Great Stems!

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We wine lovers really enjoy shopping for wine and reviewing the many creative wine labels and prosaic descriptions on the wine bottles. We should have just as much fun shopping for the containers as for the wine we enjoy from them!

Glasses, metal tumblers, ceramic mugs, insulated coolers or paper cups all affect the taste of wine and how it can be enjoyed. There’s a science behind the wine glass that showcases our favorite wines. Not just any tulip-shaped glass will show your wine in its best light.

Why Does It Matter?
An inexpensive wine in a high-quality wine glass will improve in taste, whereas a higher quality wine will not show its best qualities from a regular drinking glass. Why? There are layers in the structure of the wine that are enhanced or diminished by the style and design of the glass. Before you wrinkle your nose, try it with water. Place a quarter cup of water in two very different glasses, such as a tumbler and a large wine glass, and your palate will pick up subtle differences of taste, salinity, chlorination and mouth-feel.

Quality stemware has specific designs to show off its contents. Adding the appropriate high-quality stemware to your cellar will allow you to appreciate your wine collection for years to come.

What to Invest In
What wines do you like? If you enjoy oaked chardonnay or spicy zinfandel, there are characteristics in your stemware that will bring out the best in your wines. White and red wines more nuanced with oak in the production process will open up more easily in a non-cylindrical glass with a larger bowl. Wines with complex tannic structures such as petite sirah blends or layered bouquets such as bordeaux need more room above the wine in the glass. These benefit from an even larger bowl with tall sides to swirl and open up to room temperature.

Begin with a set. A good standard wineglass set for red wine may include a 19- or 20-ounce glass with a 4 inch diameter, about 10 inches from base to opening. For white wines, including sparkling wines, a 13- or 14-ounce glass with a 3 inch diameter, 10 to 11 inches from base to opening, is appropriate. A good set of four or six standard glasses is a small investment into your wine journey.
Stems that have a base as wide as the opening of the glass are very steady on most surfaces and are easy to hold and pour into with the other hand. These also provide healthy exposure for the wine to express itself. Stemless glasses are very popular for ease of use and storage. Used for red wine, the stemless glass allows us to hold the bottom of the glass, warming up for enjoyment. However, keeping white wines chilled in stemless glasses is a bit more challenging.

BPA-, phthalate-, lead- and latex-free should be clearly labeled on the packaging. Crystalline, also known as lead-free crystal, is a pretty substitute for traditional crystal stemware. Stemware molded or created with the bowl and stem together offers a more consistent structure that will better withstand dishwashers, hand washing and hand drying.

Sign up for branded stemware classes and wine seminars at your local wine retailer or winery. In an interactive instructional environment, attendees enjoy sampling wine varietals in specific glasses designed for maximum enjoyment and can purchase additional stemware at rarely discounted rates.

What to Skip
Every season there’s a new glass that promises to do everything short of raising itself to your lips. Stick with tried-and-true styles and wine centric producers to ensure the highest quality shape and consistency and the latest glass technology.

Plastic makes sense around picnic, pool and spa areas, although plastic is porous and tends to “film” from various contents; this can affect the taste of any beverage. Acrylic glasses may be a better choice and last longer with hand washing. They’re good for the picnic basket.

Glasses that are too tall for your shelf or cabinet will not be used. Measure your shelving area for total width, depth and height before you purchase those beautiful Riedel burgundy glasses. Be sure to note measurements of the bowl and stem to avoid unfortunate surprises.

Wine glasses with paint and crystals glued to the glass are adorable and festive, but they usually require additional care and are not meant for frequent use. The quality of the glass typically won’t withstand constant handwashing, unless it’s just for fun. Sometimes you just have to have that 48-ounce wineglass with the big 50 in rhinestones for your special friend’s birthday! Just be sure the care instructions are included. ■

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