There are many different shapes and materials used for drinking; from metal tankards, to pottery goblet; all the way to the wooden masu traditionally used for sake. However, when it comes to tasting, and more importantly the assesment of the quality of wine, glass is the best material. Simply put, glass does not impart a taste on the wine, clear glass makes it easy to judge all the nuances in the colour of the wine, a stem makes it easy to swirl the glass – therefore releasing the wine’s aromas.
How many glasses do I need?
Whilst there are now different glasses for nearly every type of wine or variety of grape, it is not necessary to have a large range of glasses. It is very easy to get away with just a good quality set of flutes and two sets of wine glasses, one with a larger bowl than the other.
Which type of glass should I get?
The best style of wine glass is one that tapers from the bowl towards the rim. The logic behind this, is that the bowl allows a large amount of the surface area of the wine to be in contact with oxygen, releasing its aromas. As the aromas rise they are concentrated by the narrowing of the glass, bringing all those aromas straight to your nose.
How much wine should I put in the glass?
One of the most important things when tasting wine is not to put too much in the glass. The reasons for this are twofold. If the glass is overfilled there is a high likelihood of wine being spilled when it is swirled, more importantly the wine will not have enough room to breath in the glass.
What about sparkling wine?
The general consensus in the last couple of decades is that the thin flutes are better than the large bowled coupes. The reason for this is that flutes limit the space for carbon dioxide to escape from, which means that the bubbles will last longer. The large drawback is that this does not allow as much of the aroma to come through on the nose. The current trend is for wide-bowled flutes, this allows the wine to breath without the bubbles dissipating to rapidly.
How do I clean my glasses?
Unfortunately, detergents and therefore dishwashers are best avoided. This is because detergent can build up in the glass, which not only affects the smell and taste, but can also prevent bubbles being released in sparkling wines. The best way to clean glasses is with hot water, and then leaving them upside down to drip dry. Once they are dry they can be polished with kitchen paper, or a glass cloth that has not been washed with detergent. Once the glasses are clean, they should be stored upright as otherwise there is the risk of stale smells being trapped in the bowl.
That seems like a lot of trouble, is there a quicker way?
In a word, no. Personally, I have a set of ISO tasting glasses (imagine a sherry copita) which I use for everyday wines, which go in the dishwasher. I then have two sets of Riedel glasses which I use when I’m writing a tasting note, and for special wines, these are only washed by hand!