Which Glass is This?
After my blog post on the science behind wine glass shapes, I was contacted by a customer who asked for a way of identifying which wines the Riedel glasses he already owned were best for, as he had forgotten. This is an issue I'm sure many of you have and whilst you can, obviously, use any glass for any wine, the whole point of investing in Riedel glasses is to take advantage of their grape specific nature and unlock the ideal taste and sensation of your favourite wine.
The glasses in your cupboard will probably be one of a few "basic" shapes that will, hopefully, give you a clue as to which ones to use in the future.
We'll start with the reds
The Cabernet / Bordeaux glass
The Cabernet glass is easily the most recognisable wine glass shape, as well as the most commonly used (and our best selling shape). This is due to its versatile shape, which works well with most red wines.
Because of its straighter sides, it’s best suited for Cabernets. These help the wine aerate, reducing tannins and bringing out the depth of flavour of your favourite Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot or Bordeaux.
Cabernet glasses have an average-length stem, a wide base, and a large bowl that tapers slightly at the top. This is a glass designed to get a lot of oxygen in contact with the wine to bring out the fruit flavours and lessen the tannins. Its design helps for free-breathing, rich wine flavour, so avoid pouring lighter whites into these glasses.
The Pinot Noir / Burgundy glass
Usually not as tall as the Cabernet glass. It will also have a much wider and shorter bowl, which exposes the wine to plenty of air, improving flavour and allowing the wonderful aromas to hit your nose instantly. The wider bowls of Pinot Noir glasses are an impressive sight, but they also serve that important function. Pinot Noir glasses can have a rim that is turned out, directing the intense wine flavours straight to your nose and tongue. These turned out rims work best with New World Pinots and Burgundy Grand Crus.
The wider bowls of Pinot Noir glasses are an impressive sight, but they also serve that important function. Pinot Noir glasses can have a rim that is turned out, directing the intense wine flavours straight to your nose and tongue. These turned out rims work best with New World Pinots and Burgundy Grand Crus.
The Shiraz / Syrah glass
The tallest of all red wine glasses with a distinct taper towards the top. This taper helps to bring out the fruit aromas first and the tannins after.
Now the whites
The Oaked Chardonnay glass
Oaked Chardonnay glasses have a wide bowl and a top that tapers slightly. It is a similar shape to the Pinot Noir glass, but slightly smaller.
Some whites that are oak-aged wind up having a large amount of aromas that are secondary and tertiary. This means aromas that are not fruit.
Think of a Chardonnay that has aromas of butter, biscuit, and lemon tart. These wines need a wider bowl that captures the more complex aromas, without allowing them to become overpowering. They also need a smaller opening to send them to your nose.
The alcohol on these wines tends to be higher, so you want a wider bowl to allow more oxygen contact.
White Rioja also does well in this glass, as does Orange wine, the fullest of the full bodied ‘whites'.
The Sauvignon Blanc glass
Sauvignon Blanc glasses have a long stem and a narrow bowl that tapers slightly. The tall, slim design of the glass makes it easier to detect the aromas of the wine, whilst minimising the amount of oxygen in the glass to to bring out the crisp acidity.
As Sauvignon Blanc is quite a delicate grape variety on the nose it needs a shape of glass that will hold the aromas in. On the palate it’s quite acidic, so you want the wine to stay away from the parts of the mouth where you pick up acidity.
As you drink your tongue forms a U-shape and guides the liquid right down the centre of your palate.
The Riesling / Zinfandel glass
Riesling glasses and unoaked Chardonnay / Viognier / Chablis glasses are very similar, the taller, tapered design of the former concentrates the fruity aromas in the upper portion of the bowl, whilst the straighter sided latter glass allows the wine to breathe more and its rim directs the flow of wine toward the mid-palate, allowing you to appreciate the balance of fruit flavors and acidity.
Trying the same wine from different glasses is a great way to highlight their differences and the importance of choosing the best glasses for your wine. Now that you know how to identify the right wine glass, it’s up to you to make sure you have the proper glasses according to the wine you’re serving (I can help you out there!).
And, of course, don't forget to decant. Red, white or fizzy it’s the best way of getting some air to your wine and opening up the flavours and aromas to their full effect by transferring the wine from its bottle to another jug or decanter. You can double decant by then pouring the wine back into its original bottle, thus adding more oxygen (or buy a Riedel Mamba decanter, which double decants for you). As a rule, the younger the wine, the earlier you should decant it, and for most red wines, it’s better to decant than not.