Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Wine Glasses 101

If a camera body is just a box that holds film, then a wine glass should be nothing more than a bowl to slurp wine out of, right? Maybe not. So how do you choose the right wine glass?

Unsuspecting drinkers are likely to be confronted by massive goblets large enough to comfortably house several goldfish. Or cut crystal that looks pretty but merely masks the wine inside. Or thick rims that simply block the wine from your mouth.

Glassware isn’t that hard to figure out. And while I hate to admit it, the proper glass really does make all the difference in enjoying wine — whether it’s $5 table wine or wallet-busting Grand Crus.

The bottom line. Find a set of glasses that fits your budget and your wine-drinking habits. Maximilian Riedel, CEO of Riedel Crystal of America and an 11th generation glassmaker, offers a decent rule of thumb: “What you spend on average for a bottle of wine, you should spend on your glass.”

Totally reasonable, though Riedel stemware — functionally the Rolls-Royce of wine glasses — might not fit everyone’s budget, seeing as it can cost well over $50 per hand-blown stem for the top-end Sommelier line. Still, it’s possible to find good glasses for about $10 apiece.

Good machine-blown glasses from German-made Spiegelau (purchased in September 2004 by Riedel, which is headquarted in Austria) average $10 to 12 per glass, and Riedel’s own entry-level Wine series starts around $10. I’m partial to the Connoisseur line available at Cost Plus stores, which average about $7 per glass.

To be avoided at all costs are those cheap, six-to-a-box travesties, which appeal in an Ikea-impulse-buy sort of way but don’t really warrant use for anything more than apple juice. Their shortcomings are revealed in even the most rudimentary taste tests. (Honest, try it yourself). Assign them to water duty and buy yourself a decent set.

Shape up. No need to go all wine-geek and buy a different glass for every type of wine you drink, but one set each for red and white will make you a happier camper. The aromas and textures of red wines and white wines are different enough to justify separate sets.

Red wines especially require a bowl big enough to provide what Bob Betz, a Master of Wine and owner of Betz Family Winery in Woodinville, Wash., calls “critical mass in the glass”: ample space to properly expose wine to air when it's swirled, and for aromas to be directed into your nose (where most of the “taste” is actually perceived.) A bowl size of 20 to 25 ounces seems about right for red-wine glasses; white wine functions well with bowls around 11 to 13 ounces, though a good glass for white Burgundy might require something closer to 20 ounces

“I was a cynic,” says Betz, “and I was proven wrong time and again.”

Beyond red or white, you’ll want to choose a specific shape. Among Riedel’s 160 shapes, the biggest sellers are Bordeaux-style glasses, meant for cabernet sauvignon and the like, followed by chardonnay glasses.

Pinot noir lovers might prefer a Burgundy-style glass that highlights the grape’s more subtle qualities. And sparkling wine truly benefits from a proper tapered flute — narrow enough to retain the bubbles but wide enough to release the wine's aromas.

These shapes are anything but arbitrary. The Riedel company invites winemakers to collaborate on new designs for specific types of wine, often sending them over 200 shapes to evaluate.

“It’s a Ping-Pong game,” Maximilian Riedel says. “We send them six, they send us back three.”

This back-and-forth can last for months until a final tasting round narrows it down to one perfect shape.

As for stems, sturdier is better — especially if you have clumsy friends. And 29-year-old Riedel also recently introduced his own pet project: His O Series glasses, designed for younger, casual drinkers, use the classic bowl shapes but are stemless.

What to avoid. The most overlooked feature in glassware is the rolled rim, easily detectable by a slightly bulging lip (versus a narrow tapered one). Not only does this block the wine from leaving the glass, it’s a sign of inferior quality. Those six-for-$10 packs almost inevitably have rolled rims.

Skip skinny or shallow glasses with more looks than functionality. Unless you’re drinking riesling, flared bowls or rims are unnecessary. Ditto flourishy stems, or those massive jug-like goblets.

Cut or etched designs may enhance the look of the crystal, but mostly just obscure the wine. Flat-bottomed glasses don’t really let you swirl the wine, which releases its flavor.

Keep it clean. Many wine pros are freaked out about using soap, but the rules aren’t quite so simple. Everyday glasses can survive the dishwasher provided you steer clear of harsh detergents and carefully wipe the glass afterwards. And don’t crowd them in the dishwasher.

More expensive stemware should be hand-washed; dish soap is OK on the outside if you apply it with a finger, but don’t put soap inside the glass. If you aren’t going to wash a glass the same evening you use it, leave some water inside to prevent staining.

Yearning to breathe free. Cabinets impart their own musty, veneered scents to a glass. I battled with a stale scent from my own kitchen cabinets for nearly two years, wiping out and shaking my glasses to clear out the must, before I gave up and moved them to a neutral-smelling closet.

Give the cabinets where you store your glasses a good cleaning, Don’t put glasses immediately into new or newly stained woodwork. Don’t store them upside down (it’ll only trap stale odors) and keep them freshly washed, at least once a month. “They’re not supposed to be dust-catchers,” Riedel says.

Betz endorses a popular technique of seasoning the glass with a bit of wine he’s about to taste: pour a bit in, swirl it around, then dump it out (or into the next person’s glass) before pouring yourself a full serving. The wine rinse helps wash away residue and off scents.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Burgundy wine
(French: Bourgogne or Vin de Bourgogne) is wine made in the Burgundy region in eastern France.[1] The most famous wines produced here - those commonly referred to as Burgundies - are red wines made from Pinot Noir grapes or white wines made from Chardonnay grapes. Red and white wines are also made from other grape varieties, such as Gamay and Aligoté respectively. Small amounts of rosé and sparkling wine are also produced in the region. Chardonnay-dominated Chablis and Gamay-dominated Beaujolais are formally part of Burgundy wine region, but wines from those subregions are usually referred to by their own names rather than as "Burgundy wines".

Burgundy has a higher number of Appellation d'origine contrôlées (AOCs) than any other French region, and is often seen as the most terroir-conscious of the French wine regions. The various Burgundy AOCs are classified from carefully delineated Grand Cru vineyards down to more non-specific regional appellations. The practice of delineating vineyards by their terroir in Burgundy go back to Medieval times, when various monasteries played a key role in developing the Burgundy wine industry. The appellations of Burgundy (not including Chablis).

Overview in the middle, the southern part to the left, and the northern part to the right. The Burgundy region runs from Auxerre in the north down to Mâcon in the south, or down to Lyon if the Beaujolais area is included as part of Burgundy. Chablis, a white wine made from Chardonnay grapes, is produced in the area around Auxerre. Other smaller appellations near to Chablis include Irancy, which produces red wines and Saint-Bris, which produces white wines from Sauvignon Blanc. Some way south of Chablis is the Côte d'Or, where Burgundy's most famous and most expensive wines originate, and where all Grand Cru vineyards of Burgundy (except for Chablis Grand Cru) are situated. The Côte d'Or itself is split into two parts: the Côte de Nuits which starts just south of Dijon and runs till Corgoloin, a few kilometers south of the town of Nuits-Saint-Georges, and the Côte de Beaune which starts at Ladoix and ends at Dezize-les-Maranges. The wine-growing part of this area in the heart of Burgundy is just 40 kilometres (25 mi) long, and in most places less than 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) wide. The area is made up of tiny villages surrounded by a combination of flat and sloped vineyards on the eastern side of a hilly region, providing some rain and weather shelter from the prevailing westerly winds. T

he best wines - from "Grand Cru" vineyards - of this region are usually grown from the middle and higher part of the slopes, where the vineyards have the most exposure to sunshine and the best drainage, while the "Premier Cru" come from a little less favourably exposed slopes. The relatively ordinary "Village" wines are produced from the flat territory nearer the villages. The Côte de Nuits contains 24 out of the 25 red Grand Cru appellations in Burgundy, while all of the region's white Grand Crus are located in the Côte de Beaune. This is explained by the presence of different soils, which favour Pinot Noir and Chardonnay respectively. Further south is the Côte Chalonnaise, where again a mix of mostly red and white wines are produced, although the appellations found here such as Mercurey, Rully and Givry are less well known than their counterparts in the Côte d'Or. Below the Côte Chalonnaise is the Mâconnais region, known for producing large quantities of easy-drinking and more affordable white wine. Further south again is the Beaujolais region, famous for fruity red wines made from Gamay. Burgundy experiences a continental climate characterized by very cold winters and hot summers. The weather is very unpredictable with rains, hail, and frost all possible around harvest time. Because of this climate, there is a lot of variation between vintages from Burgundy.
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9:56 AM  
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