Saturday, 12 January 2013

Tasting Wine - Glassware

Despite having posted a grand total of 4 posts, I realise I have not yet discussed the importance of glassware (or stemware) in tasting wines. I hope that a post at this early stage will be useful for would-be wine tasters and I plan on doing a small serial on the methods of improving the wine tasting experience.

The impact a good or bad glass can have on the experience is often profound - I have known friends to become frustrated at being unable to get the full aroma or taste of a wine and feel left-out at tastings simply because they did not have an appropriate glass.

It is important not to be daunted by the prospect of the vast array of stemware available at specialist shops. I recall seeing a Riedel display which had a glass for each and every type of wine I could imagine. Whilst it was in many ways an enlightening experience, it was at the same time absolutely terrifying! The thought of having to purchase at least a dozen glasses before being able to 'taste' wine 'properly' almost drove me away from tasting.

Fortunately for the amateur taster such as myself, such complications are largely unnecessary. In the end, I decided to simply buy two glasses - one for white wine and one for red. After the briefest of searches I came across a company called 'Chef & Sommelier' who make remarkably good value and professional-looking wine glasses.

In my tastings I use the two displayed here:

Chef & Sommelier White Wine Glass
Chef & Sommelier Red Wine Glass
When comparing the difference between my notes and ability to discern flavours and aromas from the wines in professional glasses and normal glasses, I was startled by the difference. By channelling the bouquet of the wine and holding it in the glass, the professional glasses allow for a much more intense and accessible experience in tasting wine. They emphasise each wine's properties and can make for a much more enjoyable evening's tasting.

The style of each glass is also important in exposing the wine to the air, whilst maintaining its bouquet in theglass. You will notice that the red wine glass has a wider base and becomes thinner at the top - this is to make the bouquet more profound and also to allow the taster to nestle the glass easily in his or her hand. The white wine glass, by contrast, discourages this practice with its narrower base and wider middle, which allows for the vapours to concentrate before moving out of the glass.

Moreover, the ultra-thin glass used has 2 important uses. The first is somewhat frivolous - it makes the glasses look much smarter and glitzier - rather like a nice restaurant! The second is more significant: having a very thin rim on the glass means that tasters can much more accurately place the wine in their mouths - an often overlooked concept - that allows the specific aspects of a wine to be more clearly examined.

I bought my glasses in boxes of 6 (12 total) for the princely sum of £48 (they were on sale on-line) and I cannot recommend them more to anyone who wants to either start tasting wine or simply wants to enjoy their wine more.

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