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Wine Review: Proper glassware not just for wine snobs

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Wine glasses are an integral part of the wine experience. I spent many years scoffing at wine snobs with their special glasses but, in truth, I was very wrong.
I began my journey into wine glassware with a simple test I suggest you try. I tasted a cabernet sauvignon in a Riedel Bordeaux glass (the go-to glass for a cab) and a generic $1 Walmart glass.

In the Bordeaux glass, all of the subtle nuances of the wine were open and easily detectable. The really dramatic effect came when I tasted the same wine in the generic glass. The aroma was muted and offered no detectable variety flavor or aroma. All I could taste was vanilla, oak and alcohol, with absolutely none of the true qualities of the wine showing up. It was an eye opener.
The reason for this disproportionate disparity turned out to be that a proper glass directs the wine to the specific point on the tongue that best tastes the beverage. This proper direction of the wine is due to the shape of the bowl, but, more importantly, there is no rim on the top of the wine glass. The rim, that rolled edge at the top of the glass, creates turbulence as the wine enters the mouth, spreading it across the entire tongue rather that directing it to specific taste areas. Take a look at the rim of your wine glass; if the edge is rolled or you can feel or see a rim, it is not a good glass for wine regardless of what you paid for it.
There are even more wine glass facts that are not just for wine snobs.

For instance, the proper amount of wine to pour into a glass is about two or three ounces so the aroma has plenty of room to expand and develop its full potential. Then there is the color of the glass. Any color, other than clear, is not acceptable for a wine glass, so that eliminates Aunt Sophie’s purple wine glasses with the grape leaves on the stem that you inherited. A tinted or decorated glass will act to change the appearance of a wine. But there is still more. Some wine glasses are made of common glass and have a slight, often unnoticed green tint. Look down at the rim of the glass, in good light, and you will see color on poorer products but none on a better glass. There also is the question of the thickness of the glass: the thinner, the better. Lead glass, or as it is commonly known, crystal glass, is the best. It is colorless and can be made extremely thin while retaining its strength.
A new entrant to the wine glass market is the stemless, tumbler style. The idea of the stem on a wine glass proved to be a fallacy. It was thought the heat of the hand would affect the flavor and aroma of a wine. Glass, however, does not transmit heat well. Therefore, with the stemless glass, there will be no adverse effect on the wine. Another important benefit to a stemless wine glass is they are not delicate and will not break as easily as the stemmed glasses often do.
One final point about wine glasses. While good wine glasses dramatically enhance the enjoyment of any wine, their cost can be high. Wine snobbery dictates that you should own glasses specifically designed for a particular variety. There are glasses specific for cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, pinot noir and even one for our indigenous norton wine.

While it is true that a variety-specific wine glass does offer the maximum reward to the drinker, the difference between them and the better generic wine glasses is slight. If you are a true wine lover, the benefits of better glassware will dramatically outweigh the cost in true wine enjoyment.

Wine columnist Bennet Bodenstein can be reached at


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