The Difference a Good Wine Glass Can Make
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The Difference a Good Wine Glass Can Make

The stem is there for a reason.

From left to right: Aromatic White, Burgundy and Bordeaux Wine Glasses.

From left to right: Aromatic White, Burgundy and Bordeaux Wine Glasses.

What’s in a glass? We all know what a typical wine glass looks like, but seldom do we ask ourselves why we bother serving wine in a glass with a long stem. Spoiler alert: it’s not just to look classy.

Together with Torontoist beer columnist Robin LeBlanc, I explain the difference a good wine glass can make.

When drinking wine, temperature is key. Your glass should prevent the wine from getting warmed up by your hands. So, if you’re someone who likes to grab your glass by the top end: you’re doing it wrong.

Wine glasses are that different shapes and sizes will also have an effect on what you are drinking. As Robin immediately noted, wine glasses take up a lot of space. Though I have dedicated an entire cupboard to a growing collection of wine glasses, not everyone has the room.

Any sophisticated wine drinker should have three different glasses in their collection: aromatic white, burgundy, and bordeaux glasses. Picking out wine glasses, however, can be as complicated as reading a wine label itself. You can pick up a different wine glass to match nearly every common varietal on the LCBO shelves.

Here’s how the three glasses differ:

Aromatic white: These glasses work for unoaked, straightforward white and rosé wines. These wines are the easiest to serve and can go straight from bottle to glass. A good glass will narrow slightly toward the top of the glass to trap some of the aromas.

Burgundy: This glass is shaped like a fish bowl. The large bowl and narrow opening at the top of the glass helps to keep the subtle aromas in the glass. The bowl also exposes the wine to oxygen, which allows the flavour to fully open up. If you’re a fan of pinot noir or chardonnay, these glasses are worth the investment.

Bordeaux: These are for full-bodied red wines. Exposure to air helps the tannin in the wine relax and makes it smoother to drink. The reason you see people swirling their wine in the glass is to give it exposure to air and to help unlock all the flavours.

My personal favourite glasses come from a company called Schott Zwiesel. They make their crystal glasses infused with titanium, which makes them more durable. You can also get great deals on wine glasses at Homesense or Winners. And always use a glass with a stem.

Here are the wines we used to see what difference they make in different wine glasses:

2013 Kim Crawford Small Parcels Wild Grace Chardonnay – Vintages 378604 – $24.95 – ****

This wine took me for a loop with our wine glasses. It definitely tasted best in a bordeaux glass —not a burgundy—which is not what I was expecting. There is a lot of oak on this wine, and even though it’s from New Zealand, it feels like it’s trying to be Californian. When poured into a white wine glass, the oak flavours overpowered the wine, and in a glass with a larger bowl it began to smell like popcorn with apple. But even more important than the glass is serving temperature: this wine is ideal a few degrees below room temperature. Any colder, and, regardless of wine glass, it will taste and smell like popsicle sticks.

2013 Meiomi Chardonnay – Vintages 410712 – $26.95 – ****+

This wine is textbook Californian chardonnay, and tasted great in all three glasses, with notes of citrus and pineapple layered over vanilla. It has a perfect balance between the natural fruit flavours from ripe fruit, smoke, and vanilla from the barrel. Once this wine was put in the burgundy glass it was like having a photograph snap into focus.

2014 Jackson Triggs Black Label Meritage – LCBO 526228 – $13.95 – ***1/2

From a cooler Ontario vintage, there are strong savoury notes that peek out over ripe fruit flavours. When I tasted this wine in the white wine glass, it amplified a bell pepper note. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but wines with savoury flavours tend to pair better with food. When the wine moved to a glass with a larger bowl the savory note was still there, but much more balanced with ripe raspberry, cherry, and blackberry fruit. There is nothing complex about this wine. It’s straightforward, easy drinking, and likely won’t be set aside in many wine cellars. This wine will taste good in any wine glass.

2008 Megalomaniac Cabernet Franc Proprietor’s Reserve – (Sold Out) – $44.95 – ****+

If you like full-bodied reds, you will want to make sure you’ve got bordeaux glasses. There is something classy about having a giant piece of glass in your hand so you can swirl you wine to unlock the flavours in the glass. The nose and flavours on this wine are more like raisin than the raspberry and blackberry it once evoked. Given that this was an older wine when it moved to the bordeaux glass, the subtle fruit flavours that were still present were amplified perfectly.


For some wines where you definitely don’t need to worry about your stemware here are couple that will be available at Vintages tomorrow:

2013 Nk’Mip Qwam Qwmt Chardonnay – Vintages 391813 – $24.95 – ****+

This is a bold and buttery chardonnay that just screams warm summer in a glass. Make sure you don’t serve this too cold or the strong oak pressence in the glass will overpower the wine. This is meant to be served a little below room temperature; 30 minutes to an hour in a fridge before serving should do the trick. The nose offers up applesauce with spice notes over the orchard fruit. The flavours of the wine match the nose with vanilla tossed into the mix on the finish. This chardonnay punched out of its weight class in terms of dollar to value, and will make a perfect match to creamy pasta or fried fish.

2012 Wildass Red – Vintages 86363 – $19.95 – ****+

This wine is an incredible value and will be a staple in my house for the spring and summer. The nose offers up cherry, strawberry, and raspberry, but has hints of smoke to let you know that it is a “serious” wine. The ripe fruit flavours from the nose are matched on the palate with the addition of vanilla and hints of smoke on the finish. This wine is dangerously smooth on the finish and is begging to be paired with any red meat you can put on a grill. You could buy a few bottles to put in a cellar to see how this will develop, but that’s optional.