This may seem like a silly topic for a post. How are we supposed to drink wine unless we use a glass? Would that it were that simple. The concept of wine glasses can be as complicated as wine itself; how else to explain something like Riedel's $139 sommelier black glass?
The trick, then, is to approach glasses with the same skeptical eye that we approach wine with. Do you need a decent wine glass to get the most out of wine, even if you're drinking $10 bottles? Yep. Do you need to go overboard and spend hundreds of dollars on a glass? Probably not.
After the jump, a few thoughts on buying and using wine glasses:
How complicated can wine glasses be? Consider this, from Victoria Moore at London's Telegraph newspaper: "There are a lot of glasses in my flat. I buy them compulsively. … Some might say I have a Glass Problem."
That's because glasses do two things: First, as my pal Tim McNally notes, they really do affect the taste of wine. Second, they break. So, somehow, one must find a reasonably priced glass that is wine friendly and doesn't break easily. Which can be as difficult as it sounds. Keep these pointers when it's time to buy glasses:
? Crystal glasses, as opposed to glass glasses, do a better job of reflecting what the wine tastes like. I didn't want to believe this, but saw it first-hand at a seminar given by Georg Riedel, the patriarch of the wine glass business. We tasted wine out of glass glasses (also called Libby glasses, after the manufacturer who makes so many of them) and several types of crystal glasses. Sure enough, more flavors emerged from the crystal glasses.
? The shape of the glass affects the wine, too. Big, powerful wines do better in glasses with big bowls (the thing the wine is poured in), which is why red wine glasses have bigger bowls than white wine glasses. And why sparkling wine glasses are longer and narrower, to help the bubbles get to the top.
? Functional is better than cute. Look for clear glasses, since they allow to you see the color of the wine in the glass, and the color — clear, cloudy or whatever — affects what you think of the taste. Also, look for glasses with stems, so you don't have to hold the glass by the bowl.
? A glass should cost about as much as your typical bottle of wine. That is, if you drink $10 wine, buy a $10 glass. And yes, there are crystal glasses at this price.
? All glasses break, even ones labled as unbreakable. It's just more difficult to break that kind of glass. Which the Wine Curmudgeon knows first hand. The result is spectacular — more of a shattering than a breaking, and a loud pop that almost sounds like a gunshot.
I use Schott Zwiesel's Tritan Forte glasses, about $10 apiece. They're crystal glasses, sort of difficult to break, and a decent midway choice between Libby glasses and more expensive crystal. I have several of the latter, including a couple of $100 Riedels (got them as gifts — honest), but I save them for special occasion wine. Besides, they break easily and are very difficult to clean.
Having said all this, if you're comfortable drinking wine out of old jelly jars, then use old jelly jars. As regular visitors here know, the important thing is that you're drinking wine. We can worry about the rest later.
Photo courtesy tienksdb of South Africa via stock.xchng, using a Creative Commons license