YES! The type of wine glass really makes a difference. I will be happy to debate any wine critic on this issue. Robert Hall once told me, “If the wine matters, so does the glass!” and I couldn’t agree more with his assessment. Incidentally, this statement also happens to be Bottega Del Vino’s trademarked slogan.
When I first became interested in wines, my father played his part and bought me my first wine book. I will not name the author as I am not in the business of offending people. Suffice it to say that when I got to the author’s claim that the type of wine glass (whether it be glass, pewter, plastic, crystal, tin cup, etc.) does not make much of a difference and should not prevent one from drinking wine, I instinctively knew I was reading a false statement.
Wine Glasses Make a Difference
In the mid-nineties, I was invited to a wine tasting featuring Chateau Yquem’s wines. We were told that there were to be four vintages at this tasting. We were given four glasses, one for each vintage. After sampling the wines, we started to discuss the various aromas that we could smell, the differences in texture (very slight but noticeable) that we could detect, and the characteristics of the four wines.
After a while, however, the host made a shocking announcement. All four wines were actually of the same vintage! I could hear the guests gasping, arguing and claiming that it could not be possible. None of us had any idea that we were drinking four glasses of the same wine. What made it more embarrassing was the fact that we were no amateurs to be so thoroughly deceived.
“How can this be?” one of the professional wine tasters asked. The host replied, “It is all about the wine glass and how wine evolves in each differently!”
The wine glass does matter. Wines react when exposed to air, and the bouquet, body and structure [/glossary] of wines react differently depending on the type and shape of the wine glass used.
The Shape of the Wine Glass Matters
Why does the shape of a wine glass – specifically its opening, rim and body – make such a big difference?
A larger opening means greater exposure to air, allowing the wine to breathe and facilitating the change not only to the wine’s bouquet but also to the wine’s structure. The rim, on the other hand, acts like a vent, releasing or trapping the wine’s bouquet within the glass.
When you sip wine from a glass with a wide opening, further aeration of the wine happens. Thus, wine aromas previously not noticeable are revealed and further changes in the wine’s structure also take place. These changes will become detectable both in the mouth (on the tongue, to be more precise) and, once again, in the nose. This is the retro-olfactory process or, in layman’s terms, the process by which wine aromas develop or break open after the wine comes in contact with the saliva; some aromas need liquid to become volatile.
The entire process is actually quite complex and would take a few pages to explain. I will discuss this in greater detail in my first podcast (video) presentation, so watch out for it.
I don’t expect you to go out and buy a set of wine glasses for each type of wine that exists. However, I do recommend that you buy wine glasses that are specifically designed for the wines you enjoy or love the most. It is definitely worth it and, more importantly, you and your wine deserve it!
So remember: if you are going to drink wine, drink it in a stem glass – preferably one made of crystal. If you have the option, use one that is best fitted.
No, you don’t have to take my advice if you are the type to drink 2buckchuck. In that case, I don’t think the wine glass will make much of a difference, and I really don’t know why you’re reading my wine blog.