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Why Should You Use a Proper Wine Glass for Serving Wine?



A large part of enjoying wine lies in savoring its aroma. The wine glass has to gather the wine’s aroma so you can savor it when you drink.

If you use a regular mug and fill it to the brim, all the characteristic vapors of the wine will be gone by the time you start to sip.

But, there’s more to it than just enjoying the wine’s aroma.

First, let’s step back to see how the modern wine glass came to be.

A Brief History of the Wine Glass

The earliest form of wine glasses are believed to be the silver and pottery goblets used by the Romans in the third century.

The wine glass that you know today, with the base, stem, and bowl, originated in the 1400s in Venice, Italy, where some of the best glass makers were centered.

But it was Claus Riedel in the 20th century, who was the first to acknowledge the correlation between the wine’s taste and the wine glass shape. He launched the first series of glasses designed to suit a wine’s character.

Since then, the wine glass has evolved to suit the different shapes and styles to suit the character of different types of wine, and Riedel continues to be a leading glassware brand.

Wine Glasses: Anatomy and Materials Used

How does a wine glass shape influence the drinking experience?

The wine glass shape is not only meant to collect the wine’s aroma but also influences how much wine flows into your mouth. It determines whether the wine moves across the tongue or spreads to the side.

This can actually make the same wine taste quite different indeed!

Parts of a wine glass

The wine glass can be a machine-blown or handmade glass and has these four parts, from bottom to top:

1. Foot

This is the flat base section of the glass that will hold the glass upright on your dining table. A small foot can make the champagne glass imbalanced, and the glass will easily topple on your dining tables. Too large a foot might get stuck under your platters and flatware or tableware.

2. Stem

The stem is the thin, neck section where you usually hold the wine glass or stemware. Holding it there prevents you from heating the wine with your fingers. It also keeps you from smudging the bowl with your fingerprints.

3. Bowl

The bowl is where you’ll see the most variation in wine glasses. The opening will usually be smaller than the shoulder (widest part of the bowl). This shape captures the aroma of the wine.

The bowl’s width determines the surface area of the wine. Some wines should be allowed to “breathe” more than others — this is typical of aged reds with intense, complex aromas.

4. Rim

The thinness of the rim can affect how you perceive the wine’s taste. A glass with a thin rim is much better than a thick rim glass, as it’ll let the wine flow smoothly into your mouth.

Wine glass materials

Wine glasses can be made of many different materials. While glass and crystal are the most common, alternate materials like acrylic and silicone are also used.

1. Soda-lime glass

Most glasses are of the soda-lime variety. It’s the same type of glass you’ll find on your window panes or food jars.

When used for wine glasses, it has the advantage of being more affordable than crystal. It’s inert and nonporous, meaning it won’t absorb chemical aromas, so it’s always dishwasher safe. That said, soda-lime wine glasses will tend to be thicker than crystal stemware and are more durable.

2. Crystal

Crystal wine glasses contain 2-30% of added minerals, which is its primary difference from regular whiskey glasses. Those minerals could be lead, magnesium, or zinc, allowing the crystal to be spun much thinner than glass but still retain structural strength.

Crystal glassware also refracts light better, making your wine look sparkly in the glass.

However, the addition of minerals to the crystal makes it porous and not always dishwasher safe.

You also have the option of leaded vs. lead-free crystal stemware:

Historically, all crystal glasses had lead added, and many still do. Leaded crystal wine glasses are safe, as your wine won’t stay long enough in the glass for the lead to leach into it.

But some glass manufacturers have moved to lead-free crystal because of the potential health concerns (like storing liquor in a leaded decanter for a longer period).

Lead-free crystal glasses typically have magnesium or zinc additions and are usually dishwasher safe.

Manufacturers like Schott Zwiesel have gone a step further, patenting a crystal called Tritan®, which has infused titanium and zirconium. This makes a highly break-resistant lead-free glass.

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