Though it would be lovely to say otherwise, we live in a world wherein most people can’t distinguish between a good wine and a mediocre one. Which is to say, an $80 bottle of 1996 Riesling Spätlese ‘Rüdesheimer Berg Rottland’ can risk tasting effectively the same as an $8 jug of Yellowtail. This is a mixed blessing. Yes, the world is full of philistines. And no, you don’t have to blow a bundle on a nice bottle of wine: Most people won’t be able to tell the difference. What you should splurge on, though, are nice wine glasses.
Most people approach a glass of wine like they do a Max Ernst exhibition, taking their interpretational cues from the curator’s writing on the wall or, in the case of wine, from the writing on the bottle. Is it in French? Does it say A.O.C or mise en bouteille a château? If it’s Italian, does it say D.O.C. or even D.O.C.G.? Was it expensive? But, denuded of those easy tells, mankind is thrown into confusion. This is where your wine glasses come in. A glass of Merlot poured from an eight-dollar magnum looks a lot better in a slim-stemmed crystal glass with a generous bowl. In fact, in the proper glass, it’ll taste better, too.
This glass’s ability to improve the flavor of its contents stems from the fact that most purveyors of fine crystal glasses—by which we mean crystal with a cut, not rolled, edge—offer varietal-specific wine glasses. Even a subpar Chardonnay will taste better in a Chardonnay glass, whose gentle bowl and bowed sides direct the wine to the center of the tongue. A Bordeaux glass, with a deep and broad bowl, offers more surface area so the wine oxidizes faster, lending depth and texture to the strong-bodied red, and trafficking the wine to the back of the palate.
There are nearly as many shapes as there are types of wine, but we’re not advocating a wild glass-buying spree. Six Bordeaux glasses and six Chardonnay glasses (these are the most versatile shapes) will get you through dinner, at least up until Brandy. Now it’s time to focus on making a proper toast.
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