The Wine Blog

Clearing Up Wine Glass Confusion

August 20, 2011

By Daniel Rodriguez, Drync employee

When I did my wedding registry several years ago, I had the perfect opportunity to upgrade my wine glasses to something more than a haphazard array of stemware, barware and plain old juice glasses.  Armed with a scan gun at Williams Sonoma, we opted for the Riedel Grape Series and, for simplicity sake, decided on a single style for white and another style for red wine. Today, I realize that I didn’t really know what I was doing.


1. The Bowl Shape Has a Purpose

Nobody questions a huge, deep bowled wine glass when served with red wine.  The problem is that nobody thinks a white wine can be served in a wide-bowled glass.  The Grape Series did have multiple choices, but since chardonnay is such a universal grape we figured we couldn’t go wrong with the chardonnay glass. I can’t count how many times people ask, “Is this a red wine glass?” when I pour them a glass of white wine in the chardonnay glass. But it’s like that for a reason: full-bodied, rounded white wines are best delivered on the sides of the tongue and mouth, whereas crisp, acidic wines like reisling and sauvignon blanc go well through the middle of tongue and should be used with a narrower bowl.  The same rule goes for red, with big cabs tasted best straight into the mouth (meaning narrower bowl) and pinot, especially the earthy kind from Burgundy, needing a deep bowl for the aroma and wide mouth to deliver the acidic flavors to the sides of the tongue. Bottom line: if nobody knows the difference, get a white wine glass that looks like a white wine glass and a big red glass that makes people feel cool while drinking a killer red.


2. Spend What You Can Afford to Drink

This is a personal pet peeve more than anything, but I can’t stand it when nice restaurants serve you a $60 bottle of wine in a thick-rimmed glass goblet. My philosophy is that the stemware should cost approximately as much as the bottle of wine you would bring to a dinner party.  The Riedel Grape Series runs for $40 for a burgundy glass– the same amount that I like to spend for a friend who likes wine. If you find yourself taking out a second mortgage because you broke a glass, you’re spending too much. But please, no goblets…


3. Lead Crystal Isn’t Just a Fancy Word

Without getting overly technical, lead in your wine glass is a good thing (unlike the leaded paint in that old apartment you just bought– lead can’t get out of the glass once it is set).  When we refer to crystal, we typically are referring to lead crystal, which allows us to make the distinction from clear glass, which is also called unleaded crystal. Besides having a better weight and being better for shaping, lead crystal (24% lead makes it full lead crystal, by law) has a very cool benefit to the wine: if you looked at the surface through a microscope, it would look rough, like sandpaper, allowing tannic wines to soften in the glass and “open up”. Regular glass is smooth and, therefore, lame, so go ahead and seek out lead crystal.


I’m sure I’m only scratching the surface (no pun intended) and if you have some things you have learned about your stemware, I’d love to hear it in the comment section!  And for the record, I do love my Riedel glasses. Just don’t put them in the dishwasher.