Still looking for that perfect holiday gift? Consider glassware. Seriously, it's something every wine lover needs. Considering that we tend to break glasses on a regular basis, even if we started the year with a full cupboard, there is always a time to replenish our supplies.
So what kind of glasses should you buy for your wine lover? That's an interesting and somewhat complex question that I can only begin to answer. So let me tell you what kind of glasses you can buy for me!
To begin with, I generally use only two styles of glassware: Burgundy and Bordeaux, as they are roughly known. I don't see the need for specific glasses for Syrah, Chianti, Viognier and Ripple, though you could probably find one for each. And why serve Champagne in flutes? I don't even like the often-aggressive bubbles in my sparklers as much as I like the aromas, which are as easy to appreciate in a flute as they were in the bottle.
So here are some tips on what to look for and what to buy when shopping for glassware this holiday season.
Photo courtesy DeeJayTee23 via Flickr/CC
Get In Shape
Like I said, you really only need a handful of bowl shapes. I lied when I said only Burgundy and Bordeaux stems since I also have white wine stems, but I use those for sweet wines. Confused?
Well to a certain extent, that's what manufacturers are hoping to capitalize on, your confusion. There is plenty of truth to the notion that different wines shows differently in various shaped glasses, the question is, do you care and are you interested in spending the time to find out?
For most people, that's an easy question to answer. For those of us who answered no, our needs are amply met by a pair of glasses with a nice graceful arc to the bowls, allowing for sufficient surface area to release aromas and ample space to capture them.
First is the bowl size, which I think should be in the 14-20 ounce range. Any smaller and your glasses will always be full. This might sound appealing, but in reality makes the glass a poor choice for capturing aromas. Larger than 20 ounces just seems excessive, and bulky for that matter, making the glasses more difficult to store, wash and use. Suburbanites' opinions may differ.
Another dimension you should take into consideration is the height of the glass. This is tied in with the volume of the bowl to a certain extent, but is also a design factor with many glasses. Long stems can be weak, making storing your glasses a pain in the glass. Oh, and did I mention my dishwasher's glass rack is 7 and 1/2 inches high?
Yes, you heard me right. I said dishwasher because I wash my glasses in a dishwasher. Okay, the odd glass gets a hand washing. Since most of my glasses get used during dinner parties, and there are sometimes dozens of them, I am not washing them by hand.
What makes a glass dishwasher safe, to a certain extent, is your tolerance for breakage. There are many dishwasher safe glasses. In truth, most medium grade crystal is also relatively dishwasher safe, particularly when you don't wash the glasses with plates, knives and other potential flying objects. I've washed my Spiegelau in the dishwasher hundreds of times with hot water and little to no soap, and have only had a handful of casualties over the years.
As I mentioned before, the height of the glass plays an important role in whether it even fits in a dishwasher, so that is something to pay attention to as well. One way around the height issue is simply going stemless!
Many wine snobs turns up their noses at stemless glassware, and not because they don't present aromas well.
No, most snobs complain about the fact that you are supposed to hold your wine glass by the stem to prevent heating the wine. Yes, and no white pants after labor day, no red wine with fish and never walk under a ladder.
This is snobbery at its best. While there is a grain of truth to this notion, no one is advocating cupping the bowl in your hand and warming it like cognac, which is frankly much easier to do with a stem slid between your figures in any event. There is plenty of space above the surface of the wine to hold onto your stemless. They also take up less space, are easy to fit in the dishwasher, and eliminate a famously weak point of departure that has resulted in many a smashed bowl. Do you need a better argument than that?
Only the Best
Thin Is In
Now here is a wine truism. Thin is in. It's simply better, to a point. Having very thin glass for your bowls puts lets between you and your wine, allowing you to put the wine right into the front of your mouth, making sure each mouthful gets to excite each and every one of your erudite taste buds.
Thick glass, rolled rims, or even many ridiculously ill-conceived bowl e designs have the wine pouring out onto the middle of your mouth, or even dribbling out around the edges, neither of which makes for a pleasant drinking experience.
You can get too thin, not for drinking but for actual real world use. I had some of those very thin and expensive glasses. I looked at one funny once and it broke from the shame. Yes, from pure shame.
Plonk and Drunks
So now you've got a very good idea of the plusses and minuses associated with various stems, and even non-stems. So what is going to be the deciding factor for this purchase? How about intent?
Yes, intent. Are these glasses going to be used by a mature couple to enjoy wines with their evening meal which is always served on china? Then you might look for glassware that is up to the task.
On the other hand, if the wine lover on your list often entertains casually around the pool while serving barbecue, an alternate option might be in order. Ya think? Yup, I do.
From fancy stemware to unbreakable stemless, there's a perfect glassware gift for every wine lover on your list, now you simply have to find it!
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