When you consider all the elements that go into a great wine experience, the vessel you drink it from is probably last on the list. This story might change that.
“I went to a wine tasting in 1998 and we were shown two wines but tasted both blind,” says Steve Dundon, national sales manager for boutique SA winery Sidewood Estate. “We [examined] them side by side and wrote tasting notes. The second wine showed better – different characteristics, more aromatics, more fruit sweetness. All these things were more pronounced. [But] at the end of the tasting it was revealed they were actually the same wine.”
The differences Dundon perceived were down to one change: they were served in different glasses.
Eralde Felix, wine merchant at Dan Murphy’s Kew, has a similar tale. Not of the differences in one wine, but the nuances of respecting it.
“I was working in a restaurant in Spain where I was studying to get a better understanding about beverages,” he says. “A customer asked for a vintage champagne from the list. I consulted with my boss and mentor at the time. He suggested setting the table with white wine glassware instead of the traditional flute or tulip shape. I thought, ‘Why?’ He looked me in the eye and said, 'When a champagne reaches a certain age, it becomes more vinous [has more of a white wine character profile]. This is why’.” With Sidewood Estate’s Adelaide Hills chardonnay a winner in the Dan Murphy’s Decoded Wine Awards, we asked Dundon for a refresher on the best glasses to drink great wine from – and why.
Glasses are different because of you (and your tongue)
“The actual shape and receptors of the tongue is the main reason why decent glassware deserves its price tag,” says Dundon. “The front of the tongue has all the receptors for sweetness. Bitterness is at the very back. Saltiness and sourness on the sides.” He says standard pub wine glasses usually have a lip that folds in on itself, which makes them stronger. “So when you sip [from the glass], it doesn’t come straight off the edge it disperses to the sides. That’s important [because] instead of the wine hitting the front of the tongue when you drink – where the sweetness receptors are – it gets distributed to the side.”
Cheaper glassware introduces the possibility your wine is hitting the tongue in a way that emphasises unintended flavours. More premium glassware, like Riedel or Spiegelau, has a finer edge, allowing a more even distribution of the wine over the tongue.
There’s not much need for a flute
“In the case of pinot noir and chardonnay, it makes sense to have what’s called a bowl shape,” says Dundon. “That allows you to swirl the wine, which awakens it and concentrates the smell at the lip of the glass. In the case of shiraz, the wines are a bit more tannic and so dryer on the palate. So that tends to [lend itself] to a narrower and taller glass.”
The same is true of essentially every wine style. However, fans of the champagne flute may wish to look away now.
“I worked for 20 years in champagne and I despise the wine flute,” says Dundon. “Champagne and great sparkling wines are almost always made from two principal varieties: pinot noir and chardonnay. So why would you use big, beautiful bowl glasses for pinot noir and chardonnay but when you put bubbles into it you all of a sudden have to reinvent the glass? It makes no sense.”
How you hold your glass makes a huge difference
While Dundon has no problem with swish-looking stemless glassware, holding a glass by the bowl can cause the wine to warm. And that’s not always ideal, particularly if the wine isn’t cold to start with.
“When a wine warms the alcohol esters tend to come and show first [on the tongue],” says Dundon. “So instead of getting fruit, you’re getting alcohol.” On the other hand, if you’re thinking about popping your glass in the fridge, keep in mind you might end up preventing that wine from showing any of its aromatics at all. “You’re also doing the wine an injustice because you won’t get any aromatics out of it,” says Dundon. “All you’re getting is almost all acid and no fruit whatsoever.”
There’s one glass that works (pretty well) for all wine
For most of us, the idea of having a glass for each type of wine is overkill. Even the Steve Dundons of the world know that investing in a great all-rounder is the best option for most drinkers.
“The all-rounder is a general [style] I would call a shiraz glass,” says Dundon. “Basically that’s a versatile wine glass with a stem that has a decent bowl on it with a very fine lip. The opening of the glass narrows at the top to concentrate the aromatics. And generally, if you have a look at the shape of wine glasses for sangiovese, shiraz and cabernet, they’re all quite similar.” As Dundon says, it’s the quality of the glass – the lip and the edge – that makes the biggest difference.
Now you know how to get the best out of your wine, start exploring with the the full list of finalists and winners of the Dan Murphy’s Decoded Wine Awards. It’s categorised by style – not varietal – so it’s easy to find something new to try.
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Dan Murphy’s.