Unsure which wine glass to use? Greg Landman has the answer.
Thankfully there aren’t too many rules when it comes to selecting the perfect wine glass. I like to rather think of them as guidelines. A good thing to note is that you don’t have to select the very best – read ‘expensive’ – glasses to enjoy wine. Take it from me, wine doesn’t care if you break out the finest crystal glassware, but knowing your red wine glass from your white can help you take full advantage of what a good vintage has to offer. So here are some notes.
So why does the glass matter?
The first thing you notice about wine is its colour which ranges from crystal clear white, gorgeous pinks and ambers to golden glows, glorious deep red and garnet colours. So why hide it? Use a clear glass, either cut or plain and clear.
Next up we have smell. What happens in the nose reflects what is happening or going to happen in the mouth. It’s like the preview for the main event. As soon as a bottle of wine is opened it starts to oxidise. This means that oxygen starts reacting with the wine and the most wonderful aromas are released – promises of great things to come. So the glass should have enough area for the wine to breathe and release these aromas. Swirl the glass to help but don’t get carried away.
And now here comes the best part: the taste. Different flavours are more apparent on certain areas of the tongue so don’t just knock it back – savour it. Don’t gargle with it, but just make sure it goes all over the mouth before swallowing.
Touch is next on our list. Now you aren’t likely to stick your finger into a glass of wine. Don’t do that – it’s rude. But as you take that sip, can you feel the texture of the wine in your mouth? The difference between drinking a glass of bubbly and a glass of Port is enormous when it comes to touch.
And finally we have sound. This can be the popping of a cork or the glugging as the wine leaves its bottle. Why not hold a glass of bubbly to your ear and listen to the millions of bubbles popping away? So refreshing.
So like I said, there are no rules, just guidelines. Try them or go your own way. The one rule I live by and think is paramount is that the glass should have a stem. This is so that your temperature doesn’t interfere with that of the wine’s. If you are in Greece drinking local wine from the barrel that is a different thing altogether.
The current type of glass en vogue seems to be a tulip-shaped one – perfect for allowing the bubbles to rise but not to dissipate too quickly. I feel they hold too little for my taste and have always preferred the cup like they use in all those Hollywood movies – the one supposedly modeled on Marie Antoinette’s left breast. The argument against such an iconic goblet is that the bubbles get away too quickly – my solution: don’t give it a chance and drink it. Then there are the flutes which seem to have gone out of fashion. There are some magnificent ones so don’t turf them out completely – if you have them, use them. There are whole books written on this subject, but there’s no need to get too bogged down in the details.
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White Wine Glass
These are slightly smaller than red wine glasses as the flavours and aromas are likely to be more, shall we say, subtle. The top narrows slightly to allow the aromas to rise but not to escape before you have smelled them. Pour slightly less than red wine so that the wine doesn’t cool too quickly – nothing more yuk than warm white wine.
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Red Wine Glass
Red wine capitalises on the area of a glass as it reacts with oxygen, which is why red wine glasses often have a larger bowl and wider brim. I have a friend who is really fond of his red wine and as a result has glasses that hold a whole bottle. To be fair, I haven’t actually seen him fill it – he rather does it in stages.
Due to the varying sizes, a glass of red wine could be anything from about 200 ml to 300 ml, bearing in mind a standard bottle holds 750 ml. Always remember that our summer temperatures – and some winter ones – are often too fierce for wine. Cool the reds down for 20 minutes in the fridge and take out the whites at about the same time. From here, trust your own taste.
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What’s the deal with decanters?
Besides adding a little finesse to your dinner table decor, decanters can play a crucial role in red wines especially. In this case, size does matter and decanters are larger than a single glass and they often have a flat bottom with a wide base. This makes them much more effective in allowing the wine to breathe, which helps to enhance the flavours and aromas. Wines that really benefit from this process include Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet blends, Syrah and Syrah blends.
Another factor to consider is the sediment that some wines have as they age, which doesn’t always look so appealing and can leave you with a sharp acidic taste. By decanting your wines like a Bordeaux or vintage port, you end up separating it from the sediment.
Decanters can also be a real lifesaver if a cork should break. When pouring, the cork will collect at the bottle’s neck.
Top tip: You can decant a wine up to four hours before you plan to serve it.
Another hard and fast rule that I live by: decanting does not apply to white wines and of course not for bubblies.
So I hope that gives you plenty to think about and introduces you to new ways to enjoy this heaven-sent beverage. Never be intimidated by wine – it is too wonderful not to make a part of your daily pleasures. Above all, trust your own taste. If you don’t like it say so. It’s only people that get offended, wine is above such trivialities – it’s bigger than all of us.
Words Greg Landman