Our “Wine” expert, Michele, was asked this question. We think the holidays are a good time to post her answer.
The thought of entertaining can start you examining things you normally don’t think about, like your stemware. Years ago, mine was a hodgepodge of cheap stems bearing names of wineries visited in Napa and Sonoma. Then I went to a comparative tasting at the Vancouver Wine Festival by stemware manufacturer Georg Riedel. We tasted a variety of wonderful wines in a range of glasses — from the inexpensive to the specially crafted — designed to have each wine touch the palate in a predetermined place to fully bring out its flavor profile.
Riedel’s theory has since been challenged by experts (empirical studies showed that when the subjects were blindfolded and couldn’t touch the glass, they couldn’t tell the difference between fine Riedel stemware and a beer stein). Nevertheless, that tasting experience made me a believer that the same wine really does taste different in different glasses. You be the judge for yourself.
These days I care as much about a lovely table as I do about taste. My stemware collection consists mainly of beautiful and durable Luigi Bormioli Esperienze glasses. These wonderfully priced Italian-made stems come in various shapes and sizes, from Champagne flutes to huge red wine bowls and have concentric circles that really bring out the flavor of the wine. And, unlike Riedels, they can be washed in the dishwasher and seem to hold up very well. (I try to follow the rule of never washing wine glasses after I’ve had some to drink!)
I rely on four basic styles of Esperienze glasses – one for Champagne and other bubblies, one for whites, one tulip-shaped for Pinot and big bowls for Zinfandels, Cabs, Syrahs and other big reds. The minimum number on the table is one for white, one for Pinot Noir and one for other reds. We try to keep about eight of each kind on hand, and if we have a larger party, we bring out some of the old souvenir glasses – no one really cares at that point.
Stemless glasses have been trendy in recent years, but I find that the heat from your hand can make the wine too warm. Plus, I hate fingerprints on the bowl of the glass!
The bottom line, though, is to follow your own ideas of style and taste. Experiment a little to see if your wines really do taste different in various glasses, and then pick a style that suits you.
Cheers and Happy Holidays!
Snoety Tip: For Luigi Bormioli Esperienze stemware, click on this link to Linens ‘n Things to purchase. A set of four in any style is about $30.
PS: Snoety doesn’t profit in any way from these recommendations (except of, course, in giving you useful info) …