According to Tony Lawrence, a sommelier and wine educator based in Philadelphia, the wine experience is a sensual ritual involving textures, bouquets, color, and tasting notes.
Lawrence points out that wine tasting uses almost all the senses, so the right stemware is critical. “You want to see the colors of the Pinot Noir you’re drinking — you want to anticipate its taste. So you must begin with a clean, clear, thin wineglass.” The long, thin stem keeps fingers — and fingerprints — away from the “bowl” of the glass. The top of the glass complements the mouth and palate, allowing the wine to flow over the sweet, sour, and bitter taste buds on the tongue. “Never touch the bowl,” cautions Lawrence. “Your hand temperature will alter the wine’s aromatics.” In fact, there are a number of stemware rules that true enthusiasts embrace. Lawrence offers advice on how to best savor the moment:
Never fill a wineglass. Wine should be poured to a third of the glass’ capacity. “The wine needs to breathe. Leaving air in the glass allows it to aerate and lets you smell the nuances of the wine’s flavor profile. You’ll also have room in the glass to swirl the wine
Artfully check the bouquet. “Put your nose above but not in the glass, and sniff for three to five seconds. You want to pick up the wine’s vapors, the fruitiness of a Zinfandel or the tartness of a sauvignon blanc.
First swirl, then swallow. Swirling helps you observe the wine, says Lawrence, “noting its color, weight, and depth.” Then, taking small sips, taste the wine.
Lawrence’s preference is crystal stemware. “You can use any thin wineglass, but the way wine hits crystal sharpens its aromas and flavors. With regular glass, the chemistry is different.” Serve white zinfandels, rosés, chardonnays, and rieslings in a 12- to 18-ounce glass with a long stem, Lawrence advises. “Lighter-bodied wines get the smaller glass.”
Lighter red wines, such as a dry rosé, can be served in 18- to 22-ounce glasses. Late harvest wines, like the sauternes from France or trockenbeerenauslese from Germany, can be served in six- to eight-ounce port glasses.
When purchasing stemware, price does dictate quality, insists Lawrence. High-end stemware such as Riedel, Spiegelau, and Ravenscroft costs $45 to $100 per glass and allows for a “better fit, flow, and finish on the palate.”