Anatomy of a Wine Glass: A Beginner’s Guide
To the uninitiated wine drinker, the world of glassware can seem extremely intimidating. Wine glasses come in a wide array of shapes, sizes and profiles, and each design type has specific properties intended to enhance the characteristics of a wine.
Different types of wine require the proper glassware to deliver the best experience to the discerning drinker, and understanding the purpose of the various parts of a wine glass can make the difference much easier to appreciate.
Foot and Stem
A wine glass typically starts with a stabilizing base known as a foot, which lets the glass stand upright. The foot is attached to the stem, which allows the drinker to hold the wine without the heat from their body bringing a chilled wine to too high a temperature, which can dramatically impact the flavor. Some wine glasses may even have flat bottoms, lacking stems and feet entirely to take advantage of this effect for wines that are best served at a warmer temperature.
The bowl of a glass is the actual vessel that holds the wine, and they are typically tapered toward the top to help funnel the aroma of the wine toward the mouth and nose of the drinker. Wine glass bowls are sized to expose an appropriate amount of surface area for the wine type; red wine glasses have larger and shallower bowls to open the flavors of the wine while more delicate white wines will have smaller surface areas to conserve the character of the wine.
The rim of a wine glass is a surprisingly important aspect of its design. The glass of the rim impacts the moment of contact between the wine and the palate, and so good wine glasses have cut rims that are smooth to the touch and allow unimpeded flow of wine with minimal glass interference. Less expensive wine glasses have rolled or bumpy rims that place more glass in the path of every sip, limiting the full experience of sampling a wine.
The clearer a wine glass is, the more it contributes to the visual experience by allowing the true appearance of the wine to show through. The best wine glasses are unadorned and crystal clear, allowing the wine itself to serve as embellishment.
Colored and ornate wine glasses offer variety, but the beauty in a glass of wine is in its color and character, and a clear wine glass is a blank canvas that puts the true artistry of a fine wine on full display.
There are many factors that determine the ideal glass for a wine, and understanding the construction of a wine glass is a helpful tool in finding the perfect glass to accompany your choice of wine. While food pairings and personal preference are equally important to the experience of a fine wine, the proper glassware can ensure it puts its best sip forward.