Stemware – What’s in a glass?

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There are so many different kinds of glasses on the market today, but are they all necessary? And which glass is best for wine? So many questions and I relish the opportunity to test them all – lol. From my humble days of making wine in my parents basement to owning a restaurant and completing WSET Level III (Sommelier school) I have tried and tested just about every glass you could imagine – and some you would not. The most eye-opening glass seminar I attended was in Montreal with Max Riedel (by the way it is pronounced Reedle) of the Riedel stemware family of Austria . I have always been a fan of Reidel (yes even the O glass which is perfect for those guests who are accident prone) so I was intrigued with the latest design “Vitis”. These are varietal specific glasses and really do offer an elevated wine tasting experience. The reasons for this are due to the fact that different varietals and different styles of wines need specific shapes in order to funnel the aromas up toward the nose and over the tongue in a specific pattern which highlights some flavours and aromas more than others. Now, these glasses are not for everyone and I don’t use them very often for a couple of reasons:

1) The glasses are too varietal specific; meaning, if a Pinot Noir is done in a different style than Burgundy it may create an unintended effect. 2) I have a few of glasses that do very well for most red and white varietals — which brings me to my point: The right glass for wine is made from crystal (not the heavy lead stuff your mom has in her hutch) and is shaped somewhat like a tulip — wider for reds and flute for bubbles. This allows for the aromas to be concentrated toward the nose and for the liquid to run over the tongue evenly and this will do most people. By the way its called stemware because the stem is a crucial part of the glass — it is for holding onto. This keeps your greasy fingers off the glass so you can see the colour and clarity of the wine and to keep you from affecting its temperature.

Here is something fun to try when you have guests over; buy a good bottle of wine and pull out some different glasses to pour into – including a plastic cup. The plastic is an exaggeration — for those who would challenge the premise of proper stemware. Have the guests swirl and sip each type of glass and see how the perceptions of the wine changes.

Cheers

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