Wine glasses and goblets are like people… they come in all shapes and sizes.
Wine Glasses and Goblets
Wine glasses and goblets are like people… they come in all shapes and sizes. Some are tall and thin, others short and more “rotund” and still others fall into places in between. Ones from different countries have varying colors, traditions, uses, histories, and nuances. Also like people, each is unique and special.
In this article, we’ll answer questions like “why do wine glasses have stems“, talk about wine glasses and goblets, and discuss the crystal and glass shapes and colors that deliver to our lips the wine so many of us love. Some wine enthusiasts insist on only drinking from the most perfectly created glass, yet many are satisfied with anything from a coffee cup to a mason jar believing that (like the title of my book states) “any glass with wine in it is a wine glass”.
I tend to lean towards the former rather than the latter myself, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with either. Heck, when my wife sneaks a bottle of wine into a concert she uses this little flimsy container that when empty looks a little like a mylar balloon… but I didn’t tell you that! (or how she hides it)
Of course, there are always fun gifts and special glasses made for one and only one reason… to drink some wine, laugh while doing it, and don’t spill on your shirt. This giant wine bottle with attached wine glass would fall into that category, although you still may spill on your shirt! (and is a fun gift for under $20, click the picture for details)
What are the three “parts” of a wine glass?
A proper wine glass and goblet will have three parts. First is the “bowl” that holds the wine. Bowls are shaped differently for different types of wine to
maximize their qualities. The second part of a wine glass or goblet is the “stem” that connects the bowl to the “foot” which is the third part and allows the glass to stand upright. (even if we’re not!)
Why do wine glasses have stems?
So why do wine glasses have stems? Although you may have thought that it was solely to make you look more sophisticated when you toast, (that’s what I thought at least!) there are several reasons wine glasses have a stem. The “proper” way to hold a wine glass is by the stem and not by the “bowl”. This serves to keep us from leaving fingerprints on the bowl so we can see the color and clarity better, as well as keeps our body temperature from warming the wine.
Here’s an extra bit of knowledge as well… a brandy snifter has NO bowl so your body heat “does” heat the brandy, to bring out the nuances of the wine. So the next time you’re at a party and are asked why do wine glasses have stems, you’ll know!
What is a proper wine glass made from?
The best wine glasses are hand blown from lead crystal rather than glass, and are clear and not frosted or colored. A lead crystal glass not only helps the wine look better but can help the wine taste better (or at least taste better sooner?) as well. If you compare plain glass and lead crystal under a microscope, the lead crystal is “rougher”, therefore has a better effect on the wine when swirling in the glass because it helps the wine breathe better. (we’ll talk about “breathing” soon)
In addition, lead crystal refracts light differently than glass, so your wine will look more brilliant and have less “greys” when enjoying its color and clarity. This is the same reason that a clear wine glass is better than colored or frosted. However, I’ll admit that sometimes wine glasses with sayings, or with a little color or something unique about it can certainly be more fun! (I guess it depends how much of a wine snob you are… or are not!)
One exception is the “Hock” wine glasses and goblets which are colored and have a very small bowl. (and really very poorly designed for wine drinking) These were more used in years past by German Kings and nobles. Since wine was a luxury in years past it is believed that a smaller glass was used, & the “Hock” glass was more to be displayed than used.
Why are some small and narrow yet others larger and deep?
Wine glasses and goblets range in size from very small 3 to 4-ounce sherry glasses all the way up to 24 and 25 ounce Burgundy glasses. Many wine glasses are traditional to the area they are created in, and others are shaped to maximize the flavor and aroma of a specific type of wine. The majority have a narrower top than bottom to help deliver the wine’s aroma upright to your nose while sniffing or drinking, and a large bowl to allow you to swirl the wine.
A red wine glass will be rounder than a white wine glass to provide a larger surface area in contact with the air, as well as have a wider opening at the top to dip your nose into. The wine’s aroma is critical in wine tasting, and a good glass will maximize your enjoyment
In addition, a “Bordeaux” red wine glass will be taller but narrower than a “Burgundy” red wine glass. The shape will direct the more full-bodied Bordeaux type wines (cabernets and merlots) towards the back of the mouth, while the shorter but wider-bowled Burgundy type wine glass will deliver lighter wines to the tip of the tongue because it may hold more delicate flavors, as in a Pinot Noir.
A wine glass made for white wines will tend to be smaller and shorter than a red wine glass, and more “U” shaped than “O” shaped… and of course we have our Champagne “flutes” which are tall and narrow, to, allow us to watch the bubbles rise to the top! (and so the wine holds its bubbles longer after pouring)
Entire volumes can be written about wine glasses alone… and many collectors have done so. However, if you’re thinking “I’ve never really tasted a big difference because of the glass”, there’s nothing wrong with that either… because like I said above, “any glass with wine in it is a wine glass”!
Should I chill a wine glass before using it?
Only the most discriminating wine lovers typically go through the effort to chill a glass before pouring, but if you really want to impress your favorite wine-snob (my wife is beginning to lean towards that description… sorry honey) you want the glass to be chilled (or warmed) to the same temperature that the wine will be served at before pouring. It’s not something I’ve ever done, (I’m more likely to chill a beer stein, but that’s another book!) but some fine restaurants certainly will.
How do I clean and store a wine glass?
Wine glasses should be cleaned with cold to luke-warm water, very little soap or detergent that can leave a residue, and are best if hand-washed instead of put into a dishwasher. When stored, they should be set or hung with the bowl facing downward to keep dust from settling in. You should also not store a good wine glass anywhere near smoke or smokers… you don’t want your best glasses to get a smoky film on them, it can ruin the tasting experience.
So there you have it! Regardless if you were wondering “why do wine glasses have stems”, wondering about the shapes of wine glasses and goblets, or even asking about wine glasses with sayings (here are some GREAT ones) this may have helped. Whether you apply these tips perfectly or end up drinking your favorite wine from a to-go cup from Starbucks, I’m sure we can all agree, that the world of wine is fun and wonderful.
This is an excerpt from my booklet “Any Glass With Wine in it is a Wine Glass”. If you’d like to read the intro, or order it in paperback, on Kindle, or even as an audiobook to listen to as you drive to your favorite wine shop, you can grab it by clicking here!
Or, if you want some personal wine recommendations from my co-editor and knowledgeable consultant, contact [email protected], or call Pat at (866) 332-9463. He is a 27-year veteran professional consultant.
He’ll learn your preferences and budget, and never try to convince you to buy something you won’t enjoy… and if you don’t, he’ll take back the empty bottle (actually. you can keep it) and send you something else to replace it!
PS Want more? Here is info about wine accessories!
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