The Great Wine Glass Lie: Are you being duped?
Today I want to explore the wine glass industry and whether or not different styles of wine glasses are really that important in how you smell, taste and enjoy your wine. For many years, I purchased dozens of different styles of wine glasses, from port to Champagne, to Cabernet, to Riesling, to............well, you get the point. Why did I do this? While I'm still asking myself this question, at the time, as a fledgling wine writer, it made sense to me. I mean, in literally every wine publication I read or web site I visited, including forums, were ads for beautiful, lead-free crystal wine glasses that were the "best" for enhancing my wine enjoyment experience. Well heck, these people must know much more than I do, so I better get them all! (Or so I thought).
So why do we buy so many styles of wine glasses? Or maybe a better question is, why do the larger wine glass companies create and market so many styles of wine glasses to the masses? Do you really care if you're drinking a Cabernet out of a Syrah glass or a Gewurztraminer out of a glass that is labeled ideal for Riesling? Maybe the bigger question here would be can you even tell the difference? My answer would be no. No, you cannot tell a difference. Even if you are the very top sommelier at the pinnacle of your career, I challenge that you are full of crap if you think that there is a real need to stock a dozen or more different styles of wine goblets in your cabinets because they each pair wonderfully with your 1982 Chateau Overpriced Plonk. Let's get real.
So then, why do we purchase different wine glasses and why are some of them ideal for different types of wine? Red wine. Ahhhh, let that soak in for a minute. It's lovely and my personal favorite - Cabernet, Shiraz, Tempranillo, Petit Syrah, Merlot - I'll take it all! And I'll drink it all from one wine glass. For these lovelies, I use only one style (which is ironically called the One Red Wine Glass, which I purchased off of Amazon for about $12.50 each in bulk) and this glass has a 19.5 ounce capacity, a medium-to-long stem and a very well rounded bowl, great for cupping the glass and swirling. I constantly swirl when drinking, probably to a fault, but I can't help it and I love the way the aromas waft upwards out of this glass. If your budget only allows for one type of wine glass, get a "red" wine glass. It's versatile enough for nearly everything you will be serving and 95% of your guests have no clue or care about varying styles. So check off the first glass you need - RED.
If you don't care what you serve your wine in to your guests or what you're drinking your Boone's Farm Strawberry wine in (other than straight from the bottle), you can stop reading now - if you even made it this far. Game over. You're welcome. But, if you want a little variety and want to enjoy your Champagne (sorry America, all of ours is actually "sparking wine" made Methode Champenoise but we generally call it "Champagne" similarly to a tissue is a "Kleenex" for most), then you need to get some flutes. No, this isn't that one time at band camp. These are Champagne flutes. Why? Because they look pretty and classy? Sure, let's face it. That's one aspect of why we quaff from these dainty glasses. But there is actually truth that the smaller, narrow, elongated design helps keep the bubbles in check and dancing around in the glass, which is why we drink Champagne, right? It's the tasting experience that counts. It's the lovely tickle in our noses and the yeasty tastes that are accentuated by the thousands of little bubbles that make this wine fun, delicious and memorable. Truth be known, if I didn't have a flute and only had a coffee mug, well, this blogger would be partaking anyway! But if you want the best drinking experience and have a budget for it, then check off your second wine glass here - Champagne flute.
You need nothing else. No port glasses, no $200 Sommelier glass. That's it. But I will suggest that if you have regular wine parties, have some extra bucks that you aren't spending on one of your many wine club memberships or hell, maybe you just don't like to re-use wine glasses, then consider a white wine glass. But don't get cute and don't get fancy. Don't stress over Chardonnay versus Sauvignon Blanc or any other fake, commercialized, make-believe styles that are the "best" for your wine. Just get something that has a smaller bowl than your red glass, has a good stem for gripping and for God's sake, don't get a stemless set! More on that later. A simple white wine glass with a stem will keep your wine the proper temperature, allow you to enjoy the flavors of your juice and if on a table setting, will remind your lovers that you have class damnit and you serve both red and white wines at your house! The days of rinsing out red glasses for white wines and vice versa are over. Spend a few bucks. Get some whites. Enjoy. And we're done! The third and only wine glass I would recommend is a white wine glass, and it's totally optional!
I'll finish this ramble with a few pet peeves. I guess I should start by saying that if you invite me over to your house, I'm not going to poo poo any of your drinkware and I'm confident that you and I and our band of hearty drinkers will have a hell of a good time. But, if we can avoid a few things, I want to put those out here right now. Stemless wine glasses. I'm on the fence here. I have actually used these recently with our neighbors and I admit that I really like the way they fit in my hand and there is much less of a chance that I'll knock one over and break it while sipping by the fire pit. For that I am very thankful and they immediately generate a more relaxed atmosphere. Ok, I have it! Let's call these outside-only glasses, ok? I now ban everyone from using these indoors, but have at them outdoors. I have to add that the idea that the stemless wine glasses are "bad" because the temperature of your hands messes with the wine temperature and creates a lesser tasting experience is a bunch of shit. There. I said it. Unless you are Marvel Comic's Human Torch, I don't think you'll have to worry about your "hotness" screwing with your wine. And if you're sipping on one glass of wine all night while I'm opening my second bottle, then this will probably be the last time we drink together, so there's that. Fingerprints on these glasses are the devil's work and the real problem with these glasses. But if you concentrate on the friends and the wine, you can most likely get past your paw prints all over the glass.
Finishing off my pet peeves are glasses that I just don't like. I don't care for them one bit. They're wildly popular with the gift-giving crowd who occasionally sips the Moscato and thinks they are "big wine fans". I'm not judging here (ok, maybe a little). I guess I don't have a dog in this game because I'm not crafty and I won't drink from these. I give you, the novelty wine glass...
I will say that anyone who can create a wine glass that is unbreakable, beautiful, affordable and not full of poisonous materials will be my new best friend. If these are your glasses, send them to me and I'll promote them until the cows come home. That's a midwestern phrase and for those of you who don't know, that's a really, really good thing. I've had too many accidents over the years that ruined a delicate wine glass and beautiful wine, just like the overpriced Riedel pictured below. RIP.
At the end of the day, you're going to drink wine out of whatever you want and I'm not mad at you. But whatever you do, drink wine! By the end of the night, we're all going to be having a grand old time and might even be following our buddy Miles and drink whatever we can get ahold of however we can get it down our throats! Cheers!