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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Wednesday, December 5, 2001

Glassware size, shape make big difference

Vintages: Glut of high-quality wines brings long-awaited price drop

By Randal Caparoso

If you're drinking more wine at home and haven't yet invested in good glassware, now's the time. I've tasted wines from zillions of different containers, and I'm here to tell you that choice of glass does make a difference. A huge difference. Everyone knows that wine glasses properly come with a stem, are crystal clear for visual pleasure, and are curved inward to allow the nose to better enjoy the aromas collecting just below the rim.

But size and shape also matter. Generally speaking, white wines taste best in 12- to 14-ounce glasses that have that graceful tulip shape. You can drink red wines from the same glass, but they'll taste even better in glasses that are as big as 16, 18, even up to 30 ounces in size because bigger bowls only increase the depth and intensity of aroma; and the more you can smell, the more flavor you taste on the palate. If you doubt it, do a comparison at home or in the next fine restaurant you go to. I guarantee you'll taste the difference.

Although oversized tulips do just fine, a lot of red wine lovers prefer a rounder, bowl-shaped glass. The bowl shape allows red wine to enter the palate at the very tip of the tongue, and it's there that most of your taste buds sensitive to sensations of sweetness are located. So with bowl shapes, your red wines end up tasting softer and fruitier; especially good if you're drinking more expensive, heavy red wines that are loaded down with hard, even bitter, tannins.

Riedel Crystal was a pioneer of these types of oversized glasses (the 22-ounce Riedel Vinum "Syrah" is my favorite all-purpose wine glass). But you don't have to spend $15 to $65 per glass for Riedel. There are plenty of good-sized, economically priced alternatives available in any of the kitchen supply stores.

The bottom line is: If you are still drinking wine in thimble-sized, thick-rimmed glasses with very little curvature, you are only depriving yourself of more pleasure. Life's too short for lousy wine glasses!