Choosing a glass with class

Good glasses make wine taste better. Compare the same wine in one of those small, chunky glasses you find in some cheaper Chinese restaurants with any of my recommended glasses and the wine will taste as much as 50% better. A $10 bottle will taste more like a $20 bottle when served in top notch glasses.

Can you afford them? You bet. Estimate the value of wine you’re likely to serve in one year. Let’s say its $500 (that’s equivalent to 33 bottles of $15 wine). Good glasses are going to make the wine taste significantly better. If you buy a six good glasses for $25 each you’ll be able to buy 33 bottles of $10 wine which you’ll enjoy just as much and have money to spare. Flawed figures? Possibly, but the principal is correct. Good glasses make wine taste better.

What’s a good glass? Choose a shape that pleases you. Flutes, red and white wine glasses come in all shapes and sizes. Crystal glasses are finer. They look and feel better. Most are more durable than glass. I like cut, rather than a rolled edge on the lip – it feels so much better. Light and elegant are in, heavy and chunky are out (that includes cut crystal).

Champagne flutes

Avoid the saucer-shaped traditional champagne glasses that were supposed to have been styled off Marie Antoinette’s breasts – they make the wine go flat quickly (the glasses, not the breasts). Tall, thin flutes do a good job of preserving the bubbles while displaying the fine pearl-like stream that rises to the wine surface. They look great, are easy to sip without spilling and are surprisingly strong.

White wine glass

These are traditionally a bit smaller than red wine glasses and are often a little more open and less ball-shaped. An open rim makes it easier to sip the wine without risk of dribbling (I’m not making this up) while the smaller size allows you to drink the wine before it warms up. I quite like drinking white wine from red wine glasses which tend to concentrate the aroma. I’m also an expert at not dribbling.

Red wine glass

These larger and more rounded glasses help to concentrate the wine’s aroma. Think of a brandy balloon that’s designed to let you cup your hand around the bowl to warm the brandy and amplify its aroma. The same principal applies to red wine glasses. When you sip them (being careful not to dribble) you are able to experience the wine’s heady aroma. These are my favourite glasses.

Water glasses

The water glass I’ve chosen with the place-setting is a safe and solid choice. It has a good capacity and there’s little chance you’ll mistake it for a wine glass (embarrassing). Stemmed glasses can look pretty formal. You can use the water glass to add a little funky informality by choosing a coloured glass (my favourites are bright blue) or a weird shape (my wife’s favourites are chunky with embossed bees).

First published in Taste Magazine NZ – Dec 2008.

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