The Naked Winemaker: What’s in YOUR glass?

I’m a professional and my favorite wine glass
is a vintage jelly jar used on Sundays to finish off all the partial left-over
bottles so I can start the week fresh with a new selection of wines and an
uncluttered refrigerator. There’s something warm and fuzzy about the peeling
Flintstones decal and fond remembrances of Sundays when I was too young to
drink (that much) wine.

But that’s not the kind of fine crystal a
professional is supposed to sip from.

In my autobiography of inconsistent behavior
I also love to use a good wine glass but I don’t mean it has to cost 50 bucks a
stem. A good wine glass is like any well-designed tool. It’s there to do a
job. It’s there so you can see the
wine, smell the wine and taste the wine. I have nothing against using
uber-expensive wine glasses, but it’s not necessary – what’s important is

A well designed wine glass contributes to the
appreciation of the wine in it and many wine glass manufacturers (especially
Riedel) have researched what shapes and sizes work for particular wine types
and varieties. In short, the bell of the glass is designed to bring out
positive features in the smell of the wine. The diameter of the rim is designed
to deliver wine to the front, middle or back of the mouth, much like the height
of the glass affects how far the head is tipped back (and therefore how far back in the mouth it is
delivered) when drinking.

That’s not as complicated as it sounds! It’s about appreciating wine with all
the senses. Let me elucidate.

When looking
at a wine, some of us like to confirm what we are drinking. Most young white wines should be pale
straw in color. Older whites will turn shades of gold. Most young reds should have a little
blue in them. Older reds begin to brown around the edges. Wines that look like
old brown shoes are likely to be trouble. If it’s a sparkling wine we want to
see the tiny bubbles, and if it’s cloudy, we want advance warning before
putting it in our mouths. So stash those dreadful cutglass Waterfords until
Sunday, and make sure your glasses are simple and clear.

Smelling. For some of us it’s all about smell. Current
thinking in the industry is that a big old fishbowl shaped glass increases
surface area when partially filled and releases more fruity smells. Use these
babies for lighter fruity wines like Beaujolais and Pinot Noir. But for bigger, earthier wines like
Cabernet Sauvignon or Malbec, the tulip shape glass is favored.

For tasting
dry tannic wines like young Cabernets the goal is to shoot most of the wine to
the back of the mouth ASAP. Thus
the best glass is tall with a wide diameter rim. In order to linger a little longer with soft pretty things
(think Port and dessert wines) a shorter glass (and that includes both the stem
and the bell) with a narrow rim puts the wine closer to the front of the mouth
and lets it linger longer.

OK, so maybe you don’t really want to think
about all that every time you open a bottle. Then don’t! Here’s my recommendation for simplicity.
For everyday use in my house you’ll find a 12 oz. all-purpose tulip shape.
Stands about 8 inches high and goes in the dishwasher every night. (Just don’t let it touch other hard
tableware or it will scratch and break). Got mine from the Wine Enthusiast (see for about $6 bucks. But you can find something similar, maybe cheaper, in many
kitchen departments or kitchen stores if you’re on the lookout.

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