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Meander through any quaint, picturesque town in good ole Italia and you are sure to see one constant: Four adorable old men in newsboy caps sitting around a table… and drinking wine. Or maybe this alternate scenario: Four adorable old men in newsboy caps playing bocce… and drinking wine. And I’m willing to bet all of the three dollars in my wallet (writers work for the love of the words, folks) that they are all drinking that wine out of juice glasses.
Juice glasses! Now this is sure to get you thinking, why am I handing out my kidneys for fancy wine glasses when my daughter’s sippy cup will do? If it’s good enough for little old men in Italy its good enough for me, right? Wrong! And here are three reasons why:
- You’re hot and steamy! No really, your body is hot, and that heat radiates through your hands and through that glass, upping the temperature of your wine. Now a red pulled right out of the cellar may do some good in a stemless glass, and we are all for the new stemless trend on occasion. However, for whites and most reds you need a stem to keep that temperature at its optimal levels. But wait there’s more: Your fingers release natural oils and that causes smudging, which get in the way of viewing the three c’s: color, clarity, and consistency. Are they important? You bet your hot little hands they are, but that’s a topic for another blog.
- Science agrees with us, and really who are you to argue with science? Hold onto your hats, we’re about to get real technical, but don’t worry we’ll get through this together. According to a study by Scientific American the shape and size of the glass absolutely matters. How can they tell? A group of scientists used a mesh saturated with oxidase (an agent that causes a chemical reaction and converts alcohol into hydrogen peroxide).This mesh was then combined with Luminol (a chemical which emits a glow) and placed on the wine glass. When ethanol, or alcohol, left the glass, the mesh revealed different color patterns, essentially mapping out how different shapes and temperatures affected the wine through color. Now sure this sounds like a very expensive acid trip. But it’s science all the same, and proves the point that differences are produced by size and shape. Phew! We made it through the science, onto the next point…
- Fine crystal isn’t just for yacht owners and your grandmother anymore. Crystal matters and here’s why: crystal, even lead free crystal, contains minerals which make it more durable and thus can be spun thinner. This means the lip of the glass can be thinner but still quite strong. Why do we need a strong thin lip? Quite simply, the glass doesn’t get in the way. The wine is directed directly to your palette with no interference. Crystal also has a better refraction of light, enabling us to see those c’s. Say it with me!! Color, Clarity, and Consistency! (You didn’t say it did you?)
- Bonus 4th point: It looks good! Bet you didn’t see that last point coming, did you? But alas it’s true! Maybe it’s not scientific or integral to the quality of wine, but at the end of the day a set of stems is elegant, classy, and downright sexy. And we all need that in our life every once and awhile
So we need a decent glass, all hands are up in agreement, we’ve settled the argument! But wait, we’re still left standing in Home Goods, possessively clutching the contents of our cart (because everyone knows there are Home Goods drifters) staring bleary-eyed at a wall of glassware of all shapes and sizes. Which to choose? Do we need a set of glassware per pinot, Malbec, Syrah, and Claret? In this gal’s humble opinion, no. But there are some basic guidelines to follow to truly enhance your wine drinking experience. Here are three to keep in mind:
- Red Wines: In general you want a red wine glass to be larger and rounder. More surface area means more oxygen mixing with the wine, which means fuller aroma and complexity. Typically there are two classifications for Reds. Lighter and heavier. For lighter Reds, like your pinots, you want something slightly shorter with a very large bowl, directing the delicate flavors to the tip of your tongue. For your heavier reds, like a Cabernet, go for something taller that will send the wine to the back of the mouth.
- White Wine: A smaller bowl for white wine helps to contain the fruity aromas and keep the wine cool. Typically white wine glasses are narrower, almost U shaped, and that sends all those wonderful concentrated aromas of grapefruit and oak to your nose.
- Sparkling and Dessert Wines: For sparkling, stay traditional. Upright and narrow contains the carbonation and flavor. And as for your dessert wines, stay small so that all that sweetness is directed to the back of your tongue.
There you have it ladies and gents. Go out into the world and confidently bore your friends with all your new smug knowledge, they’ll love you for it.
And sorry cute little Italian men! You can be sure on my next trip to Italy I will snap a photo of you with a nice Valencia filter and add a #vivaitalia for my Instagram, but you can keep your juice glass Giuseppe! It’s stems all the way for this girl.
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