DRINK TO THIS
A primer on stemware for the height of entertaining season
Entertaining at home has been gaining popularity ever since cocooning—that’s staying indoors and engaging in home-based activities—gave rise to hiving, which places more value on interaction and engagement, treating the home no longer solely as a retreat but as a center for activity and connection with friends and family.
Recently, a new term has been making the rounds: “insperiences,” where normally outdoor experiences are brought inside the home. Home entertaining has now become an activity that not only few, exclusive circles could do and enjoy. Along with it is the consumption of wine in the home. Ask any host and they’re sure to say that you can never have too many drinks—wine included—when you host a party. Some might even go as far as saying it’s okay to run out of food but not out of drinks. Imbibing wine is an easy way to enliven conversations. Its consumption is now an everyday luxury, and with the easing of the so-called “rules” about wine pairing, the drink is also now less intimidating and stiff than it was previously believed to be. At least, it should be. While many, for good reason, still adhere to the red-with-red and white-with-white guideline, many enthusiasts and even some professionals, vintners, and restaurants encourage people to experiment pairing different wines with whatever suits their tastes.
Despite the new openness about wine pairings, one thing that remains unchanged is the importance of using the right stemware for different types of wine. Some say you only truly need two types of glasses, while others say it’s better to use a specific glass for each type of drink. The glass material notwithstanding, there are generally four types of wine glasses: red, white, sparkling, and dessert.
Red wines have stronger flavors and aromas compared to white wines, and the proper stemware reflects this. Typically, red wine glasses have fuller, rounder bowls to allow more air to come into contact with the wine. The larger opening also allows the drinker to better note the wine’s aroma.
Among the red wine glasses, there are still several types such as the Bordeaux glass, designed for heavier red wines like Cabernet and Merlot. This type of glass is taller, which better directs the wine to the back or center of the mouth.
A Burgundy glass, on the other hand, is better suited for lighter, full-bodied wines like Pinot Noir. Though shorter than Bordeaux glasses, Burgundy glasses have larger bowls to direct the wine to the tip of the tongue where the more delicate flavors can be tasted.
White wines are lighter and typically served colder than red wines, thus calling for taller glasses with longer stems and bowls smaller than the red varieties.
There are also several types of glasses for white wines of varying maturities. Younger white wines are best served in glasses with slightly larger openings, as these will better direct the wine to the sides of the tongue, emphasizing its fresh, sweet taste. Straighter, taller glasses on the other hand are preferred for more mature whites, as they enhance the wine’s bolder flavors. The Chardonnay glass, with its namesake wine, is a good example.
Sparkling and Dessert
Champagne has been a symbol of luxury and celebration for centuries. Wines from the French region of Champagne had originally been offered in tribute to kings by the French aristocrats, until the so-called “méthode champenoise” or the traditional method of producing sparkling wine was introduced. Through this method, blended wine undergoes a second fermentation as it is mixed with yeast and sugar then stored. During this process, carbon dioxide is formed, which is what gives Champagne its “sparkle.”
Champagnes, or sparkling wines, require their own set of glasses. The most common Champagne glass, the flute is tall and slender so as to retain the drink’s carbonation. Its shape also allows the bubbles to be concentrated at the tip of the tongue, while also directing the scent of the sparkling wine faster.
Meanwhile, dessert wines, as the name suggests, are sweet but also have higher alcohol content. These types of wines are served in smaller glasses with narrower bowls, which help direct the wine to the back of the mouth so as to keep the wine’s sweetness from overwhelming the palate.
There are a dozen other types of glasses in varying shapes, forms, and sizes, each designed with a particular drink in mind. Choosing the right stemware may be tedious, but it isn’t just about making a statement. It’s any host’s commitment to make sure their guests are served the right taste.