Wine & Spirits

Wine glasses: The essentials

Wine glasses: The essentials Author: Style At Home

Wine & Spirits

Wine glasses: The essentials

In order to truly experience all that a fine wine has to offer, the proper glass is a necessity. Professional wine consultant and owner of Fine Vintage James Cluer, one of three in Canada to have earned a prestigious Masters of Wine, lays out the three essential types of wine glasses and shares his tips and best practices.

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1 The basics
The shape of a glass is of great importance when enjoying a glass of wine. A wine's colour, taste and aromas are all heightened by the proper vessel. There are an overwhelming variety of wine glasses on offer these days but don't be fooled into thinking that you need to buy a different glass for every type of wine. For red wines, James uses a Bordeaux red wine glass by Riedel. $25 (for a set of 2) Riedel.

James Cluer's Tasting Tip: If you are skeptical of a glass' ability to enhance the wine drinking experience, pour yourself two small glasses of the same wine; one in a coffee mug and the other in the appropriate wine glass. You should be able to smell and taste the difference.

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2 White wine glasses
White wine glasses are narrower than red wine glasses so that they can channel the more delicate white wine aromas to the top of the glass. These stylish all-purpose wine glasses are perfect for everyday use yet elegant enough for entertaining. $4 US, Crate & Barrel

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3 Sparkling wine glasses
When it comes to bubbly, James prefers flutes. Champagne flutes trap bubbles and funnel them to the top of the glass allowing revelers to appreciate a wine's fine aromas while also creating a pretty cascading effect throughout the glass. By contrast, saucers, which according to lore derived their shape from a mould of Marie Antoinette's breasts, disperse bubbles and thus lose much of the wine's fragrance. Appreciate the finer things in life with this stunning sparkling wine glass collection by Peter Svarrer for Holmegaard. $20 US, unicahome.com

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4 Stemless wine glasses
Though quite popular with the trendy set, James is not a fan of stemless wine glasses. Stemless glasses are extremely susceptible to smudges and fingerprints that quickly sully the pristine look of your tabletop. Worse still, the direct contact of your hand on the bowl of the glass will quickly change the temperature of the wine within. A change in temperature will alter the taste and aroma of a wine, making stemless glasses a particularly poor choice for chilled white wines. Swirling the liquid is also more difficult with stemless wine glasses leading James to proclaim that these are, "the only glass I think I don't like."

Despite the downsides, stemless wine glasses do hold a certain aesthetic appeal. If you find yourself swayed by the stemless option, enjoy your wine in these chic crystal glasses from Schott Zwiesel. $40 US (for a set of 6), Pottery Barn.

James Cluer's best tips
  • Wash your wine glasses in the dishwasher but be sure to rinse them with warm water and dry them before pouring any wine into them. Dishwashing detergent residue can change the aroma and flavour of wines.
  • Avoid gigantic, over-sized wine glasses for both red and white wines. Your nose is too far away from the actual liquid and you won't be able to partake in the wine's full bouquet.
  • For dessert wines such as ice wine, port and sherry, James recommends using a small 7.5 oz ISO (International Organization for Standardization) wine tasting glass. The smaller size helps de-emphasize the alcohol scent. If you are conducting a wine tasting these are the glasses to use.
  • It isn't just marketing; Reidel wine glasses are the first choice of professionals. Says James, "they maximize the pleasure you derive from wine ... they are the top one, really." The Riedel Vinum Extreme range of wine glasses are among his favourites.
  • Other wine accessories James loves includes decanters that he likens to works of art. "For making the table look great, the MUST have are the decanters. [These] make a statement more than the glasses."
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Wine & Spirits

Wine glasses: The essentials