Do glasses make a difference to the wine?

by | Mar 1, 2022 | Cellar Chat

Once upon a time, it was fashionable to drink bubbly from a shallow, bowl-shaped glass called a ‘Coup’, reputedly to have been modelled on Marie Antoinette’s left breast. Then science stepped in and revealed (after how many experimental drinks ?) that the technically correct shape for champers should be the ‘flute’. Maybe so, but one can go overboard.  

On a visit to Slovenia, I was given a gift of six rather special flutes. However, this was taking it to the limit. The glasses were very tall and very thin I could hardly put a finger onto the narrow opening. This resulted in the capacity being limited to about half a mouthful, and to walk around with a bottle in your other hand can be embarrassing. 

Do glasses make a difference to the wine?  They most certainly do. We know that there are different shapes and sizes but what goes best with what?  As a general rule, your glass should be crystal clear. Coloured glass is a no-no as it does not allow one to appreciate the wine’s colour and of course, clarity. The shape is also important as is the amount of wine in the glass, ideally just under half full. This allows the wine to breathe and for you to enhance the tasting experience with the bouquet. There is little difference between the best glasses for red or white wine as long as the bowl curves inward to trap aromas. Connoisseurs may prefer a difference in size, the larger for red wine. Small glasses are best for sherry and Port-style wines. 

It is interesting to note that, while glasses should be clear, Germany takes it to a different level with their Trier or Trevin’s glasses for wines from the Mosel. Pretty engravings catch the light enhancing the pale colour of the wine.    

There is a particularly interesting way to describe a wine that is ‘off’ or ‘over the hill’ and it is that very polite expression, ‘Out of condition’. Of course, when told that a wine is ‘out of condition’, it sounds so solid that one hesitates to ask for an explanation. Sending a bottle back is never easy the one possible comfort is that the supplier is expected to replace it. In England once I did just that and sent it back. It was replaced by another which I also sent back! I invited the manager to have a splash and he agreed that it was ‘off’. The customer is always right. Moving rapidly onto the neutral ground he suggested a different wine altogether and happily this worked. But two bottles being out of condition,  how rare is that?   Not very in fact. I once investigated a similar experience where a merchant had whole cases of wine returned for being out of condition. It transpired that during the bottling process, at lunchtime, equipment was switched off and couplings un- coupled.  

Wine is acidic and over time it can eat away at a cement floor leaving depressions that become puddles holding spilt wine and water. One of the couplings had been left in such a puddle also containing bacteria. When bottling resumed the first few litres of wine became contaminated thereby spoiling the first few cases on the production line. Cleanliness is paramount and this is why so many cellars are disappointingly like a dairy.  

Where does one find advice on such things as wine glasses and how to tell if a wine is ‘out of condition’? Why not join a wine club, read magazines on wine and Google around. It can be fun. By way of salutation, I invite you to take note of the poet Peter Meinke’s “Advice to my Son”. 

Therefore, marry a pretty girl
After seeing her mother;
Show your soul to one man,
Work with another, 
And always serve bread with your wine,
But Son,
Always serve wine.