When it comes to good wine glasses, what do you look for? Stemless tumblers for stability? Oversized glasses that eliminate the need to get up to the fridge at all? The most expensive crystal you can find? Or just anything that has a bowl that you can swirl your wine around in, really!
We asked Master of Wine Peter Scudamore-Smith what difference can the right glass make for wine?
“Well, it allows you to nose the aroma. And subtly, slowly, inhale the bouquet of the wine. If you swirl the wine, you encourage that to happen faster. If you swirl vigorously, you can create a cyclone effect, so that the aromas of the wine go up your nose, and you receive its characteristics, its personality if you like.
“The most popular glasses for wine judging in Australia these days are the Riedel Ouverture, Plumm or equivalent. Some of the sassy international shows use even higher-end Riedel glassware. These glasses do a great job of allowing you to swirl the wine to free its volatile compounds, with a decent aperture to allow smelling and sipping comfortably.
“R.I.P. the ISO glass. Today we sniff wines much more gently, and pour smaller amounts into a relatively large glass. This caused the ISO size and shape to become redundant. Now we have all shapes and sizes to do the same thing. Different shapes present aromas in a different order
“Fads come and go with glassware trends. Wine glasses have become fashion statements. Those stemless tumblers are in vogue at the moment, but they are practical for serving, drinking and stability in busy environments, but hopeless for sensory studies.
“Now there’s new glass wine buffs have been talking about of late, a tulip-shaped glass from Baccarat. Hailed as wine ‘revolution’ it has a very wide flat base and a vertical chimney. This is meant to prevent the alcohol from overpowering the aroma. At the end of the day, it is one thing to produce the aromas by glass bowl design, but it takes an experienced wine professional to make the relevant pronunciation about the character and quality of the wine liquid in the bottom!
But from what our Master of Wine is saying, the aroma is an important part of assessing wine?
“Exactly. We all have this fundamental sensory skill, and that is to sniff in what comes out of the top of the glass. If some glasses promote different aromas in front of others, well that’s just how it is. But at the end of the day, if you take a big sniff, you are going to inhale every aroma the wine offers, whether it’s first, second or third sniff.
“An alarming trend not just in Australia but around the world is that many wines are increasing in alcohol. Apart from the health repercussions, wines of higher alcohol content tend to anaesthetise your nose after the first sniff. So you really don’t smell anything after the second and third sniff. And that’s an issue with the wine. No glass is going to take away the alcohol, and that’s a fact of life,” said Peter.
We asked Peter what’s your favourite glass? For tasting? And just drinking to enjoy?
“At home, I like a clear glass with a long stem. I like to admire what I’m drinking. I prefer finer glassware to thick and sturdy. And a slight inward curve at the top concentrates the aromas and bouquet. I’ve dispensed with flutes for champagne, they concentrate the bubbles too much for you to be able to inhale the aroma. Only use them at home for dessert wine these days!
“The bowl is the most important part. Glass quality depends on how it’s made: factory-generated one piece blown versus two piece where stem is melted on to bowl. The higher-end glasses are one piece hand-blown. Now you may pay up to $100 for a beautiful glass. They are a fashion statement, they make the wine look good and make you feel good about what you’re drinking. Try not to pour too much into those giant fishbowls, as you’ll be blasted with aroma and bouquet.
“Whether you are buying a Lamborghini or a Maserati, it’s all going to add to increased enjoyment of your wine. At any rate, the best glass for wine is the one in your hand!”
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