Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Wine Tasting for Beginners - The Glass

A good wine glass is designed to direct the wine to the part of your mouth where its flavors will be most appreciated, thus giving you full benefit of that particular wine.

The bowl of a wine glass is slightly narrower at its opening than at the bottom. This design intensifies the aromas rising toward the nose and mouth. All good wine glasses are designed this way. Due to their complex flavors and aromas, red wine glasses have a larger opening and a larger bowl, allowing the wine to receive more air and better oxidation, and the space for the taster to really get his/her nose in there to detect, and perhaps determine the source of its aromas.

In all types of wine glasses, the bowl has to be large enough for swirling, allowing for oxidation and a good release of the wine's aromas. Many people bypass swirling, including yours truly, but it is a very important part of the tasting. Basically, it releases all the good stuff, and don't we all want the good stuff?

Here's what I have learned so far:

For Red Wines:

A Burgundy glass (shown above) is for a light, full bodied wine such as a Pinot Noir. It is not as tall as a Bordeaux glass, but the bowl is larger, which directs the wine to the tip of the tongue, an area that appreciates the more delicate flavors of wine.

A Bordeaux glass is taller than a Burgundy, with a slightly smaller bowl, designed for full bodied, heavier red wines such as a Cabernets. The shape of this of the glass allows the wine to go to the back of the mouth, where its flavors would be most appreciated.

For White Wines:

A white wine glass bowl will straight and u-shaped, allowing the release of aromas without greatly disturbing the temperature.

For young whites, the best glass has a slightly larger opening, directing the wine to the parts of the tongue where sweetness is best detected, the sides and tip.

For more mature whites, the glass will be straighter and taller, which directs the wine to the back and sides of the tongue to where the stronger flavors will be most appreciated.

A sparkling wine/Champagne glass (or flute) will be pretty straight and narrow for carbonation retention and to enhance the flavor.

Dessert wine glasses are typically smaller to direct the wine to the back of the mouth so the sweetness doesn't overwhelm. Also, dessert wines usually contain more alcohol, so the smaller glass is ideal.

Wine Glass Material

In order for an accurate wine evaluation, a thin, smooth and clear glass is what you want. This type of glass allows you to see the color and feel the texture of your wine. Obviously, crystal would be a good choice as well. Blown glass is also nice and thin. Thick glass makes for awkward sipping.

Obviously, purchasing wine glasses for your personal use is one thing, but for hosting events such as a wine tasting, having the right amount and right type of wine glasses could prove to be quite expensive. I'm going to do some investigating, but off the top of my head, I'm thinking Tuesday Morning, one of my favorite places. Right after Katrina, while I was still pretending my life hadn't been turned upside down, I purchased four wine glasses from a Tuesday Morning in Baton Rouge. I loved those glasses. Later, when reality set in, those glasses would prove to be one of my best and most reliable friends. I am so serious. They may have been Bordeaux glasses. All I know is, they felt really good in my hand, and the glass was thin, which I liked, but I'm digressing, aren't I? I'll expand on that period of my life at a later date. Another place may be World Market. I believe in quality and value, and I'm a pretty good bargain hunter, so know this - I will be researching this matter and letting you know what I find.

Has this been helpful to you? I have certainly learned a few things. Remember, I know little about the wine tasting process, so if anyone who reads this has helpful suggestions, they are very welcomed.

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