Wine glasses are one of the many facets that populate the infinite universe of wines. Choosing the right one means deeply understanding the wine one is going to serve and/or drink and of which one wants to fully taste every single characteristic. Glass is not just a mere container. The glass conveys aromas and scents to the nose, directs the wine in the mouth by hitting a specific part of the palate, rather than another one. As a consequence, the choice of glasses is much more important than one can believe. Therefore to every wine its glass!
Material and shapes: tulips, ballon and flûte
The shape of the glass used for wine tasting changes the aromatic perception. Size and shape modify the way aromatic molecules rise from the glass to the nose. And it is always the shape of the glass which establishes the entrance of red wine, or white wine, in the mouth. From this depends the part of the palate and of the tongue which will be the first, or the last, to be teased and hit by the liquid. Therefore glasses are ambassadors and messengers of the content. Wine glasses must be made of transparent and not colored glass. The shape of the glass therefore varies according to the characteristics of the wine to be tasted.
Tulip glasses are the most used glasses for white wines tasting. Its lovely shape recalls the one of the flower from which it takes its name. It has a flared opening which is longer than the body. This peculiarity allows the wine to be directed towards the tip of the tongue. It is in this area are found the most sensitive and receptive taste buds. At the beginning the wine is directed to the tip of the tongue and only afterwards to its sides. it is a perfect shape for tasting white, young and crisp wines. In the slightly larger version the tulip is also good for rose wines. Lastly, a small tulip shaped goblet with high sides is perfect for the tasting of raisin wines, such as Recioto della Valpolicella.
The ballon, on the other hand, is a chalice with a very particular shape. It can be more or less wide and rounded. Once the wine is poured inside the glass, it can easily swirl on the walls and with this movement it can release all the aromas and flavors it contains. As a matter of fact, when wine is gracefully swirled inside of the right glass, it interacts with the oxygen present in the air and releases all of its aromas. It turns out to be perfect for tasting full bodied red wines having little tannins, elegant and structured. The ballon emphasizes flavors and aromas coming from the aging process.
Lastly, the flûte is the wine glass having a narrow mouth (in French flûte means flute) and an elongated body. Therefore high edges and narrow mouth. Its shape has been expressly studied in order to minimize the quantity of wine surface exposed to air. In this way the dispersion of carbon dioxide is reduced. It is therefore indispensable when a dry sparkling wine is being consumed. Champagne deserves a special mention. In order to taste it at its best, a special flûte has been created, having a slightly flared and bulging shape.
Wine glasses: exalting perceptions that reach the taster
In the light of what has been said so far, it is clear that every wine needs a specific glass in order to be tasted at its best. For young white wines, fresh and aromatic, it is good to use glasses of medium size, with a medium amplitude light. For mature white wines, however, it is better to use larger and wider glasses in order to allow aromas to better spread.
Red wines of medium structure and aging are best tasted in glasses having a medium size. On the contrary, red wines with a long aging, such as Amarone della Valpolicella, require a glass having a wide light. In this way the range of aromas and scents opens up and spreads as much as possible. A perfect example is the ballon we saw earlier, which allows the nose to be brought very close to the wine inside the glass where the aromas of the beverage can be spread and freed at their best.
In case of fortified or passito wines it is common to use a small sized wine glass. It has a slightly rounded shape and a sufficiently wide opening in order to allow the diffusion of intense aromas. The stem of these glasses is usually elongated and thin in order to give elegance to the handle and to make the grip easier.
Lastly, we would like to mention the ISO shaped tasting glass. ISO stands for International Oragnization for Standadrization and it is characterized by a small, squat and oblong shape. A sample which tries to compromise all the characteristics of every existing wine glass, but in the end it does not meet any of the requirements of glasses used for tastings.