Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars

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Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars

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Does Glass Shape Really Matter?

The next time you pour yourself a glass of wine, take a moment to study the glass itself: Does it feel light and balanced in your hand? When you hold it up to a bright white surface, does it sparkle? Touch glasses with your companion; do you hear something like a bell ringing? When you swirl the wine, do the aromas linger in your glass? Raise the glass to your lips; do the temperature, texture, and taste of the wine come together in perfect harmony?

Drinking wine should be a pleasure for the eyes, the ears, the fingertips, and the nose, as well as the tongue. If you want the complete experience of enjoying wine, glass shape is essential.

Claus Josef Riedel, who had the idea of designing different wineglass shapes based on the particular characteristics of different wine varietals invented the functional wineglass. A well-designed wineglass should have an egg shape, a cut and polished lip, and a stem. The tapered egg shape suspends the wine’s aromas at the top of the glass and prevents their wafting away when the wine is swirled. The tapered shape also helps prevent spills that might result from vigorous swirling. A cut rim permits the wine to flow smoothly onto the tongue, whereas a rolled rim inhibits the smooth flow of the wine and tends to accentuate acidity and harshness.

To allow the wine’s color and clarity to be assessed and appreciated, a good wineglass should be colorless, transparent, unadorned, and thin-walled. In the Visitors Center at Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, we serve our wines in the lead-free Ouverture, a Riedel wineglass that has these attributes.

There are dozens of wineglass shapes to bring out the subtleties in almost every varietal. It is not necessary to own them all, but it is interesting to understand the effect that each design has on taste and experience. Here are just a few of the shapes that are available:

The Bordeaux or Cabernet Sauvignon glass has a large, elongated bowl. The large volume and surface area of the bowl allow for thorough aeration, bringing out complex aromas when the wine is swirled.

The Burgundy or Pinot Noir glass also has a large bowl, but one that is less elongated and quite wide. The wide bowl allows for thorough aeration, bringing out the subtle aromas of Pinot Noir when the wine is swirled. The narrow opening captures the bouquet at the top of the glass, and the slightly curved lip delivers a stream of wine directly to the front of the palate.

The classic white wineglass has a smaller bowl, but it is still wide enough to allow aeration. The smaller bowl reduces the wine’s surface area, thereby preserving the chill and the delicate bouquet of white wine.

The champagne flute preserves the bubbles of sparkling wines and also puts them on display. A long stem prevents the hand from warming the chilled wine.

Of course, the shape of the glass alone will not determine whether you enjoy a wine. True connoisseurs of wine, however, will be amazed when they experience how these well-designed wineglasses reveal the depth, complexity, and character of wine.

Join Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, Saturday, December 17, 2005, for a handson demonstration of Riedel wine glasses, and taste the difference!