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Wine glasses

wine-glassesThere is arguably no more important wine accessory than a wine glass. Simple, elegant, and practical, wine glasses come in all shapes and sizes - a staggering array these days, which can be baffling to the average consumer.

There are a few things that come into play when looking at wine glasses: material, stem, size, and shape are the most important. Different experts believe different aspects to be more or less important, so we'll discuss them each.


The material of your glass is arguably the biggest factor in determining price. Leaded crystal glasses (or unleaded crystal) is significantly more expensive than non-crystal glass. And there seems to be good reason for that. At a molecular level, crystal is a coarser material than normal glass, which allows the wine to breathe better when swirled. Crystal also refracts light differently than normal glass, creating what many believe is a more attractive glass of wine. Of course, crystal clear glasses are important to allow the taster to fully appreciate the color of the wine - frosted and colored glasses will obscure that.

dinner_glassFor the past century stemmed wine glasses have dominated the market, but in recent years unstemmed glasses have made a resurgence. While these can be a fun addition to a more casual wine tasting, most serious tasters appreciate stemware. A stem allows the taster to keep the warmth of their hand away from the wine, ensuring it remains close to the temperature it was served at. From a practical perspective, a stem also keeps fingerprints from obscuring the bowl of the glass.


Size is another key factor in the quality of a wine glass. The general rule of thumb - especially for red wine - is that bigger is better. A larger bowl gives more room to swirl the wine and release all-important aromatics. Most professional tasting glasses have bowls five to eight times larger than a normal pour of wine - this may be too large for casual tasters, but is preferred by many conoisseurs.


Finally, the shape of a wine glass is a hotly debated issue. In the past decade top wine glass companies have rolled out extensive lines of wine glasses, with different sizes and shapes for ever-more-specific wines: a different glass for Bordeaux and pinot noir and Chablis and chardonnay and gruner veltliner and so on. The companies - and many experts - believe the shape is all-important. They point to the so-called taste map of the tongue, and say their glasses are meant to guide the wine to the optimal portion of the tongue. The scientific research, on the other hand, discounts these claims - pointing out that the taste map model of the tongue is outmoded. Most statistically-relevent studies have found no meaningful difference in appreciation when wines are tasted blind from different glasses. Nonetheless, many wine lovers swear by the effects of ever-more specific glass sizes - and there is little doubt that such glasses are beautiful, and at the very least make quite a visual impact on the taster.


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