Over the last sixty years, wine glass shape has radically changed under the influence of the Riedel Crystal company. This Austrian company, which has been making wine glasses for 250 years, introduced handcrafted wine glasses specifically designed for varietals of wine. Many in the wine community swear by these glasses, making their Sommelier line a popular choice among the wine connoisseurs. This comes at a price. Each stem goes for $65 to $105. The logic behind glasses that vary by wine is that the wine taste and bouquet will improve. These elegant glasses are meant to optimize the aroma and make sure the wine stimulates the right taste buds on the tongue. Everyone can attest that the initial impression is key to the overall drinking experience. But to what degree that a wine glass alters the taste and aroma remains an open question.
Personal Experience vs. Science
Scientific and personal testimonial diverge over the effect of wine glass shape on wine. Studies have shown that the basic wine glass principles improve wine. These glasses share a larger bowl than opening, which not only facilitates the swirling of the wine but accentuates the bouquet. But specific enhancements associate with specific wine hasn’t been proven. A study run by chemist Ulrich Fischer in Journal International des Sciences de la Vigne et du Vin’s Wine Tasting Issue concludes that wine glass shape does not alter taste, mouth-feel or flavor. This is not discounting the importance of the first impression that the wine makes. Rather, these conclusions coincide with the scientific debunking of the taste bud map which separated the different taste buds according to the region of the mouth. Actually, you can taste sour, sweet, salty and bitter no matter what part of the tongue the food or drink lands on. Apart from the taste, the study found that many different glasses provide the ideal shapes for aroma and it’s does not correlate to the wine. That’s where the science ends.
Wine glass makers tell another story. Riedel, for example, has successfully convinced many a skeptic at their seminars/tastings that their wine glasses are worth every cent. They have won over critics from newspapers like the N.Y. Times and The Independent in the U.K. If you are on the fence, going to a wine seminar might be the wise choice (although they aren’t free). You can also pay attention to the wine glasses at tastings to see what will suffice.
No one disputes that handmade wine glasses or the case of some, crystal, have an aesthetic appeal. And there are ways of finding compromise. Similar shapes, although machine made, are available from Riedel in Vinum series at more swallowable prices. Other brands such as Ravenscroft and Robert Mondavi offer comparable wine glass shapes. But should you be following this trend? Does it make a difference?
Whatever Wine Glass Fits You
Whether you should buy varying wine glasses boils down to two issues. Depending on the person, a wine glass is a status symbol. If you opt to settle for unimpressive wine glasses, in certain circles, you may confront an ounce of scorn and snobbery. It doesn’t make much of a difference if specialized wine glasses provide any benefit or not. The wine community has already decided on the superiority of these wine glasses. More importantly, wine glasses should fit who you are. Some people believe in going to any expense to impress and improve. Others are more cautious and want a sure thing. You can also split the difference. A reasonable way to accommodate most of your wine drinking needs is to have glasses for red wines (with the biggest bowls), for white wines (somewhat smaller) and for champagne (flutes). The major variable is not the wine glass but what you see in a wine glass.
But remember, a love for wine, although sometimes challenging, is always worth it.
And we can all toast to that.
All Creative Common Photos from Flickr