Fine Wine Writing by Jonathon Alsop

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You need glasses! You Need Glasses
Yes, but different glasses for different wines?

by Jonathon Alsop
April 2001

From the mail bag:

"We have wine with our meals a lot, and we use the same wine glasses all the time. Every now and then, somebody comes over for dinner, we have red wine, and they ask for a "red wine" glass. Are we doing something wrong by using the same wine glasses for red and white? And if we wanted to get different glasses for different wines, what should we get? The ones we have were on sale at Pier 1, so we bought a whole box." R.M., Lynnefield MA

First of all, you're not doing anything wrong by using the same wine glasses all the time. In fact, if you have a routine going because you really like these glasses, so much the better. At home, continuity is good.

When your friends ask for a "red wine" glass, it means they're used to drinking white wine in a fluted cone-shaped glass and red wine in a squat, rounded, bulbous glass, and that's not what you're using for red wine in the moment.

You need glasses!There is no hard and fast rule on this red versus white glass question, but it is true that wines can smell and taste very different in different vessels. To experience the most extreme example, try tasting the same wine in a styrofoam cup, a coffee mug, and any wine glass.

Once you start differentiating the whole spectrum of wine glasses, I believe size matters more than shape with the really big glasses, and shape matters more with the small tasting glass. When in doubt, go big, because the bigger the glass, the more of the wine it shows off in every way: vision, aroma, flavor, anything that's there in the wine to be perceived.

To upgrade a wine glass collection, I'd go to bigger glasses overall as a first step, which will help any wine you put in them taste better.

You need glasses!Bargain Hunter Wine Glasses China Fair in Newton Highlands (617-332-1250) stocks a beautiful line of over-sized Durand leaded crystal wine glasses, two sizes of white and three sizes of red. Brace yourself for the price: $4.49 each, which makes breakage painless.

Here's the inventory of wine glasses I have on hand right now:

Cotes du Rhone Festival Glass I got this glass with my 20 franc ticket to the "nouveau" party in Avignon. It is very close to the official INOA standard tasting glass, short and slight with a tight opening that would make it tough for someone with a nose like Charles de Gaulle to do any serious sniffing, 8 ounces to the brim.

Chez Nous Party Glass After a couple of years of renting wine glasses for parties, I went to China Fair on Mass. Ave. in Cambridge and loaded up on four dozen of these all-purpose glasses for $2.50 each.

2000 Boston Wine Expo Glass Every year, I break my Expo glass. It's kind of a tradition. The first year, I sat on my glass in the car and heard it snap in my jacket pocket. Once it got broken in a box of stuff I was transporting in my car. This year, after I got home and even made it all the way up the stairs, I broke it against the door while fumbling for my keys. I got another one the next day, but it doesnít have the logo on it.

You need glasses!Back Up Glass On my way to a wine tasting, I realized I'd forgotten to bring a glass. I popped into the toney Pottery Barn on Newbury Street, stood in line with some ultra-buff beautiful people, and bought this all-purpose "white" wine glass for $4. Oh yes, I could have spent more, much more, but I'm glad I didn't.

Wedding Wine Glasses My bride and I registered for these at Crate and Barrel back in 1994 when we got married, and we've still got seven out of the original eight. They're big enough to handle a red wine, but the shape is classic white wine glass, tall and slender.

Great White This big fellow is the largest white wine glass I own, but it's so huge I use it for red wine all the time.

Lulu I think this glass got its nickname from the rotund comic strip character Little Lulu, a one-time competitor of Nancy 'n' Sluggo and the Katzenjammer Kids. Anyway, itís truly huge, big and round and able to hold a half-bottle of wine easily, but donít try that at home.

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