September 2, 2016, 9:15AM
Today on CTV Morning Live, CTV’s Lianne Laing and Sommelier Matt Steeves discussed the intriguing world of wine glasses…the different shapes, sizes, and functions and what you may want to consider when you’re looking to get some for your home.
There are so many shapes and sizes of wine glasses to choose from, before you even consider material (crystal, glass, plastic, etc.). It can be a bit overwhelming trying to select which one(s) to buy but it doesn’t have to be. Today on CTV Morning Live, Sommelier Matt Steeves helped simplify that decision by highlighting a few considerations that will help you choose the stemware best suited for you.
Before we get into it, there are all sorts of reasons why people use certain wine glasses over others. For some its a result of very technical considerations, while for others, not so much, perhaps it’s because that’s what was available at the grocery store and guests were on their way over.
For those that make a living in the world of wine, such as Sommeliers, wine makers, or wine writers, for them selecting stemware is often a very thoughtful process that’s focused on enhancing or maximizing the visual, aromatic, and flavour characteristics of a specific wine to get the full enjoyment out of it, and believe it or not, each wine does show (look, smell, and even taste) a bit different in differently shaped glasses.
For some folks, their choice of stemware could be due to considerations such as entertaining preferences (outside, poolside, formal sit-down, etc.) or space restrictions in their home (e.g. the young grad student that only has enough cupboard space for 2 stackable stemless glasses). It’s important to remember that there are no ‘wrong’ glasses for enjoying wine, well maybe those red flip-cup cups should be banned for wine consumption as they’re the least effective at enhancing the enjoyment of wine, although I’m guilty of using them out of necessity at various times throughout the year (although that’s when I really wish I had some inexpensive wine stemware to substitute in).
- What kind of wine do you drink most often? White, Red, Pinot, Bubbly? (Note: Each wine style will show best in wine glasses designed for that specific wine style and although it would be great to have various varietal-specific glasses it’s not necessary to have more than one or two different wine glasses such as a standard white (or red) wine glass and a Champagne flute, for example).
- Do you only drink one style of wine or do you enjoy all wines, and which one(s) do you drink most frequently? (Note: If you only ever drink white wine, then there’s no need to stock up on stemware for other wines, unless you entertain often and have wine-appreciating friends that enjoy a variety of wine styles…in this case perhaps buy some standard white and red wine glasses and keep the red wine glasses washed and ready to serve, but stored out of the way so you can grab them when guests come over).
- Do you typically have your wine indoors or are you most often enjoying a glass of wine while relaxing in the hottub? (Note: I ask this because enjoying wine outside, with the wind and other elements, means you may want to consider stemless crystal or, depending on how rowdy you or your guests get, those stemless plastic wine glasses that do a really good job at presenting the wine despite the plastic…check out stores like CA Paradis to pick some of those up as they’re very affordable and totally bulletproof. CA Paradis even has stemless plastic Champagne flutes…perfect for enjoying outside perhaps while watching summer fireworks, movie in the park shows, or that romantic stroll with an impromptu bubbly picnic).
- Do you entertain often? If so, how many people do you routinely have over that would be enjoying a glass of wine? (Note: You can buy cases (6-12) of wine glasses very inexpensively at various stores around town, including Winners and Homesense. They come in boxes that are handy for storage and often sell for only a few dollars a glass, making it very feasible if you have the space. Of course CA Paradis and other kitchenware boutiques also sell the full range of stemware from the $30 case to the $300 case, so there’s something for every budget).
- How much space do you want to assign to storing wine glasses? 2, 6, 12, 18, 24+ glasses? For those that entertain often, do you have space in a basement to store stemware when not needed? (Note: if you entertain often and have the space, I say go for it, stock up on a case of glasses for the wines you’re enjoying most often…12 red, 12 white wine glasses, and perhaps some flutes for toasting those special occasions, although as you’ll see below, I like enjoying bubbly out of white wine glasses so keep that in mind if you aren’t too keen on having a truck load of wine glasses in your home. Also, if you’re hosting a larger gathering, it’s quite easy to rent stemware and the best part about that, you don’t need to wash the glasses when you’re done with them…just put those 48 glasses back in the trays and off they go. This is a terrific solution for entertaining larger crowds and the benefits are totally worth the cost).
After you’ve answered those questions it should help guide you to understanding what you’re needs are and what would serve you best.
Now, lets get into talking about the differences in the various stemware options out there.
Here’s a infographic on some of the most common wine glasses…as you can see there’s no shortage of shapes and sizes, this is exactly why some people get overwhelmed with the thought of buying wine glasses, but remember you don’t need to sweat this as they’re no ‘wrong’ glass for the job.
Here is my short list of wine glasses that I prefer, minus the stemless options which aren’t shown here, perhaps as they’re sometimes not taking seriously despite certain very practical uses.
Let’s get into some of the differences between the various wine glasses…
Red and White:
Red wines have larger, rounder bowls with wider mouths when compared to white wine glasses. Because white wines don’t need to be aerated to the extent of red wines, their bowls are smaller with narrower mouths therefore concentrating the delicate aromas and guiding them to the nose for full enjoyment. Red wines often benefit from opening-up, getting a bit of air contact to release their rich aromas and soften the tannins that are present in red wines too, so for these reasons there’s a bit more volume in red wine glasses to permit swirling the wine for aeration. (Note: just because a wine glass is really big, doesn’t mean you should fill it up more…in fact, most wine glasses, particularly red and white, are meant to be filled about 1/3 (33%) thus leaving room for swirling and for the aromatics to get released for full aromatic enjoyment).
Smaller bowls on white wine glasses also help promote smaller and perhaps more frequent pours thereby ensuring the temperature of the chilled white wine stays cooler, versus having a large glass of white wine that after 30 minutes is room temperature and no longer crisp and fresh. Picture eating an ice cream sandwhich out of the freezer at the intended temperature versus eating it when it’s melted, all the components are the same but the texture and refreshing characteristics are no longer present. That’s why I recommend smaller and more frequent pours and making sure you only fill a wine glass 1/3 full.
Sparkling Wine Flutes:
Flutes for sparking wine are typically tall and narrow and the purpose for that is to keep the effervesence (bubbles) in the wine as long as possible as that’s not only ‘sparkling’ to watch but also contributes to the texture and refreshing nature of sparkling wine. Drinking sparking wine out of a red wine glass, or worse, a red flip-cup cup, would significantly shorten the life of the bubbles and quickly render the sparkling wine flat, possibly flabby, and certainly not the way its intended to be enjoyed. Imagine drinking Coke from a 2L bottle that was opened 3 weeks ago…it lacks effervesence and tastes nothing like a fresh can of coke does. Since texture in wine is so important it’s nice to enhance and preserve that texture and certain glasses do that best.
Not all flutes are the same though, a popular style of sparkling wine glass is the tulip shaped glass which is basically a blend of a white wine glass and a tall and skinny flute. These are terrific for fine sparkling wines that you want to enjoy the aromatic profile of, such as vintage Champagne or traditional method wines. I use tulip stemware often and if I don’t have one available my next best choice for enjoying fine sparking wine is a small white wine glass as it allows me to enjoy the aromas and keeps the bubbles well enough while I’m enjoying that glass of wine. For this reason, if you’re limited for space and/or rarely drink sparking wine (which by the way I’d suggest incorporating more sparking wine into your meal planning as they’re so versatile and food friendly), then opt for some slightly smaller white wine glasses and you’ll be pleasantly surprised how well they work for enjoying nice bubbly.
Often I’m asked what are the differences between crystal and glass stemware? And, why would I pay more for the crystal glasses? Here’s some info on the differences between those materials (crystal and glass):
The biggest benefits I see in crystal glasses over glass stemware are that crystal glasses are actually very durable so they can be made very thin which is a quality of the finest crystal stemware and preference of mine and most Sommeliers I know. The other key advantage of crystal over glass is that crystal stemware refracts light, which means just like a diamond refracts light in beautiful arrays, so does crystal (not quite to the same extent mind you), which makes wines look so brilliant, compared to the relatively dull and unimpressive appearance when in glass stemware. Crystal stemware is available in most shapes and sizes, stem and stemless, and the same goes for glass stemware. The one disadvantage is that there’s typically a higher price tag on crystal stemware, although if handled properly they’ll last a very long time (Sommelier tip, don’t do your hand washing after a big night of tasting wine….wait until the morning, trust me, even the fancy high durability crystal glasses break occasionally!).
If you enjoy wine outside on your patio often, and you have a happy dog that wags its tail, you may want to opt for stemless as they’re actually very stable when struck by wagging tails. The same can’t be said for those tall slender wine glasses when the wagging tail hits.
So I hope this has helped inform your wine stemware selection a bit. Remember, there’s no wrong glass for the job, but certain glasses do work better than others so just being mindful of that when you select your stemware means you’re well on your way to becoming a wine pro.