In South Africa, the legal age for the consumption of alcohol is 18. This means, that when I headed off to University in Stellenbosch, heart of the Cape Winelands, I was set on an inevitable wine consuming path.
We went on tasting tours and to wine festivals, and at each of these, we brought back small complimentary wine glasses. (Well, mostly complimentary.) Although these glasses served us well when the point of wine drinking was to get boozy on cheap wine, we slowly entered the grown-up world, and not only did we discover good wine, but we discovered that good wine deserves better than just any old glass, jar or mug!
“The glass you drink wine from determines the wine drinking experience. Drinking wine from the right glass can completely change and enhance the wine, whereas using the wrong wine glasses could potentially ruin the wine for you.”
A lot of the process of smelling and tasting the wine has to do with the surface area exposed to oxygen in the bowl of the glass, the shape of the glass, and the size of the rim of the glass. This is science, shape and size matters.
A Japanese medical group has managed to photograph the distribution of the evaporating alcohol as it leaves the glass. It is pretty cool to see and proves that the shape of a wine glass affects the way a wine’s aromas are released. Aromas are important. Very, very important.
For White Wines:
A light bodied wine such as a Sauvignon Blanc should generally have a smaller bowl and a narrower rim so as to trap and intensify all those wonderful delicate aromas, whereas the aromas of a more full-bodied white wine (such as an oaked Chardonnay) would be overwhelming if they are too concentrated in a narrow-rimmed glass.
For Red Wines:
The rules are a little different for red wines. Red wines mostly have more tannins and a higher alcohol content than white wines, so red wine glasses should be bigger, with taller, wider bowls and wider rims.
These bigger glasses allow for those big, bold and beautiful aromas to be released in a larger and more distant area. This is important because nobody likes to be punched in the face by a tidal wave of strong bitter alcohol.
Medium to full-bodied wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or Shiraz are better enjoyed from bigger, taller glasses, whereas a light-bodied wine, such as a Pinot Noir, would benefit from a glass with a bigger bowl but narrower rim.
Now. Let’s talk shopping for wine glasses!
There are endless options for glasses, so where does one begin?
If you are on a budget but want to do right by the wine you drink, I recommend buying a set of “All-Purpose” glasses. These glasses will work for most white wines and everyday drinking wines. Your wine experience will be a whole lot better from these glasses than from the small cheap/free glasses you may have accumulated over the years.
If you are looking to grow your collection a little more than only with one set, why not get one set for red wines and one set for whites. These should see you through until you’re ready for the next set: Choose the glasses that will work best for the variety you love the most!
I am a Cabernet Sauvignon girl myself, so apart from my all-purpose set, I also have a set that brings out the absolute best in Cabernet Sauvignon. When you spend hard earned money on a good bottle of wine, why would you drink it out of something that doesn’t make it taste great?
Once you start caring about wine glasses, there is no going back. I have become the person who takes the appropriate wine glasses on a picnic or camping trip because I refuse to drink wine and not enjoy it to the fullest. Just remember that what works for most might not work for you!
Experiment. Pay attention to the glass you drink from next time you go to a restaurant and see what works for you.
P.S. Stemless glasses are incredibly trendy and convenient, and they fit easily into a dishwasher, but your hands will warm the wine and the glass will get very smudged with fingerprints.
P.P.S Crystal glasses are much thinner and sparklier, but they are also more expensive, more likely to break when knocked over, and have to be hand-washed.