I have already written about wine glasses as an essential need for any wine enthusiast. However these recent events have compelled me to add just a few more words to the subject.
Recently an interesting piece came to my attention via Twitter:
— Eric Asimov (@EricAsimov) August 8, 2015
Thankfully, the conflict seems to have been resolved:
— the drinks business (@teamdb) August 10, 2015
Briefly, the main factors to consider in glassware selection all have to do with being able to evaluate wines objectively:
- Clarity – Wine glasses should be completely transparent to fully appreciate it’s colour
- Shape – Should be of a shape and construction to allow ease of manipulation, whether for observing at different angles or swirling the wine to release more aromatics
- Size – Not so small that it lacks the surface area to allow oxygenation to release aromatics, and not so large that people start to think you have a drinking problem
If the above three criteria are met, does it really matter if wines are poured in glasses that have slightly different shapes and sizes?
Let’s Be Rational
At the smallest scales, you could of course argue that a glass with a surface area of 100cm2 will release more aromatics than one with 99cm2.
You could surmise that a champagne flute would force all the aromas to come out of one small opening, compared with a large Burgundy glass with a large opening that will allow these nuances to simply escape.
You could agree that thinner, more delicate glassware will have less of an impact on the temperature of the wine than thicker, bulkier glasses.
But really? To go through the trouble of shopping for variously shaped and sized glasses for such marginal gains?
Once you reach a certain point, the shape and size really shouldn’t matter on a rational level. Even if there is some change in perception it would be very minor and likely not perceptible to the majority of people.
Have Some Standards
There is actually an ISO wine tasting glass that also aims to reduce these variables, although I do consider these to be a bit too spartan and utilitarian for everyday enjoyment.
However, having a standardised set of glassware will help you to focus on the wine itself, rather than being distracted by the glass itself.
This is what is usually done in wine classes, where everything is structured so that all of your focus is on the wine.
When you go to an open wine tasting, everyone is handed the same style of glass, not a whole set to carry around for people to pour into.
This is even done in examinations, should you decide to pursue that path. Could you imagine how ridiculous the tasting exam would be if they poured each wine in their respective “best” glasses? It would be akin to receiving a multiple choice test and having two of the four possible answers crossed out for you in advance. You don’t get to exercise your critical thinking and observation skills to the fullest.
Even if we discount the more formal situations above, you really don’t want to have to rack your brains matching certain glasses to varietals when at home. To insist on doing so would just be another form of snobbery.
So why exactly are there so many different wine glasses to choose from? Should we consider this a boon to the consumer, who would otherwise be stuck with no alternative other than to drink from a coffee mug?
Rather than automatically celebrating this diversity of choice, we should examine carefully who is offering these choices and what their agendas may be. I have written about the same thing before in different contexts.
Let’s imagine for a moment a world where there is only one kind of wine glass. People would just buy a set, maybe throw in a decanter, and if kept clean and well maintained wouldn’t have to buy another for the rest of their lives.
This presents a problem from the wine glass maker, who’s livelihood depends on people continuing to buy his products. So he does his own research, and through trial and error produces a more beautiful and practical wine glass. Everyone is happy with the new product and buys a new set.
Then comes iteration #3, #4, #5… somewhere between this and iteration #99 the mindset has probably shifted from “how can I make a better wine glass” to “how can I get more money out of these glass-o-philes”?
As much as we love to romanticise wine, ultimately you have to understand that it is a business, with profits and margins to consider. The world of wine is indeed beautiful, but everyone has to make a living, and everyone wants to make a better living.
I’ve mentioned this in my book, but I’ll throw it out here as a freebie. You will have no problem navigating the world of wine as an consumer as long as you:
- Know what you want
- Know what to look for
If you know that you’re an accident-prone maladroit, get some sturdy glasses, or invest in some high-quality plastic glasses.
If you know how to take good care of your possessions, by all means get the nicest, most delicate glasses you can afford and cherish them.
If you like to go to outdoor picnics often, I would suggest the plastic, stemless option. I’ve bought a set of very affordable GoVino glasses and they’re perfectly functional and a wonder to handle. (Disclosure – I do not work for them or earn a commission. I just respect their product.)
In short, know how you would likely enjoy wines and base your decisions around that.
Do not be too easily convinced by anyone that a particular glass of some shape or size is better than what you have already. Be open to rational arguments rather than emotional ones, and you will always have enough.
— Philosopher Quotes (@PhilosophersSay) July 14, 2015
Read more: Essential #5 – The Corkscrew