Aromas in wine can sometimes be shy. They often only reveal a hint of their complexity as they dance delicately and expressively in front of our nose and tickle our palate.
The right glass for every wine
Without the right glass, important wine aromas remain undetected or get lost between the glass and palate.
It is the function of a wine glass to inspire the aromas to a virtuoso performance, to fine tune them and to “steer their notes in the right direction” so that the full bouquet can develop in the glass and palate.
The theories around the role of the glass are as diverse as the philosophies about wine, but one should differentiate between generally applicable rules and theories, personal preferences and personal experiences.
Basically, a wine glass should meet the following requirements:
Crystal clear - only a clear, transparent wine glass can reflect the clarity and brilliance of a wine. There is no need for flourishes, decorations and engravings.
Sheer - Of course this is a relative term. Experts see the thin glass as an objectively better drinking pleasure, because here the contact to the wine is more immediate. The temperature of the wine is also less affected by a thin glass.
Long stemmed - The stem should be so long that you can hold the glass easily with your index, middle finger and thumb. This prevents your hand from heating the wine and its scent influencing the perception of the wine aromas as well as unsightly fingerprints on the bowl of the glass that would cloud the visual appreciation.
Clean - residues of detergent, chlorine or even a cupboard smell, can quickly combine with the wine aromas so should therefore be avoided as far as possible. If in doubt, rinse the glass with a sip of wine from the bottle. This neutralizes all unwanted notes.
If these rules are followed then you are off to a good start. All other requirements for the glass in terms of shape and size are more a question of aesthetics and philosophy. The procedure then is simple: as is well known, enjoying wine starts with the nose. The wine is carefully swirled in the glass so that the aromas can unfold. The easiest way to do this is in a curved glass. The wine runs off the side walls and the aromas are released collecting in the airspace of the glass above the wine. There we catch them by taking a deep sniff and experiencing the wine sensorically for the first time. The more complex and full the aromas are, the greater the curvature and airspace must be in order to leave enough room for the richness and diversity to be revealed.
A chamber for wine aromas
Heavy and full red wines, Pinot Noir or Dornfelder, for example, open up best in bulbous, slightly voluminous glasses. Such a glass also helps with heavy white wines. The fact that a smaller glass is preferred for white wines is due to the often delicate and fine aromas, which are easily lost in an oversized glass. It is also because chilled white wine does not heat up so quickly in small glasses - it is drunk faster and then refilled from the chilled bottle.
The anatomy of our tongue plays an important role in the development of glass shapes. In this context, it has been agreed that drinking wine with a thinner, more delicate glass promises more enjoyment. When sipping, the mouth is poised and all taste senses are set for a new experience. Depending on the size of the glass opening, the first drops arrive on the different areas of the tongue and thus cause a specific taste experience. It is well known that our tongue recognizes four flavors, whereby the perception is enhanced by the concentration of sensors in specific areas: sweet at the front, sour and salty on the side edges and bitter at the back. This ‘geography of the sensors’ can be used to enjoy wine by using a suitable glass shape to control the path of the wine aromas on the tongue.
Glasses - shaping your experience
Young, lively wines, such as a Riesling with pronounced acidity, are therefore often guided over an outwardly curved glass rim and thus hit the tip of the tongue first, where the acid is not perceived so clearly. Incidentally, German white wines with their fruity and often intense aromas reach their potential in glasses with a typical tulip shape.
The round burgundy shape, on the other hand, is recommended for wines rich in body and tannins. Not only because the bulbous curve gives the aroma-rich ingredients a lot of room to express themselves, but also because the larger opening in the glass directs the wine first to the front tongue area, where the tannins are perceived to be milder and smoother.
Slim glasses suit sparkling wines and sekt with a fine perlage. Apart from the elegance of these glasses, the relevance of the form is crucial.
Such a variety of glasses may seem too obscure to new wine lovers, and even experienced connoisseurs may prefer to use the same glass for all styles in everyday life. If taking this ‘generalist’ approach, we recommend a glass with an "egg shape" that is bulbous at the bottom and tapers upwards.
Regardless of which wine or glass shape the gourmet chooses, one rule applies to everyone: the glass should never be poured fuller than the widest point of the bulbous opening. Only then is it possible to enjoy all the steps of wine appreciation - swinging, smelling and tasting.
What is a ‘mousse’ point ?
Deep down in the bottom of the glass there is usually a tiny ‘mousse’ point where the carbon dioxide breaks and rises in fine pearls like a string. The slim shape reduces the surface in the glass and keeps the pearls together with the elegant aroma of the sparkling wine for longer, thus offering more enjoyment.
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