The rising trend of popularity of wine has led to a boom in things to go with wine like corkscrews, stoppers, coolers, napkins, pouring baskets, decanters, candles, thermometers, bottle jackets, hydrometers and dozens of varieties of each accessory from electric versions to manual ones. Needless to say, a lot of these accessories will be used until the novelty wears off and then left at the back of the cupboard.
However, there is one category of wine drinking accessory that no wine drinker should be without and that is wine glasses. They are essential, I am sure that everyone would agree. But the good thing about wine glasses is that they are attractive when they are not in use too. A set of six lead crystal wine glasses is a fine-looking sight. And a fine set of glasses correctly shaped for the wine you are drinking will greatly enhance your enjoyment of that wine.
This is because the shape of the glass is very influential on the drinker’s ability to savour the taste and the aroma of wine. Therefore, it is essential to use the correct glasses for the type of wine being served.
Red wines gain a lot from contact with air, so, aside from opening the bottle an hour before drinking it, you could decant it. The older and heavier the wine, the more air it must have. The next step is to serve the red wine in large glasses. This is not so as to be able to get as much wine in there as possible! A full, normal size bottle contains six servings no matter what glass you use, but a large glass allows you to swirl the wine around the glass, thereby increasing its contact with air.
A large tulip shaped glass is a good illustration of this kind of wine glass and any dark red wine would benefit from being drunk out of such a vessel. Try a Rioja or Bordeaux, for instance.
White wines, on the other hand, do not need to breathe for as long as red wines and are best served slightly chilled. Therefore, the wine glasses are likely to have a smaller bowl and a longer stem. The bowl is smaller, because swirling is not necessary and the stem is longer, so that the heat from your hand does not warm the wine up prematurely. Try a Chardonnay, a Sauvignon or a German wine in these glasses.
Champagne glasses are called champagne flutes because the bowl is long and narrow, which allows the bubbles to float through more of the wine than if the bowl were short. This is beneficial for the wine, the taste and its appearance. The stem is also long as with other white wines to diminish heat transfer.
The last main kind of glass is the sherry schooner, which is also used for port. Sherry and port are both heavy reds and so need to breathe, which is one of the reasons why they ought to be decanted. However, a schooner has hardly any stem, because the warmth from your hand is required to keep the wine at the right temperature.
Apart from the shape of the bowl and the length of the stem, the next most important factor is the quality of the glass and its design. Some people like hand-blown glass and it can be very beautiful, but it also tends to be light and delicate. I prefer to use lead crystal glasses, which are a lot heavier and can take a deeper pattern.
Owen Jones, the author of this piece, writes on many topics, but is currently involved with Waterford crystal vases. If you have an interest in Irish crystal or wedding rings, please go to our website now at White Gold Claddagh Ring