sensations of Wine:
- Bouquet- a.k.a. aroma
- Texture- a.k.a. mouth-feel
- Flavor- this one is pretty self-explanatory (what it tastes like)
- Finish- a.k.a. aftertaste
In wine tasting, we are taught to swirl, sniff, and then sip. When using the proper glass, this method will unleash all the sensations of a particular wine and allow you to immerse your senses into its rich history.
A Glass for Each Grape:
As you can see, red wine glasses typically have a wider, taller bowl and base compared to white wine glasses. It is clear, however, that Chardonnay glasses may be shorter, but also feature a wider bowl, and some red varietals require shorter bowls as well. These all serve to best express the qualities of each unique grape varietal to allow for optimal enjoyment. Use Riedel's Wine Glass Guide to find the perfect glass for your favorite wine.
If this is all a bit overwhelming, Riedel does make a "one glass fits all," so to speak, for red wine and for white wine, but they do insist that varietal specific glasses are able to best showcase the true intensity of each grape varietal and enhance your enjoyment of the wine you're drinking.
This is a topic that plagues many a wine-drinking afficionado. To decant, or not to decant? That is always the question- and decanting is always the answer. The purpose of this process varies between old and new wine regardless of varietal, old being anything over 10 years. With younger wine, decanting is meant to aerate it, or allow it to breathe, releasing pent up carbon dioxide and instead revealing more mature aromas along with the wine's true flavor profile. It is a "coming of age" story for your wine unfolding in a glass. If you don't own a decanter, aeration is possible by simply opening the bottle, but it takes 8-12 hours while decanting significantly reduces the time it takes for your wine to blossom. In older wine, it is meant to remove sediment build-up which ultimately makes it more enjoyable.
If your inner skeptic doesn't believe in the importance of decanting, Riedel suggests you take matters into your own hands and perform a home experiment by decanting half a bottle of wine. Then, taste test a glass poured straight from the bottle to compare against a glass poured from your decanter. You be the judge on which is smoother, more fruitful, and more aromatic.
Equally as important, is the winemaker's side of the deal in deciding the shape and color of the bottle the wine lives in. Typically wine bottles fit into four categories: Bordeaux, Burgundy, Hock, and Specialty.
Bordeaux (Claret)- This style bottle is regularly used for red wines such as Bordeaux, Merlot, and the always bold, Cabernet Sauvignon. This bottle type features a deep "punt" in the bottom which is designed to hold sediment when decanting as these are best drunk 10 years after bottling. As it is meant to house these older wines, it has the perfect design for sideways storage and stacking.
Burgundy- This style is less forgiving in regards to storage and is typically used for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Maybe because the varietals are so tasty that people can't keep them on the shelves long enough! This bottle also features a "punt" on the bottom and usually comes in a leafy-green color.
Hock (Rhine/Alsace)- This style is meant for the sweeter things in wine like Riesling, Gewürztraminer, or dessert wines. These used to most commonly come in brown or clear colors, but as of late, the trend is rising on the white and bright blue colored bottles- mostly as an eye-catching marketing strategy.
Specialty- The most common specialty bottle is the Champagne bottle. It is bottom heavy with a flaired neck, and the traditional larger cork. This is not just a stylistic choice, but rather it was born out of necessity as storing Champagne or other sparkling wines in any other type of bottle would cause it to explode. That's a dangerous kind of "champagne shower" we're glad we don't have to deal with. Other specialty bottles include the "tall Belissima, the tapered Flute, and the Port or Sherry bottle" according to Winemaker Magazine.
The color of the bottle also makes a world of difference: green, brown, clear, and more are decisively chosen to protect or showcase the content inside the bottle. Clear is most often chosen for white wine to show off the color, while green bottles are a popular choice for red wines as they allow for long term storage. As we mentioned before, winemakers are starting to branch out with bold colors just to grab your attention.
The main lesson here, is when it comes to drinking wine, glass matters. Decanters and varietal specific drinking glasses will ultimately "up the game" of your wine-drinking experience. Glass is so important, that winemakers are carefully choosing the right shape and color combos to best house, store, and market wine for us. We'll happily raise a toast to that.
- Melissa Vidaurre
* Source for research & majority of photos: Riedel: The Wine Glass Company
About Riedel: "The finest glasses for both technical and hedonistic purposes are those made by Riedel. The effect of these glasses on fine wine is profound. I cannot emphasize enough what a difference they make." (Quote: Robert M. Parker, Jr. The Wine Advocate)
"The Riedel family has never stamped its name on a single bottle of wine. But over the past 50 years, this Austrian clan of master glassmakers has done more to enhance the oenophile's pleasure than almost any winemaking dynasty". (Quote: TIME MAGAZINE)
Claus Riedel was the first person in the long history of the glass to design its shape according to the character of the wine. He is thus the inventor of the functional wine glass. Make a journey through our world of glasses and senses. On the following internet pages you will find detailed information about our glass creations and our unique philosophies on the ultimate enjoyment of wine.
Published on Tuesday, June 14, 2016