Wine Glass 101

Candace Hobbs, owner of The Grape & Ale, displays various crystal wine glasses crafted by Riedel, which enhance the flavors of each varietal as well as the experience of enjoying wine. Photo by Kris Beasley

Candace Hobbs, owner of The Grape & Ale, displays various crystal wine glasses crafted by Riedel, which enhance the flavors of each varietal as well as the experience of enjoying wine. Photo by Kris Beasley

As a child I had favorite glasses that I insisted my mom use to serve my favorite beverages.  My morning orange juice required a juice glass with puppies painted on it. There was a small tin cup that I wanted my buttermilk in. As an adult, I have my favorite coffee cup, my favorite water glass, and my favorite wine glass. Things just seem to taste better coming from that special vessel.

While there was no particular science behind my childhood favorites, there is certainly truth to the importance of using the appropriately shaped glass for your favorite varietal of wine. Not only is the shape important, but the material the glass is made from is as well.

If you are truly interested in learning about the nuances and aromas of different varietals of wine to enjoy your experience even more, a crystal stemware set is a great investment. If you are a klutz and most of your glasses last less than a month, don’t waste your hard-earned money. Cheap glasses with the correct shape are better than drinking your wine out of a solo cup or a highball glass.

Why does crystal make a difference?  There are two types of crystal: leaded and lead-free. The amount of lead in a glass can vary from 1 percent—your typical crystal found in the United States—to 30 percent, which is typically found in Europe. The lead-free crystal is made using zinc and magnesium oxide.

Crystal reflects light within the glass enabling a clearer view of the subtleties of the color of the wine as well as giving the glass a beautiful sparkle. In addition, the minerals in the glass make it sturdy enough to give your wine a vigorous swirl to release the aromas and coat the glass.

Crystal stemware has “thin lips,” meaning it does not impede the flow of wine from the glass into your mouth. More surface area in a glass helps to release the aromas in a wine. The wine glass should get smaller toward the top. This ensures that the aroma is captured inside the glass.

For a red wine, a taller glass with a fuller bowl is recommended to accommodate the drinker to swirl and release the complexities in the aromas of the wine. One should never fill the glass above the broadest point of the bowl.

Since most white wines are meant to be consumed within just a few years of bottling, extensive swirling is not as important; however, the bowl needs to be small enough to contain the nuances of the wine for the enjoyment of the nose before the palate.

Champagne is served in tall flutes that are intended to direct the bubbles to the top. Don’t swirl your champagne unless you want to get rid of the bubbles!

These are just the basics. To learn more, the best way to experience this for yourself is to attend the Riedel Stemware Class at The Grape & Ale. A class was just held in late November and we will be holding additional classes in 2015.

For more information, visit The Grape & Ale at 8521 E. Oak Island Dr. in Oak Island, call (910) 933-4384, or visit www.thegrapeandale.com.

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