Is the design of the wine glass intented to improve your actual experience of drinking wine or is it purely asthetic? Sommelier and wine consultant Alexandre Morin states that the shape of the glass is very important, "It's the last thing between the mouth of the customer and the wine itself."
Austrian made brand Riedel are the industry leaders, chosen by restaurants and sommeliers world-wide in which to serve their wines. Riedel state that while the stem lenth and base diameter of the glass are pure asthetic, the bowl of the glass (where the wine goes) is the fundamental part and that three factors - the shape, size and rim diameter - help to translate the "message" of wine to our senses. Riedel describes four sensations in wine....
The bouquet - the quality and intensity of a wine's aroma
The texutre - the mouthfeel of a wine - silky, watery, creamy, velvety
The flavour - the fruit, acidity, minerality and bitter components
The finish - how the flavours rest in your mouth after you have swallowed the wine
The way a wine glass is shaped affects the way you tilt your head and move your lips towards the glass so as not to let it spill all over yourself. This means that the wine is coming out at a different speed and hitting the palate in a different location depending on what shape of glass you have chosen to pour your wine into.
Rich reds and complex whites such as chardonnays will benefit from a wide bowl to allow the wine to aerate and develop their depth of flavours. Whites are best served chilled (but not too cold!) and lighter reds and white are suited to a taller, straighter edged glass bowl that will allow the acidity and fruity flavour to be expressed. While champagnes and sparkling wines are traditionally served in a flute and certainly looks elegant, conoisseurs are finding that a wider bowl narrowing up to the rim, sort of like a smaller version of a white wine glass, allows the aromatics to perform at their best while keeping the delicate bubbles we all love in sparkling wines.
In 2015, Japanese researchers, mapping the distribution of flavours in a glass discovered something new. The fact that the sides of the wine glass aren't shaped outwards (like many cocktail glasses) or are straight (like spirit glasses) but curve slightly inwards is not just so that the wine stays in our glass as we wave our arms arounds passionately while telling a story. This shape makes the alcohol aromas concentrate near the rim as they evoporate. This means that when when we stick our nose in the glass to smell it, we are not overpowered by the smell of alcohol but the actual aromas of the wine itself shine through.
Riedel make beautiful, varietal-specific glasses but for a simpler, more every day selection, check out Luigi Bormioli, Plumm and Krosno who make very elegant, sturdy glasses. Still not sure? Why not do a tasting? Try the same wine in different shaped glasses and note down how the shape affects the way you taste it. To make it even more amusing, have some fancy wine terms at your disposal or even make up your own! I couldn't think of a more fun way to spend a Saturday afternoon with friends.