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Glasses for the Masses

July 12, 2009

Do wine glasses matter?  Yes, they do.
Should you think yourself a philistine if you drink out of a tumbler?  Hell no.

And how can those two statements possibly exist in the same universe?  I’ll tell you.

Having nice wine glasses is all about enhancing your enjoyment of wine.  The key phrase, of course, is “your enjoyment.”  Not mine.  Not Robert Parker’s or Kathleen Lisson’s or even William Dowd’s.  Yours.

Last month I wrote a post that went into detail about my experience in trying the same wine in different shaped glasses.  And the truth is that the shape of the glass does change your impression of the wine.

But in reality, it is simply not practical for most people to have multiple sets of wine glasses in every possible shape.

The one thing that matters most is that the glasses be big.  Large bowls really allow you to swirl a wine around and stick your nose into the glass for a big sniff.  Which raises the question, why would you want to swirl?  To answer this, I’ll need to use a little math and science.  But I’ll try to make it brief.

The larger the interior bowl of the glass, the greater surface area you have to swirl the wine against.  A thin coating of wine over a significant surface area will speed up its evaporation.  When the wine evaporates, little teeny tiny particles of the wine try to escape from the wine glass.  This is where your nose comes in.  You stick it deep in the glass and suck those buggers up into your nasal cavity, and you can pick out more of the delicious aromas of berry and leather than if you were drinking out of a small glass filled to the brim.

That wasn’t so bad, was it?

If I were going to choose the best all-purpose shape, I would suggest a Bordeaux-style glass, which is taller and a bit more tapered, than the shorter and rounder Burgundy-style glasses.  Yes, it’s a bit larger than the ideal white wine glasses, but it is the same general tulip shape, and will do just fine.  And it is the go-to glass in the Fussy household.

One bonus thing I look for in fancy wine glasses to enhance my enjoyment of wine is a thin rounded rim.  More on this later.

Another thing we do at casa del Fussy is drink wine out of cow cups.  It’s a fun and casual way to enjoy wine.  And one of my favorite restaurants in Napa, Bistro Jeanty, served delicious wines appropriately in bistro glasses.  But that is not to say I am a fan of all stemless glasses.  I have never liked the Riedel O series.

It is just that if you are going to have nice large bowled glasses, I would like to have the stem, please.  This giant in the glassware business was trying to create this strange middle ground, and I remain unconvinced.   It seems to fit one of two needs:

“I want a fancy glass, but without that annoying stem,” or
“I want a tumbler, but I want the fanciest tumbler possible.”

Neither of those arguments held any traction for me.  But if you like them, maybe you can convince me of their value.

Now get out there and enjoy some more wine.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Mama Ass permalink
    July 13, 2009 1:15 pm

    Pointing out that I am here reading your wine post.
    Seems like smell is really important to eating and drinking enjoyment on the whole.
    I guess straws take away from smelling your drink. Maybe we should not drink wine with straws? Maybe not anything should be drunk with straws?

  2. phairhead permalink
    July 13, 2009 9:06 pm

    i won’t even drink water out a plastic cup, that’s how fussy I am : )

  3. July 14, 2009 9:24 am

    I feel really honored that my comment inspired a post.

    Also, after years of obsessing over the Web site, I finally got to check out the amazing glassware/kitchenware store Fishs Eddy. I want one of everything…almost dragged home more glasses but decided it’d be difficult to lug them around the city and the subways all day.

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