Wine Talk: A touch of glass

Nowadays, there are drinking vessels designed for every style of wine and every grape variety.

Wine Glasses 370 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Wine Glasses 370
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The status of the wineglass has developed in Israel along with wine culture. Ten years ago, toasts to foreign dignitaries by the president of Israel were served in a flat coupe glass, more suited to ice cream than champagne. Ministers used to toast each other at handover ceremonies with those little plastic thimble glasses used for kiddush. Quite respectable restaurants were content to use the simple and basic Paris goblet glass.
Today things have gone the other way. A television talk show will, more often than not, have a correctly filled quality wineglass on the table.
I am still not sure if it is for decoration or the guest’s enjoyment, but it is an illustration of how far we have come. There are now glasses designed for every style of wine and every grape variety.
There are even different glasses for unoaked chardonnay and oaked chardonnay.
The Riedel family from Austria have made the science of wineglasses their art. They have not only elevated the importance of glassware but, through education, have illustrated how a specific glass can affect the taste of a particular style of wine. The overall message is clear. Tea tastes better in china, and wine tastes better in glass. Furthermore, a better, more suitable glass can significantly enhance the perceived quality of a wine.
Wineglasses usually have a stem that you can hold, to avoid heating up the glass with your hand. There should be a bowl of sorts and a narrowing at the mouth of the glass.
Where glassware is concerned, it is true that bigger is better, but you don’t want one of the ridiculously large glasses used by some pretentious restaurants.
They seem to me to be better suited for goldfish than wine. You should fill a larger glass only one-third full, and a smaller glass no more than half full.
Wine lovers do not see the benefit of crystal glass or colored glass because enjoying the color of the wine is an important aspect of the tasting experience.
It is more satisfying to drink a wine from a thinrimmed glass. However, a thicker rimmed glass will be stronger and last longer.
For champagne or sparkling wine, a tulip-shaped glass is the one to use. The narrowness will ensure that the bubbles continue to flow upwards in an attractive manner, and the tapering in of the top of the glass will ensure that the delicate aromas are not lost. A flute-shaped glass can be a more stylish-looking alternative that is slightly less effective but still acceptable. What is not acceptable are the flat, shallow glasses, said to have been made to the shape of Marie Antoinette’s breasts.
These, apart from the nice story, should be totally rejected.
The wine in these glasses will lose both bubbles and aroma fairly quickly.
A white wine needs to preserve its freshness and fragrance.
So a glass with a slight bowl, tapering in the top, is required. The aeration required is not so great, so it can be a smaller glass than the red wine glass. The diameter of the mouth of the glass will be larger than the sparkling wine glass and less than the red wine glass.
A red wine glass needs a larger bowl because here aeration and oxidation are more important.
The Bordeaux-style glass is more commonplace. It is like a taller, larger-bowled and wider white wine glass. The traditional Burgundy glass has an exaggerated bowl and tapers in even more to resemble a large brandy balloon.
Dessert wines are high-quality sweet wines. They should be one of the delights of a meal. Unfortunately, for Jews, the image of sweet wines is tainted by the memory of kiddush wines. It is easy to be lulled into thinking that a dessert wine must be similar to Manischewitz, Palwin or King David, forgetting that fine sweet wines are some of the greatest wines on the planet.
Unfortunately, many quality restaurants and even wine professionals here don’t get it. It infuriates me to see a quality dessert wine like Yarden Heights Wine or Carmel Sha’al Gewurztraminer served in a schooner glass, mini sparkling wine glass or in a liqueur glass.
Basically, an appropriate glass is one size smaller than the white wine glass. If you don’t have one size smaller, then the white wine glass will suffice. Allow the wine to reveal itself.
However, don’t be put off by the talk surrounding this glass or that. In some villages in France and Italy, they drink wine in small tumblers and so can you. Most families will have one style of wine glass.
So choose one that feels good to you. If it is like a large copita (a glass used for sherry) or ISO tasting glass (a standard tasting glass), it is slightly closer to the white wine description, and you can use it for red, white and sparkling wines.
Now there are also wineglasses without a stem. These are very tactile to hold and are ideal for someone with little storage space, as they can be stacked.
So with wineglasses, as with wine itself, there are many rules; but in the end it doesn’t matter, and you can choose what works for you.
For those who want to make a statement or buy the very best, then the hand-blown Riedel glasses are the ultimate. A Sommelier Riedel glass will cost more than $100.
Failing that, there are different levels of Riedel glasses for more modest purposes.
The Vinum or Overture glasses are less expensive but do the job admirably. However, forget pretension. Go into any kitchen outlet or supermarket today, and there are surprisingly inexpensive wineglasses that look good and do a great job of enhancing the wine.
Adam Montefiore works for Carmel Winery and regularly writes about wine in Israeli and international publications.