Wine glasses have the same basic structure despite the wide variety of variants. They consist of foot, stem and goblet. The space between poured wine and the upper edge of the glass is called the chimney. The biggest difference is the shape of the goblet. The more bulbous the goblet, the larger the surface of the liquid. And the longer or higher the chimney, the greater the volume. The larger the surface and the volume, the more intensive the fragrances can unfold. There are also wine glasses without stem, some with handle. Such are accepted by purists only for drinking water or for simple draught wines. To drink a Grand Vin from Bordeaux from such a glass would be a sacrilege, so to speak. But the fact is that they are very popular, especially in southern countries. As a consequence, classic wine glasses are assumed.
The choice of the right glasses is almost as important for optimal wine enjoyment as the right wine temperature. The guideline is to use generously proportioned glasses with the goblet tapering upwards to capture the aroma and bouquet of the wine in the goblet. This applies to most wines with a few exceptions. For an acidic wine, you can also use a glass whose bowl widens slightly at the top. White wine glasses usually have a relatively small volume so that the wine does not heat up so quickly. Red wine glasses are large-volume, the large surface area allows the wine to absorb more oxygen and develop its bouquet better. This phenomenon, however, is mainly dependent on the optimal ratio between surface area and volume. Such glasses are also called Bordeaux glasses.
Sweet wine and dessert wine glasses are considerably smaller than other wine glasses, and usually no more than 0.1 litre is poured (i.e. not even one eighth of a litre). The goblet is much slimmer than in glasses for dry wines. But here too, the goblet is tapered upwards to direct the sweetness to the tip of the tongue, where the specially developed taste buds are located and the sweetness can be best perceived. In order to represent the personality of the grape variety and the character of the wine, the right shape of the glass must be chosen. The shape of the glass is therefore responsible for the optimal flow of the wine from the glass into the mouth. In this way the wine is directed to the relevant taste zones of the tongue.
The way the wine touches the tongue (narrow, wide, front or back) is determined by the shape, volume and diameter of the mouth rim and its texture (rolled rim, grinding rim). The individual taste of a wine is best perceived when it meets the area of the tongue that is particularly sensitive to it. For sweet this is the tip of the tongue, for salty the front and for sour the back of the tongue (left and right), and for bitter the upper surface of the tongue in the back. The first impression is the most important. All taste sensors are activated, right up to the aftertaste.
The alcohol content, the acids, the residual sugar or all substances summarized under total extract are elementary components of every wine. The task of the glass is to present the wine harmoniously. The shape of the goblet determines whether the aroma can concentrate and how the wine is distributed on the tongue and palate. The wine flows in a narrow stream onto the tongue and first of all reaches the tip of the tongue. When tasting, do not overfill the mouth, spread the wine throughout the mouth and allow the taste to linger a little longer when swallowing. For professional wine evaluations, special tasting glasses are used, which are also available in black, so that you can fully rely on your palate and nose.
When cleaning, care must be taken to ensure that no foreign odours enter the glass. Lead crystal glasses are particularly susceptible to this. This can happen relatively easily when using a dishwashing detergent, for example, if residues of the perfume substances remain in the glass. When cleaning, care must also be taken to ensure that rancid grease residues that are not in the dishcloth cause unpleasant damage. At best, only hot water should be used for cleaning and fresh paper towels for drying. But even water or mineral water can cause a negative sensory impact if it is very calcareous. At professional tastings, the cleaning is done by vinification, i.e. rinsing with the next wine. Also during storage, care must be taken to ensure that no odorous substances from the environment get into the glass. These can be furniture polishes or freshly coloured surfaces, which can contain intensive fragrances.
A new development is the so-called "breathable glass". If you believe the producers, a wine reaches the full development of its aromas after only two to four minutes. The special glass greatly accelerates the reaction of the wine with atmospheric oxygen, which takes place anyway. This effect is conventionally only possible by decanting for one to two hours. Reinhard Conradt, Professor at the Chair of Glass and Ceramic Composites at RWTH Aachen University, believes that a conventional scientific explanation is obvious. In his opinion, the glass could contain surface-active elements such as zinc, which cause increased oxygen transport along the contact surface between glass and wine. The term "breathing glass" should not be taken literally.
The latest trend is "square" glasses. The goblet has a "kink" compared to the conventional glasses with a roundish-oval shape. Studies have shown that this allows more precise aromas and taste components to be elicited from the wine, with particular emphasis on finesse and minerality. However, weaknesses and wine faults also become more apparent. Such glasses are therefore called "analytical". This glass form is produced by the Zalto company under the brand name "Denk'Art", named after the Austrian "wine priest" Hans Denk. Well known wine glass brands are Eisch, Leonardo, Lobmeyer, Oneforall, Orrefors, Riedel, Stölzle, Zalto and Zwiesel. As the latest achievement, some producers fill certain wines into ready-to-drink wine glasses. This form is called ready-to-drink.
See also the keywords Bordeaux Glass and Burgundy Glass (red wine glasses), Caña and Catavino (sherry glasses), Champagne Glass, Cocktail, Cognac Glass, Port Wine Glass, as well as a complete list of all glass shapes and glass designations under the keyword Wine Vessels.