I am going to tell you a story about wine glass shapes. It’s a true story. In fact, it’s a personal experience story. The day, well, actually night, that I experienced an epiphany moment. Okay, maybe slight exaggeration, but my eyes were opened.
My better half (Pumpjack) was still in university, earning his oenology (fancy term for wine making) degree, when he had the opportunity to go to a tasting regarding wine glass shapes. Alas, I, as a non-student, was not allowed to attend. Rather, I was given the dubious honour of picking up said taster, after it was all over.
Duty done, and an excited passenger on board, we stopped for a meal at a favourite restaurant. He proceeded to regale me with the afternoons happenings. But rather than explain, he showed me. He ordered a bottle of wine, unpacked his gifty box and proceeded to show me the differences in wine glass shapes.
The tasting had been offered by Riedel. I gather, if you are into your wine glasses, these are very, very nice. I will grant you, I liked the sound they made if you clinked, but otherwise they were rather large for my tastes. (Bring back mid-century wine glasses any day, I say.)
As part of the tasting Pumpjack was given 4 different shaped glasses to take home. Now that’s very nice, as we were particularly short on wine glasses at the time. He put a small amount of wine in each glass and asked me to swirl, smell and taste from each glass.
A Wine Glass for each Wine
The 4 glasses were shaped as follows:
- What I call a typical wine glass shape, sort of tulip like, which I gather was designed particularly for Chardonnay made wines.
- A larger version of number 1, which I would call a bucket, but I gather is for red wines, particularly Bordeaux.
- A slightly smaller, narrower version of number 1, which was reserved for Rieslings (preferably the drier version, according to my taste buds. Gorgeous if you haven’t tried.)
- A wide bottomed one, shaped like a fat tear drop, which is for Pinot Noir grape wines, e.g. Burgundy area in France.
(In the picture to the right – the order would be 3, 4, 1, 2.)
Does shape matter?
As I was saying, Pumpjack put a little wine, a decent Chardonnay from some where, into each glass. I was instructed to swirl, smell and taste. After trying one, I was to move on directly to the next glass and try another, and so on. Comparing the smells and tastes between all 4 wine glasses.
Was there a difference? Seriously, and surprisingly, yeah.
The same wine in each glass definitely tasted different. Not the difference between sweet and sour, minerally and oaky, but rather, just a difference. It was the same wine after all. But it was really surprising how each glass made it taste, well, different from the previous glass. As though it was made by different wineries, or maybe in different years.
Talk Amongst Yourselves
In the wine world there are opposing factions. Those that poo-poo differing wine glass shapes, saying it is simply a marketing gimic – Vinepair. In fact a gimic set up by Riedel. And very possibly so, but…
Then there are those taking a more scientific approach to this concept – Scientific American in example. (Surprisingly my restaurant test doesn’t count.) They say that it’s the alcoholic content that makes the difference with different shaped glasses. Something about ethanol and fumes.
All I can say is, I tasted a difference. And, because it was fun, I recommend you try it. Find 4, or more, different shaped glasses in your home, a single bottle of wine, and simply have a go. I would be interested to know if you feel the same.
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