As discussed in the previous episode of our Millesima Tips series, serving temperature is important to allow a wine to fully express itself. Similarly, the vessel from which it is sipped also holds great significance for the tasting experience. While some glasses may over-accentuate the bitterness or acidity of a wine, which mask the fruity and fresh qualities, others may bring the latter to the forefront. Such differences have led glassware manufacturers to create a distinct glass for each grape variety and style.
Wine Glasses for Each Varietal, Region and Style
The three most important parameters considered in the creation of a wine glass are size, shape and opening. Altering one or more of these three parameters will significantly change the performance of a glass with a given wine. But what kind of glass is ideal for each style or varietal of wine?
Sparkling Wine Glasses
Two styles have been popular for the enjoyment of sparkling wines like Champagne and Franciacorta. A shallow and broad-rimmed, saucer-shaped glass called a coupe was popular between the 17th century and the late 1970’s. The coupe was eventually replaced by the flute, which remains most popular today. This features a tall, tapered shape designed to retain the bubbles of carbonation that make sparkling wines so festive and fun. Serving a sparkling wine in a flute maintains the “fizz” and allows for a dramatic display of the steady stream of fine bubbles from the bottom to the surface. More recently, the flute has received criticism from oenophiles for inadequately expressing the nuanced aromas and flavours of a wine. The tulip glass was created as a solution to this problem. The latter vessel is also tall and spherical, to encourage vertical movement of the bubbles, but the wider rim allows more bubbles to burst simultaneously at the surface, releasing unique aromas to a fuller extent.
Rose Wine Glasses
Rose is best served in one of two styles of wine glass depending on its style. Young, crisp and dry rose wines best express themselves when served in a vessel with a short bowl and a flared lip. The shape of the glass directs the wine straight onto the tip of the tongue, which is the part most sensitive to sweetness. With this glass the sweetness of a dry rose is enhanced, leading to a balanced overall experience. Choose this one to accentuate a wine’s fruity qualities and temper its acidity so that it doesn’t overwhelm. Sweeter roses perform best when tasted from a short-bowled glass with a slightly tapered shape.
White Wine Glasses
When it comes to both white and red wines, there is a wide array of wine glasses to choose from based either on varietal or, as some wine enthusiasts argue, by region. White wine glasses are usually more U-shaped than red wine glasses. Wines like oaked Chardonnay, which may benefit from contact with oxygen, are often served in a glass with a wider rim, while crisp, young wines better maintain their freshness in one with a narrower rim. Some claim that White Burgundy is best served in a glass similar to a Red Burgundy. This also makes sense, as the wines benefit express the same terroir.
Red Wine Glasses
Red wine glasses also show enormous variation in the size and shape of the bowl. The two most classic shapes are the tall and broad Bordeaux glass, designed for full bodied reds like Cabernet Sauvignon, and the broader Burgundy glass whose rounder bowl is better suited for more delicate, lighter-bodied red wines, like Pinot Noir. While the shape of the former directs the wine straight to the back of the palate, that of the latter allows for an accumulation of aromas and directs the liquid to the tip of the tongue. Bold and spicy Syrah is often served in a longer, leaner version of the Bordeaux glass, while Chianti, for example, is served in a smaller one that is more similar to the classic white wine glass.
Dessert Wine Glasses
Dessert wine glasses also come in a wide variety. Two classics are the Port glass, which are small and slender to help the palate focus on fruit, oak and spice flavours, and a short but lean one with a tapered rim, designed to emphasise acidity for a more balanced tasting experience. The latter works best for ice wines and Sauternes, for example.