Picking the right glass for drinking wine

GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. -- Many of us tend to drink all of our wine out of the same type of glass. But local sommelier Leslee Miller fromAmusee Wine says the glass really does make a difference in how a particular wine tastes. She explained that the shape of the wine glass determines the path the wine takes through your mouth and which taste buds the wine reaches.

Although wine glasses can be traced back to the 1500s, the science of glass shape goes back to the 1950s when the now-popular Riedel family did major research on the palate and how wine was best emphasized. Today, Riedel glasses are sold in shops across the world and they are known as the experts in their field. They found that there are four areas of the tongue that sense the wine: Sweet in the front, acid/salty in the middle, minerality in the back and acidity on the sides.

While Leslee has a countless number of glasses, each awaiting a pour from a specific bottle, there are two main shapes that the average wine drinker should know about. And as I learned, it's way more than just a red glass and a white glass.

The globe shaped glass that we typically think of for red wines is called a Burgundy and is great for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. It directs the wine to a wider path through your mouth, letting it hit the sides of your tongue that sense the wine's acidity.

But on the other hand, Cabernet, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc should be fully enjoyed from a taller and narrower wine glass - think the typical white wine glass - called a Bordeaux shape. This encourages the wine to take a path straight from the front of your mouth to the back, skipping the more acidic taste buds on the side. It pulls from the sweet taste sensors on the tip of your tongue and then pulls through what Leslee calls the minerality of the wine from the back of your tongue (where the bumpy part is).

Before meeting Leslee, I didn't know much about how the wine glasses shape affected the taste of the wine. But I first sampled a Cabernet from its correctly shaped glass (tall and narrow) and it tasted great... sweet and smooth. Then I sampled the same wine from a globe shaped glass (the one that takes the wine on a journey to the land of acidity). It tasted horrible compared to the first glass. I would have guessed it was a completely different bottle!

I did the same test with a Pinot Grigio and was equally amazed.

Bottom line: I'm a believer in properly picking the wine glass based on the grape and not the color of the wine. Whether or not a glass has a stem is not important. That's personal style preference. (I love the stem-less glasses because they give off a much more casual vibe, in my opinion.)

Here's Leslee's quick list for pairing wines to their proper glass:

Burgundy glass
Pinot Noir

Bordeaux glass
Petit Verdot
Cabernet Franc
Pinot Grigio
Sauvignon Blanc


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