How do you choose the perfect wine glass when there are so many out there to choose from? Well, before we dive in, I want to invite you to plan a tasting evening with friends, you could even do this outdoors on a patio at a distance if need be. Some of the best experiences you’re likely to have on your wine journey are the ones you share as well as the ones where you learn something. Instruct friends to bring a few of their regular wine glasses to share and distribute to each person a set of mismatching glasses from the assortment (if social distancing is in place perhaps find a way to share glasses with one another and then meet online for the tasting.) Pour guests a small amount of the same wine (hopefully you’ve all brought something to share) into the various different glasses, enough so you can swirl and sniff. You might even consider having one glass be an ordinary water glass. Go slow and see what you get out of each glass taking notes along the way. Does the wine express itself the same or different depending on the glass? What do you smell, or not smell? Take a few notes and share with one another. Hopefully, you’ll find this exercise every bit as interesting as my husband and I did.
One of my more striking memories when I first arrived in France was that all these great French wines were being served in such poor glasses everywhere I went. They were small unassuming and lacked presence and while at the time we weren’t complaining about them being filled to the brim, it certainly meant you couldn’t swirl them to get any aromas. I felt a little let down.
So since moving here permanently I made it my mission to get some new wine glasses in our house since all my previous glasses remained in Canada. I’m certainly no purist, and as a photographer, I can see the benefit in many types of glasses from a visual perspective some of which are entirely impractical but I recognize that everything conveys a feeling, message or story and that can have its place, though it won’t always be in my hand when I go to sip a glass in the evening because of our own tasting session a while back and what we learned.
The first thing you need to know is that the shape of the glass really does matter. You need something of a tulip shape so that the bowl is larger than the rim which will be narrower in order to concentrate the aromas so they don’t just escape the glass. So here are a couple options that perform well at a few different price points. I will, however, note that you don’t need all of these, less is often more. I personally prefer universal glasses meaning you don’t need a different glass for EVERY wine under the sun though there are some exceptions where another glass might be more appropriate but I’ll get to that after.
Here are my choices for basic universal stems (from the least to most expensive)
INAO tasting glasses: These are the everyday workhorse glass, you’ll see them in tasting rooms, classes and we’ve even got a few in our cupboards. What I love is that they’re very budget-friendly, they’re small (so they don’t take up much space) but they’ve got a great shape that helps to concentrate aromas. You’re not going to worry about one breaking as they’re fairly sturdy and inexpensive. If you’ve got a crowd the small bowl slows things down a little while the fact that they fit easily into our dishwasher means cleanup is a snap. Win-win!
Gabriel Glas Stand’Art glasses: These are more of an approachable high-end glass. They are machine-made glasses that mimic the handmade gold edition (which art the ones pictured below) by the same brand but at half the cost they are still are very opulent but they’re a great way to get a big bold glass that delivers in the aroma department at a slightly more affordable price. I also like that because they’re machine-made they’re a bit heavier so you’re less worried about them being tipped over if you, or your company, are a little clumsy.
Zalto Denk’Art Universal glasses: These are mouth-blown elegant and sophisticated glasses that are very light and yet still quite robust, in my opinion, and along with the Gabriel glasses I find the aromas coming out of them to be incredible. I still worry when they’re near the edge of a countertop at they are a pricier option but I do find myself reaching for these ALL the time. They’re very light in hand and I find this draws your attention more to the wine, but when you do decide to just look at the glass they deliver as well. When I first bought these I had read and heard all the hype, I wondered if I might not be able to detect all the aromas and prepared myself to be underwhelmed but I was floored. FLOORED by how much more I could get from the wines when they were in these glasses. I’m so glad they really lived up to their reputation.
So what are a couple of exceptions to the universal glasses?
Sparkling wines. Sure, you could use a universal glass but generally, the bubbles won’t perform as well in these large bowls (save for a select few.) But that’s what flutes are for, right? Wrong. Throw out your flutes right now before you continue on. Not only is the opening too small to get your nose in there, but in fact, they’ve been proven to be a terrible glass, second only to the coup for sparkling wines as they create a carbonic burn in your nose that will numb the aromas. So what could you use? Well in some instances a smaller tulip shaped white wine glass will do or in our house, we have the Good Size Flutes by l’Atelier du Vin which we’ve been quite happy with in terms of shape, but also a little etching at the bottom of the bowl, encourages the bubbles. Another one, which I have yet to try but am rather curious about is the Jamesse Grand Champagne glass by Lehmann in either mouthblown or machine-made versions. I’ll let you know when I do get around to trying them.
Another exception would be something like big bold Burgundy wines. Zalto also has the Burgundy glass which I’m told is a game-changer but I admit, I haven’t tried it yet so if that’s what you’ve got in your cellar, then maybe you already have these glasses (or the equivalent) or you need to check them out! If it’s anything like their Universal glass, you can’t go wrong.
Now it’s your turn to tell me how your wine tasting went and what were your findings? Did you enjoy the exercise? Maybe you have a glass to recommend, tell me about it below.