Our wine expert Kate Hawkings tells us why it’s just as important to drink out of the right wine glass, as it is to pick the right wine. Includes tips for most grapes, including chardonnay, cabernet merlot and riesling. If you’re interested in knowing more about what wine to drink, you can check out our English wine guide here.
Just as eating from a wobbly paper plate with plastic cutlery never does food full justice, so wine can’t be enjoyed fully unless its drunk from an appropriate vessel. So how do we choose the perfect glass?
Try a simple test at home: pour a little wine into a tumbler and some into a wine glass with a bowl that tapers slightly inward at the top. Swirl the wine then sniff it and see how the scents from the two glasses differ, then taste the wine and compare again.
Swirling the wine releases the delicate aromatic compounds – a tumbler disperses the aromas quicker. In a wine glass, the aromas are released into the bowl then concentrated by the tapered sides and directed upwards.
Smell is crucial in how we appreciate wine – our tongue has receptors for taste but our nasal passages can detect many thousands of different flavours, and this is why a wine’s nose is such a critical part of our perception. If the aromas have dissipated, the taste of the wine loses much of its intensity.
Fresh and zesty white wines suit glasses with smaller bowls and narrow apertures to concentrate the delicate aromas, while full-bodied wines need to flex their aromatic muscles in a larger bowl with a wider aperture to allow the more complex aromas to shine through.
As well as smell and taste, touch is important to our pleasure in wine. Feel the weight of the glass in your hand and look for one that has a pleasing balance. A fine rim is important too.
Decent glasses needn’t cost a fortune but they will make the best of mediocre wine and maximise your enjoyment when you’re drinking something special. If you only want one glass, any of those I’ve mentioned opposite would work as a good all rounder. @KateHawkings
M&S Honeycomb Journey’s End Chardonnay 2015 (£60/case of 6)
Aged in oak but still with freshness, the muscly nose of this South African chardonnay is softened in Ikea’s bargain-priced, red wine Ivrig glass (£1)
Waitrose Vasse Felix Cabernet Merlot (£12.99)
The rich fruit and supple tannins in this great Oz red are brought out with Zalto’s Universal glass (£32 each). More angular than traditionally-shaped bulbous glasses, it performs the task admirably with an incredible delicacy and elegance that feels lovely in the hand.
Louis Latour Bourgogne Gamay 2013 (£12.99 or £9.99 for 6, majestic.co.uk)
Luxury Austrian brand Riedel takes glass geekery to the max, producing a staggering range of glassware shaped for specific grape varieties. We recommend the gorgeous Riesling/Zinfandel glass (£45 for two) from the reasonably-priced Veritas range.
While it may not be a riesling or zinfandel, the delicacy of the Louis Latour gamay is perfect for the Riedel glass. Perfumed with notes of raspberry and redcurrants, and just a whisper of pepper, this lovely wine is delicious served slightly chilled.
Want to learn a little more about wine? Check out our guide to the best pink champagnes and sparkling wines here
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