I’m not proud to say that I used to be part of the vast majority who thought that as long as a glass is waterproof it will do the job. It took a few experiments to realise that an inappropriate glass can totally destroy the perception (visual, olfactive and sensorial) of a wine. On the other hand a proper glass can really emphasise a wine’s quality.
We saw before that wine tasting goes through three steps: the visual, the nose, and the taste.
As long as a glass is clear it won’t affect the visual so much but crystal glass offers better durability and clarity. So the colour variations of a wine, rim to the core, as well as the legs will be sharper and allow more precise assessment.
It is more obvious how the shape of a glass will affect the nose. The narrower the opening, the more concentrated the aromas. Flower and fruit scents are detected higher in the glass, then in the middle the mineral, vegetal and herbal characters, and in the bottom of the glass the heavier alcohol and wood aromas.
For delicate white wines, the glass is always small in size and with a narrower opening, to avoid excess breathing and warming up. For stronger white wines, the bowl should be rounder – like the classic Bourgogne and Alsace styles – to allow more breathing and opening of the bouquet.
Far less obvious is how the glass shape affects the taste. It seems uncanny, but there is a logical explanation.
We saw in the third part of the “Tasting” that the perception of flavours on the tongue is roughly divided into three parts: sweetness and saltiness on the tip, acidity on the side, and savoury at the back. So if the glass has a narrower opening, the way the wine enters the mouth will be more in the center of the tongue, therefore there will be less perception of the wine’s acidity which is on the sides.
For example, Champagne glasses used to be in a cup shape as they were very sweet. However, for the past century or so the tendency is towards much drier sparkling to the point of having “Extra Brut” or “Brut Zero” wines, meaning no sugar at all. Hence the flute shape with an extremely narrow opening, to aid in soothing the tart sensation.
Conversely, a wide opening such as the Bordeaux style glass is often used to serve full-bodied reds. In this case the wine enters broadly in the mouth to allow a full spectrum of flavours.
Another element which affects the taste somewhat is the thickness of the glass. The thinner the rim, the more direct the contact with the tongue, resulting in a clearer “attack” of the wine.
A recent development is to add small fin-like ridges to the inside of the bottom of the glass, to help open the aromas and flavours through swirling.
Wines available at www.palatiumwines.com
Special thanks to Lucaris (www.lucariscrystal.com/en/) for providing some of the
Blend of Fernão Pires and Arinto, this is a full-bodied white with a mellow acidity and a creamy texture that presents well in a Bourgogne- style glass. Delicate aromas of frangipani flower, lime skin and exotic fruits. On the palate the wine shows good complexity with a refreshing mixed of red apple, yellow grapefruit and crushed seashell. Long citrusy finish with minerals and a bit of saltiness.
Blend mostly of the classic Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca and Tinta Roriz, this is a medium to full-bodied red that will benefit from one hour decanting and served in a Bordeaux-style glass. The nose is rich and complex with floral notes, red fruits and black cherry aromas, developing to spices, liquorice, chocolate bean and leather. High acidity and mellow tannins give a fresh and elegant feeling with cranberry and raspberry flavours developing to a more herbal and earthy character with a long finish. This is a winery with the ambition to compete with top Bordeaux wines, with prices to match.
David Rouault is a professional classical musician, part time wine consultant and full time wine lover, holding
WSET Level 3, Certified Specialist of Wine and Introductory Sommelier diplomas. www.dionysos.com.mo