Shape Matters

Fast Lane

Fine wine deserves the proper glassware

Wine lovers and even people who like a nice bottle now and then know the importance of choosing a high-quality wine to enjoy all the characteristics that make wine a special drink. But did you realize the glass you drink from is just as important as the year and producer of that specially chosen wine?

“Drinking from different glasses focuses the stream of the wine to different parts of the tongue,” says Tamara Buricova, co-Owner with her husband Vladmir of Ad Vivum, a French and Spanish wine importer that also runs Riedel, a glassware company in Slovansky dum. “(The taste) depends on where you feel the wine first, so different shapes are suitable for different types of wine.”

Our tongues are complex, with each section having a different job: you taste sweet on the tip of your tongue for example, acid on the sides and bitterness towards the back. To get the full taste benefit from your wine you need a proper glass that directs the wine to a certain part of your tongue. The shape of a wine glass does that, but the rim of the glass is also very important. Most wine glasses have “rolled” rims; edges where you can feel a “lip” if you run your finger along the inside of the glass. All Riedel glasses have “cut” rims which allow the wine to flow smoothly onto the tongue. A rolled rim on the other hand interrupts the flow and can increase any potential acidity in the wine.

Bordeaux, Merlot and other red wines that need time to breathe do best in larger glasses with bigger bowls. You want the glass to be large enough for your nose as well, so you can smell the wine before you drink it. Deeper glasses also allow for proper manipulation of the wine, allowing the maximum amount of oxygen to circulate. While the wine is sitting the wide bowl also allows more oxygen in. Buricova cannot emphasize enough the importance of letting a red wine breathe.

“A chemical process occurs when you swirl it and that changes the perception of the wine,” she says.

Champagne glasses are tall and narrow, as are white wine glasses. If your white wine is a full-bodied one with moderate acidity, chose a shorter, fatter glass, while if it is a fruity one, choose a more narrow one.

There’s another reason for always using the proper shaped glass. Wide open glasses force you to sip, because you must lower your head, while a narrow glass requires you to tilt your head back.

“How you tilt your head when drinking is very important as that puts the wine in a different place on your tongue,” explains Buricova.

Carafes are important too. “Fortified” wines, such as port and sherry can sit in carafes a longer time and should have a cap. In wines that need more oxygen, choose a carafe with a wide bottom. Some carafes, especially tall narrow ones, should only be used for serving.

“The shapes (of carafes) also influence the oxygen process,” says Buricova. “When the surface is bigger, the more oxygen gets into the wine. Use narrow carafes for whites as they don’t need as much oxygen.”

Buricova has a few other tips to fully enjoy your wine.

“When you’re pouring, only fill the glass a third full,” she advises. “Then you can manipulate the glass and this gives the wine ideal conditions in which to get the best from its potential.”

“A good quality wine, poured into a bad quality glass can ruin it,” Buricova believes. “But a good glass can’t perform miracles and make a bad wine good. It’s a pity not to have a good quality glass as you miss the potential that you can get from each wine”