The profile of your stemware can have a big impact on the taste of what’s inside. A panel of experts reveals the best vessels for everything from bubbles to Barolo:
An ostentatious vintage goblet might look appealing, but it is actually a terrible way to taste wine. ‘The classic goblet is straight-sided, conical, and flares out, because that’s the easiest way to drink,’ says Martin Turner, Business Manager at Riedel, the company famed for creating a vessel to match every grape variety. ‘But this shape is the worst thing for wine, because tasting is all about smell. A good wine glass will always taper in at the top, to help enclose the aroma.
As a general rule, rather than making assumptions based on colour, it is best to consider the overall style of your wine when choosing a glass. Sebastian Holian, an educator at Liberty Wines, has some advice. ‘Imagine you’re taking a photograph,’ he says. ‘A large, balloon-shaped glass is like a panorama, whereas a smaller, bowled glass wants to zoom in for a close-up.’ The narrower container concentrates subtleties and keeps cooler the liquid for longer.
Farther along the spectrum are large, heavy reds that are high in tannin. ‘This is a component found in grape skins and oak barrels that causes a drying sensation in the mouth,’ Holian explains. ‘Red Bordeaux blends, Barolo, larger Riojas and Malbec all benefit from a big bowl because the larger surface area means more contact with air. The oxygen breaks down the tannin and makes the wine softer and easier to drink.’
‘The idea of drinking Champagne from a coupe might be romantic,’ says Christie’s Junior Wine Specialist Charles Foley, ‘but the large surface area means you lose all of your bubbles almost instantly. Of course there’s the lovely idea that the glass was modelled on Marie Antoinette’s breast, and it looks great in a Champagne pyramid, but beyond that I wouldn’t recommend using it.’
Experts now favour a more traditional, white-wine-glass shape for sipping champagne
‘During a tasting at Christie’s we will only use a few different glass shapes with long, elegant stems — you don’t want to complicate things,’ says Foley. ‘I’d choose a large bowl for a Burgundy or a Pinot Noir, and a funnel shape for a claret. You’ll also have a different option for a port or sherry.’
‘For wine appreciation a glass has to be unadorned, well-balanced and as thin as possible,’ Turner advises. ‘A thin rim adds to a good delivery, meaning your wine will arrive on the right area of the palate. A heavy pub glass with a horrible rolled rim does exactly the opposite.