A wine glass does more than simply serve as 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 your wine glass to your lips, your taste buds are on the 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 taste.
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 white wines require medium-sized glasses.
I once attended a gathering of Napa Valley and Sonoma County winemakers at which Georg Riedel provided a demonstration that clearly illustrated how a wine can taste very good in one glass and not good at all 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 count.
Does this mean that one must invest in a full set of multi-sized and multi-shaped glasses? No. We get by quite nicely with two:
* A Chardonnay glass, which in addition to Chardonnay works just fine for other dry white wines, as well as for dessert wines.
* A Cabernet Sauvignon glass, which has a much wider bowl and works just fine for other dry red wines.
We also have a few Champagne flutes on hand, but we just as often use our Chardonnay glasses when drinking sparkling wine. The bubbles may not be as intense, but the flavor of the wine is not impacted.