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Wine Tasting 101: Glassware

Part 1: Does wine glass matter?

Earlier this month I had the opportunity to experience wine glass tasting at Pacific Breeze Urban Winery at New Westminster, British Columbia. It was such a fun and enlightening evening that I feel I just have to share it!  

Have you ever wonder what type of glassware you should be using to serve your wine?  If you are like me, you probably didn’t know that there are specific type of glass that should be used for certain wines.  Well, I’m going to share what I learned that evening and I can assure you that it is definitely information well worth knowing for those who want to learn more about wines and enjoy entertaining.

Everyone has heard of wine tasting but what is wine glass tasting? Wine glass tasting is the concept that the aroma and taste of the wine can be enhanced, altered, or diminished based on the shape and design of the wine glass.  In other words, wine will taste and smell different in different designed wine glass.

Before I continue, I must let you know that I am not a wine connoisseur or enthusiast.  I am writing this blog as a layman. Prior to meeting Myrna, my boss and teacher in the art of wine consumption, I could not even tolerate a half glass of wine. I will get tipsy after a few sips of wine,  My cousin would jokingly call me the cheap drunk! 🙂 But since meeting Myrna, I have gain a new appreciation in wine. 

So, here begs the question: Does the wine glass make a difference in the taste, aroma and enjoyment of wine?  Absolutely YES! It was like magic to see how the same wine can smell and taste so different within different vessels. To fully enjoy all the flavors that the wine has to offer, the wine glass is important.

At our wine glass tasting party we were able to test the aroma and taste of the wines through 4 different, beautifully crafted, Riedel glassware and a regular plastic juice cup that are typically served on planes and university parties. You can see the different glassware above. (I bought a set of wine glasses so I can have glass tasting parties at home!) 

We were able to try four different category of wines made by Pacific Breeze Urban Winery. They were Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon. 

During the glass tasting we were instructed to pour the wine into different glasses to observe the changes in their aroma and taste. I was amazed to discover how the same wine can taste so different in different glasses.  It’s truly amazing! 

One thing for certain is that the plastic cup does not do the wine any justice.  Wine should not be served in a plastic cup unless you are drinking it to get tipsy, in which case, it probably isn’t good wine anyways. However, if you want to fully embrace what your wine has to offer, than you need to consider the proper glassware for the type of wine being served.

The first wine glass we examined is designed for Sauvignon blanc, a white wine known for its high acidity and fruity aroma. It is typically served in a smaller bowl wine glass that narrows at the rim as shown.  The shape of the glass helps to preserve the aroma and has the ability to funnel the aromatics of the wine to our nose. When you tip the glass, you will find that the wine will flow into a point which directs the wine to the front tip of our tongue where it emphasizes the sweetness of the wine and balance the acidity. The glass also has a longer stem to help maintain a cooler temperature which is ideal for white wines.

When you pour Sauvignon blanc into a plastic cup, the aroma of the wine disappears due to the flare out design of the cup. Furthermore, the wide rim makes the wine form a round formation when tipped. When it enters the mouth, it makes contact with the centre of the tongue making the wine taste more bitter.

Next enters the Chardonnay glass. I have to apologize for the picture.  I just could not get the glare out of the way. But it does allow us to see the features of the Chardonnay glass.  As you can see, compared to the Sauvignon Blanc glass, it has a much rounder bowl, which makes swirling the wine easier (I will discuss the reason why we swirl wine in the next post), and a wider and open rim. Chardonnay has a higher level of alcohol but lower acidity than Sauvignon Blanc. Due to the open rim of the glass, the wine when tipped, flows into a round formation to allow the wine to make contact with the side of the tongue. This contact is where our salty senses are more dominant and therefore it emphasizes the rich, creamy and buttery flavour of the wine.

When Chardonnay is served in a Sauvignon Blanc glass, the design of the glass actually traps the fruity and buttery aroma at the bottom of the glass making the wine to have a stronger alcohol smell. When it enters the palate, it makes contact with the front tip of the tongue changing the texture from smooth and silky to bitter and dry.

So far we have discussed glassware for white wines.  For the next two glass, these are for red wines.

Red wine glass generally have a wider bowl and in most cases a wider rim than white wine glasses. The wide bowl provides a larger surface area to allow the alcohol to evaporate and to lighten the intensity of the tannin so other aromatics are brought forward.

For Pinot Noir, the glass has a wide bowl similar to the ones used for Chardonnay; however, it narrows at the rim.  The narrow rim allows the wine to flow to a point to make contact with the tip of the tongue where it highlights the fruity aroma and balances the acidity of the wine.

By the way, Maurice, part owner of the winery, had given us this “sneak peek” to this very special wine.  The Pinot Noir has not yet been released and already the wine taste wonderful!

The next wine glass is dedicated to the king of red wines. The Cabernet Sauvignon. I have to say although I enjoy the sweetness and the freshness of white wines, I am absolutely in love with the style of  the glassware for red wines, especially, the Cabernet Sauvignon glass.  It just has a style of sophistication. It has a full size bowl which tapers slightly at the rim.  You will also notice the tallness of the glass.  

Again, the bowl of the glass is wide to allow for more surface area for the wine to breathe. Cabernet Sauvignon has a higher level of tannins, therefore has a wider opening at the rim compared to the Pinot Noir.  The tallness of the glass allows the wine to be directed to the centre of the tongue so that there is a balance in tannin, acidity and fruit.

When you serve Cabernet Sauvignon in a Sauvignon Blanc glass, you will instantly sense the harshness of the tannin and the alcohol because of narrow glass and rim does not provide enough surface area for the wine to breathe. 

There was tonnes of information at the Wine Glass Tasting.  In the next post, I will discuss wine and food pairings.  Who would have thought there is so much complexity in wine and wine glass? I encourage you to test your own palate the next time you open a bottle of wine and discover how changing a wine glass can change your experience with that very same wine!


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10 thoughts on “Wine Tasting 101: Glassware

  1. I don’t drink but I love my coffee! I always pick a certain type of mug to have my coffee as if affects how it tastes. If I don’t have the right mug, I would prefer to skip coffee. Your post makes me feel I am not making it up! 😅

    1. You know what? I feel that certain tea cups make my tea taste better too! Are we just loosing it? 🙂 Thanks for brightening up my day!!!

  2. I really enjoy my wine, but I don’t vary my glass when I drink different types! It’s definitely something to try! I feel a man experiment coming on!

    1. Definitely give it a try! You’ll be amaze at how different shapes and size of the wine glass can alter the taste and smell! Myrna, my employer, even goes as far as bringing her own set of wine glasses on wine tours with her to fully appreciate the wine. It was a fascinating evening for me when I discovered wine glass does make a difference!

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