Ask the experts which wine glass to buy and you’ll get a pretty narrow picture of what’s acceptable. It’s easy to get carried away with wine glasses (as it is with wine) and assume that only a $120 Riedel Sommelier wine glass will do. Other specialty glasses will set you back $20 a glass or more. But in reality there are plenty of options that cost far less, and may even prove more enjoyable in the long run. The essential thing is not to worry about what is “correct” and just make sure the wine glass you choose enhances your enjoyment of wine.
The list of wine glass no-no’s is rather short. Certain materials and designs will interfere with the wine experience. First, never use metal glasses. Metal does not match well with wine, and in the worst case will interfere with its taste. Metal also detracts by hiding the wine from you, and the thinness of the metal can feel unpleasant on the lips.
Some say that etched crystal glasses are totally inappropriate, asserting that the etching detracts from the visual experience. Well, so what! For some it may enhance the appearance; it’s a personal call. However crystal glasses often are thick walled and this can interfere with your enjoyment. If you have delicate crystal glasses, go ahead and enjoy them as long as they meet the other criteria laid out below.
We all have a fond memory or two of an afternoon spent drinking bubbly out of styrofoam cups with a special someone. It is a memory to be cherished always, but not one to the repeated. Plastic with wine is generally a lousy combination, and may even smack of desperation.
Coloured glass is another taboo. Glasses with a full tint — no matter how attractive — totally change the appearance of wine. You won’t see the wine’s colour nor will you see its radiance.
Style, colour and material are important, but the shape of the glass can also have a dramatic impact on wine. The best glasses are tulip shaped with a solid glass stem. The rim should be narrower than the bowl. This helps to help release aromas and funnel them toward your nose. A solid glass stem keeps your hand from warming the wine. The glass should also be large enough to accommodate one serving (about 5 ounces) when filled to its widest point, and the walls thin enough to be comfortable on the lips.
What about glasses with painted decorations? If the glass is otherwise OK, enjoy, as long as the decoration doesn’t obscure your view too much. One of my favourites is a Chablis glass that holds about 14 ounces. It has a lovely art-deco pattern circling the lower part of the bowl. The pattern is barely detectable against a red wine, and is a playful burst of colour when paired with a white wine. Good size, good shape, good thickness, and a visual embellishment that adds to the over-all experience.
What could be better, even if the purists wouldn’t approve?