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The Proper Wine Glass

by winenews on Oct.23, 2009, under Articles, Tips & Terms

How to choose a Glass

Every wine has certain organoleptic characteristics which are different from any other.   For this reason, every wine should be served in a proper glass capable of exalting its characteristics. Wine glasses come in different shapes and characteristics, sometimes considered as “extreme” because of some producers who tend to make specific shapes and styles, not only for certain wines, but also for specific wines made of certain grapes or coming from certain areas.  The shape of glass helps a wine to express better and every glass usually is the result of specific studies and researches, both on the organoleptic perception of aromas and flavors, as well as on characteristics and physical conditions that favor their perception.

One of the fundamental characteristics for a good wine glass is that it must allow the proper appreciation of wine’s aspect, therefore it must be colorless, transparent, with no decorations or facets.  Wine glass must preferably be made of crystal, however half-crystal or superior glass are more than acceptable. No matter the kind of material glasses are made of, crystal or superior glass, it is important for them to be thin, possibly less than one millimeter. A greater thickness, besides being unpleasing when in contact with lips, would influence the perception of some tactile sensations.

Wine glasses should always have the typical stemware shape, a sufficiently large base in order to keep them vertically stable, a long stem and the shape of body capable of exalting each style of wine. The importance of these characteristics being present in a wine glass is essential because they allow to appreciate a wine better and to alter it the least possible. A long stem avoids, for example, the hand to be in proximity of the body of glass with the risk of altering the temperature of wine as well as being closer to the nose and therefore influencing the perception of aromas. For this reason wine glass must always be held to the base, or at least to the lower part of the stem, never to the body. Lastly it should be remembered a glass must be filled no more than one third of its total volume.

Glasses for White and Rose Wines

Here are some types/shapes of glasses suitable for the service of white and rose wines.

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Young and Crisp White Wines (A) – The main characteristic of this glass is the shape of the opening which tends to enlarge in respect of the body. When a wine is introduced in the mouth, this particular shape directs the liquid mainly to the tip of the tongue, more sensitive to sweetness, and therefore to the sides of the tongue, more sensitive to acidity. This glass is also suitable for young and crisp wines having a certain quantity of residual sugars that should be emphasized. The shape of the glass also allows the concentration of aromas towards the nose while emphasizing the perception of delicate and fruit aromas of young wines.
Bodied and Mature White Wines (B) – The larger body and a greater opening will allow a better perception of complex aromas of mature white wines. Structured and mature white wines will be properly emphasized in the mouth because of the straight opening which will direct the wine to the sides and to the back of the tongue, and finally reaching the tip in order to properly evaluate its roundness.

Young and Crisp Rose Wines (C) – In this kind of glass are valid all the considerations expressed for young white wines’ glass; the enlarged opening directs the wine to the tip of the tongue, more sensitive to sweetness, in order to make the wine appear more balanced. Another characteristic of this glass is the large body which allows an adequate oxygenation and therefore a correct development of aromas.

Bodied and Mature Rose Wines (D) – In this kind of glass are valid the considerations expressed for structured and mature white wines. The larger shape of the body allows an adequate oxygenation of wine as well as the development of aromas.

Glasses for Red Wines

Here are some types of glasses suitable for the service of red wines.

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Young Red Wines (A) – This glass is fundamentally the same used for bodied and mature white wines, as a matter of fact it can be used the very same glass. This kind of wine, having rather aggressive tannins, when present, must mainly stimulate the inner parts of the mouth while avoiding, at least in the initial phase as the wine is introduced in the oral cavity, the contact with gum because the astringency would originate an unpleasing tactile sensation. The body of the glass must also be large in order to allow an adequate oxygenation and development of aromas.
Bodied or Mature Red Wines (B) – The considerations expressed for the previous glass are also valid for this one. The differences are to be found in the height and width of the glass, in this case greater, as well as the opening which is narrower in order to concentrate complex aromas, originated by the aging of wine both in bottle and in cask, towards the nose.

Full Bodied and Very Mature Red Wines (C) – The characteristic of this glass is its large size, with a rather wide body in order to allow a proper oxygenation of red wines aged for a long time in bottle and with tannins that reached a milder and rounder state. The wide shape of this glass also allows to avoid, when possible, the decanting of wine, thanks to its width it makes possible a proper oxygenation of wine while developing complex and tertiary aromas which will be concentrated towards the narrow opening. Moreover, the opening is tall and straight in order to direct the wine to the back of the mouth, exactly for the very same reason applied to every other glass for red wines. Because of its characteristics, this glass is to be used for wines produced with very robust grapes such as Sangiovese or Cabernet Sauvignon.

Full Bodied and Very Mature Red Wines (D) – This glass represents a variant of the previous one and the difference is to be found in its opening which tends to enlarge. This characteristic directs the wine towards the tip of the tongue, more sensitive to sweetness, and is useful for those wines that after a long time of aging tend to exalt their acid component, such as Pinot Noir or Nebbiolo.

Glasses for Sweet and Fortified Wines

Here are some types of glasses suitable for the service of sweet and fortified wines.

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Sweet Wines (A) – This glass has little size having a wide body and a narrow opening in order to exalt both the development of aromas and their concentration to the nose. The reduced size suggests the service of a tiny quantity of wine which is also a common habit for these kind of wines. The straight opening allows the wine to be directed towards the back of the oral cavity in order not to excessively exalt the sweetness and therefore avoiding the wine to appear “sickly”.
Fortified Wines (B) – As opposed to the previous glass, the height of the body is greater and the opening is accentuated, however the size of this glass is rather little. Its longer height allows a better development of complex and intense aromas of fortified wines, such as Marsala , Sherry ( Jerez ), Porto and Madeira . The accentuated opening makes this glass particularly suited for dry fortified wines because the liquid will be directed to the tip of the tongue, more sensitive to sweetness, in order to better contribute to wine’s balance.

Glasses for Sparkling Wines

Here are some types of glasses suitable for the service of sparkling wines.

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Method “Charmat” Wines (A) – This glass, called demi-flûte, has a narrow and tall body in order to encourage the development of perlage in sparkling wines. Its height, which is shorter than a regular flûte, makes this glass suitable for dry sparkling wines produced with the Charmat or Martinotti method, which usually have a less refined perlage with coarser bubbles. The very narrow diameter favor a slow and continuous development of carbon dioxide as well as allowing a good concentration of delicate aromas towards the nose.

Classic Method Wines (B) – This glass, called flûte, has a narrow and tall body in order to favor and appreciate the development of the refined perlage typical for this sparkling wines produced with the classic method. Its narrow diameter also promotes the perception of fresh and delicate aromas, therefore this kind of glass is suitable for young and non vintage classic method sparkling wines.

Mature and Vintage Classic Method Wines (C) – This is a flûte having a larger body and narrow opening, characteristics which allow the oxygenation of wine and therefore a proper development of complex and tertiary aromas of the mature and vintage classic method sparkling wines, without compromising the development and the appreciation of perlage.

Aromatic Sweet Wines (D) – This glass, simply called cup, is particularly suited for aromatic and sweet sparkling wines, such as Asti Spumante. Because of the aromatic richness of these wines, it is better to serve them is glasses having very large opening, instead of flûte, in order to mitigate the aromatic strength of the grape while allowing other aromas to develop. These sparkling wines, usually produced with the Charmat method, does not have any particular qualities of finesse in the perlage, therefore this is a factor that can be neglected. The opening of the glass, which slightly tends to narrow, will direct the wine to the tip of the tongue in order to exalt wine’s sweetness.


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