Stemware: Why We Should Give a Damn

With all the gadgets related to wine and wine consumption the only real important component you need to spend your hard earned money on is good to great stemware.  Why don’t we just drink straight from the bottle?  Why are wine glasses shaped the way they are, and why are there so many different shapes? Before the wine enters your mouth the aromas need to enter your nose.  The bouquet of a wine is just as important as the taste. Great wine is complex and always changing, both in smell and taste.  You taste with your nose as much as you do with your tongue.  That is why the shape of your stemware is so important. You need that bell shape to capture aroma.  You need something that is large enough to make a swirl, introducing air into your wine to let it improve and wake it up from its slumber.   No you don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on Riedel.

You just need something that is appropriate.   Just as important to white wines as it is to red wines.

You will see glasses for Bordeaux style wines…

meaning full bodied and tannic (including Brunello di Montalcino, Bandol, Priorat, Napa Cab, etc…).

You will see Red Burgundy style glasses…

meaning elegant, aromatic (including aged Barolo, Barbaresco, Oregon Pinot Noir, etc..).

You will see White Burgundy style glasses…

meaning full bodied Chardonnay (looks like a Bordeaux glass sort of).

You will see a Sauvignon Blanc/Riesling style glass…

meaning light, aromatic, zippy (Sancerre, Godello, Verdicchio, Arneis).

And of course a glass for bubbles…

meaning wines with bubbles (Champagne, Prosecco, Cava, etc…)

Of course it would be fun to have a different glass for every occasion, and nothing beats the elegant balance of Riedel or Spiegelau glass (both the same company by the way) but the shit is expensive, and fragile, and requires hand washing.  For red, white AND sparkling wine you just need something with this basic shape: a wide bowl at the bottom with a proportionately narrower opening…

NOT this!!! Note how this glass features a narrow bowl and flares to a too-wide opening, letting aromas escape prematurely.

Here in Richmond you can find affordable, good quality stemware from Schott Zwiesel available at your better wine shops.  Many restaurants use them as well.  From the cheap, dishwasher safe (but a little clunky) “Congresso” line… to the alien looking “Pure”… and super tall “Diva” line…  Expect to pay $8 to $15 per glass.  Well worth it to make your wine experience more enjoyable.

These restaurants have good stemware…

Bistro Bobette

Can Can

Secco Wine Bar

Cafe Rustica

Acacia (use to suck but they finally got the good stuff a few months back)

Amour Wine Bistro

Lemaire will give you the shitty glasses unless you ask for the decent ones, they will gladly accommodate  you.  Please ask for them when you go!  Let them take the hint.

The biggest offenders of the stemware situation are Mamma Zu and Edo’s Squid.  They give you those damn juice jars and expect you to drink Lodali Barolo from them?!  I get the whole relaxed, unpretentious, celebratory, comfort atmosphere they are going for, and maybe juice jars reflect this.  It is fine I guess if you stick to the simple, inexpensive Dolcetto or Valpolicella to wash down your pasta, but this place is supposed to be the altar of Italian eating in this city.  Have you been to Italy lately?  Every cafe, Osteria, Ristorante has the good stuff to drink from.

This is a subject that Richmond Wine Culture will return to again.  We will also discuss when to decant and when not to, what temperature should you serve wines, proper storage and handling, when to send a wine back.  The world of wine is never ending and hopefully this blog can be a little educational and enjoyable.  Thank you for playing along!

2 Responses to “Stemware: Why We Should Give a Damn”

  1. terry Says:

    it drives me nuts when places have bad glasses to drink from! great post.

  2. Peter Says:

    Champagne is better on traditional wine glass, it’s the way that champagne winemakers present you their products in wine showcase. But some champagnes are so bitter and acid that is better to taste it without putting the nose, in a flute by example.

    And for dense wines, some galsses are flat under the top of the foot, like an incurved U. It’s ok for a wine who have to breathe.

    But it’s funny to see that so many merchants want to sell glasses to decorate the table. And you take a famous bottle at the dinner at your friends house, your proud of it and … they put green glasses. And everyone think you’re a maniac.

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