Glassware: Size and Shape Make a Difference

A wine glass is more than a holding vessel for wine. The founders of Riedel stemware viewed the wine glass as an instrument to bring together:

  • The personality of the wine.
  • The smell of the wine.
  • The taste of the wine.
  • The appearance of the wine.

The shape of the glass is responsible for the quality and intensity of the bouquet and the flow of the wine. The initial contact point depends on the shape and volume of the glass, the diameter of the rim, its finish (be it cut-and-polished or rolled-edge), as well as the thickness of the crystal.

As you put a wine glass to your lips, your taste buds are on alert. The wine flow is directed onto the appropriate taste zones of your palate, leading to different taste “pictures.” Once your tongue is in contact with the wine, three messages are transmitted at the same time: temperature, texture and flavor.

The size of the glass also is important because it impacts the quality and intensity of the aromas. The breathing space has to be chosen according to the “personality” of the wine. Red wines require large glasses, while whites require medium-sized glasses.

Georg Riedel once conducted a demonstration for Napa Valley and Sonoma County winemakers that clearly illustrated how a wine can taste great in one glass and not great in another — simply because of the shape and volume of the glass.

At various intervals, winemakers sat in stunned silence as they experienced aromas and flavors either disappearing or becoming vegetal as a wine was transferred from a proper glass to an improper glass for the particular varietal.

Noted one winemaker: “It’s kind of scary to think that our wine may taste like this when it’s presented to the public in our tasting room. This wine doesn’t taste anything at all like it did right out of the barrel, or like it did in the correct glass we had just a moment ago.”

Winemakers are skeptics by nature, so to see such an esteemed group react in this way proved that when it comes to wine glasses, size… and shape… do matter.

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Posted in Wine Tips
2 comments on “Glassware: Size and Shape Make a Difference
  1. I think it is very interesting that a wine glass could be so important to the taste and appearance of the wine presented. As you said, the wine flow is directed onto the appropriate taste zones, based on the size of the glass. If the glass is a different size or the glass is too full, then the taste buds will not be triggered in the correct order or presented in an appealing fashion.

    • Robert Johnson says:

      Well said, Lillian! Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts.

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