By Dan Berger
Wine snobs will tell you that any wine tastes better in crystal wine glasses, especially those with a very thin rim and very narrow stem.
And there is no question that such glasses can be advantageous when tasting certain red wines, certain white wines, and even certain specialty wines.
But the various types of wine glasses that indicate that one particular shape is better for, say, Sangiovese and not quite as good for Zinfandel is a pretty precious argument that is fostered primarily by companies that specialize in making expensive wine glasses, and promote the concept the different shapes offer different wine experiences.
Red wine glasses typically are a bit larger than white wine glasses, and this seems to work best when trying older wines in which aeration is often the best way to gain access to some of the more subtle aromas of the wines.
By contrast, white wine glasses usually have a slightly narrower rim to retain some of the more subtle nuances that white wines usually have.
How to hold a wine glass: by this stem!
The average consumer instinctively knows this, mainly because it allows for the wine glass to be swirled, which allows the liquid to roll up onto the side of the glass where it can be aerated and allow the subtle nuances of the wine to be appreciated.
A cynic would tell you that any size glass will work well, but the use of larger glassware for fine wine seems to be essential because such a glass creates a larger surface, allowing for more wine to be aerated, and for the aroma to become more volatilized.
One important point here is that glassware can become extremely sensitive when it is washed in soapy water or when detergents are used, in particular those that contain aromatic compounds.
When tasting older, classic wines, a best bet is to wash the stemware in nothing but hot water. However, even here there is a danger. Some tap water in some cities is so heavily treated with chlorine that the glasses will retain some of that aroma.
And even if the glassware is dried completely, the chlorine smell can come back when wine is poured into it.
Another drawback exists with drying towels that are washed and then dried in a dryer in which aromatic dryer pads were used.
Many important wine tastings have been ruined when precautions were not taken to avoid these pitfalls.
Even top-quality restaurants can occasionally fall into the trap of not treating their glassware properly.