When you’re first learning to drink, let’s face it you make a lot of funny mistakes. Gin, tequila and beer mixed into a magical potion of youthful ignorance – gross! Eventually (well hopefully) you grow from drinking beer and wine out of Styrofoam cups. Why? Because you know that alcohol elixirs taste much better out of glass. In fact, research shows that knowing the right glass to use for the different types of wine varietals can really enhance your tasting experience. If you’re going to spend all that money on wine, and you’re going to enjoy the incredible amount of work that goes into making every bottle, you might as well choose the right glass.
A research study in February of 2015 by Japanese researchers showed compelling evidence that wine glasses can enhance the tasting experience. That was not the intention of the study but it certainly was the result. The research studied the effects of different glass shapes on ethanol vapors. Ethanol is the aroma that emanates from a glass of wine. The research is important because eighty percent of our taste comes from what we smell, according to other research. So if you enhance your smelling experience, you’re also enhancing your tasting experience.
In the Japanese study, a special camera was used to evaluate ethanol vapors as they left different shaped glasses. The study, found here, demonstrated that wine glasses affected the “nose” of wine and thereby the taste of it.
So with that research in mind, what is the perfect glass for the most popular wine varietals? We’re here to answer that question.
First, some general, basic and perhaps dangerous tips to remember: The fuller-bodied the wine, the larger the wine glass. Many people believe that red wine is more fuller-bodied than white. That is not true. For example, there are fuller bodied Chardonnay wines than Pinot Noirs. The structure, the feel in the mouth and the flavor are all factors in determining how much a wine is full-bodied.
Some of the factors that determine a full-bodied wine are related to the grape itself. A few examples are the thickness of skin in the grape, the pips or seeds of the grape (which are loaded with tannins), and how a grape type reacts environmentally.
But there are other factors that are related to the way the grape was harvested, fermented (such as the yeast used), aged, stored, etc.
So you can’t say a wine is more or less full-bodied based on whether it is white or red. However, most types of wine are made in similar ways and based on that, we can infer to some degree, the extent to which a wine varietal is full-bodied.
By the way, Wine Folly (another blogger) has used the darkness of a wine as a major factor that determines the degree of full-bodiedness, which is helpful. Another helpful hint is to think of lighter-bodied wines as being more water-like than fuller-bodied wines.
Full-body categorizations for wines, in general, can be thought of in three ways: Fuller-, medium- and lighter-bodied wines.
- Examples of fuller-bodied wines are Cabernet Sauvignon, oaked Chardonnay, Malbec, Sangiovese, Gewürztraminer, and Syrah.
- Examples of medium bodied wines are Cabernet Franc, Burgundy, Merlot, Zinfandel, Sangiovese, Chianti, Grenache, Riesling, and a Sauvignon Blanc.
- Examples of lighter-bodied wines are Pinot Noir, Pinot Grigio, Gamay, and a Chablis or un-oaked Chardonnay.
However, how full-bodied a wine is, is not the only contributing factor to which wine glass to choose. The shape of a glass can enhance flavor based on acidity, tannicity, and even sweetness. Glasses can be shaped to allow the wine to reach the appropriate area of your tongue to bring out the best in the wine.
This is a lot to keep in mind. To help you, we have a helpful info-graphic.