In Love With The Shape Of You
Few know how dramatically a wine glass’ shape can impact its quality and the overall drinking experience
By Vinita Bhatia
There is something to be said about most sommeliers. They make something very pleasurable like enjoying a glass of wine come across like a complex, formulaic exercise. But does is have to be as complex as that?
Well, not exactly. While the jury is still out (and will probably be there for a while) about the varieties of aromas and bouquets involved in making a great wine, there are other aspects that go a long way in showcasing a wine in all its glory, like the glass it is served in.
Since this is a natural beverage that evolves with time, it is important to drink wine from the right glass as the nuances of various wines change depending on its shape and size. The choice of the right glass can actually make or break the wine savouring experience. To truly experience every nuance of wine drinking, it must be enjoyed at the right temperature, in the right glass.
A MATURING MARKET
Till a few years ago, not many Indians knew that the shape of a wine glass could impact its quality. According to sommelier Nikhil Agarwal, director, All Things Nice, this realisation is now gaining ground. “While we are getting there, a lot of catch up needs to take place. Glass suppliers and wine companies need to educate consumers more about the importance of glassware,” he exhorted.
There is a lot of science involved in the design of a wine glass. Everything from the base of the glass to its rim is well thought and customised, based on the wine that will be served in it.
According to Pesi Engineer, GM, India, Zwiesel Kristallglas AG, India Liasion Office, the creation of the glass starts in the minds of a company’s designer who consults with various sommeliers. These glassmakers then translate the work of the designers into dimensioned drawings with sectional presentations and make the resulting mould.
“Mould making is an art by itself and at Zwiesel Kristallglas factories, the mould maker uses his free hand and a tuner to shape the damp beech. Glass is then blown into these two-piece moulds. With skill and apparent ease, the glassmaker intuits the precise time to blow into the tube to form the glass in a wet mould. Subsequent heating of the goblet tip to a high enough temperature, the stem is then pulled. As simple as this sounds, only experienced glass makers succeed here since the process is mostly done by hand and with basic tools. The final glass is shaped then checked against a stencil outline and cooled. Only a well-rehearsed team of five glassmakers, who always work in a team and will not function with any substitutes, can accomplish these complex and highly precise moves,” Engineer added.
Talking about the physical structure of the glass, Abhas Saxena, sommelier, The Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai pointed out that the base is responsible for the glass not tipping—so the sturdier the base, the less chances of spillage. The stem of the glass is designed to hold the glass. “If the glass is held by the bowl then the wine gets warmer faster because of the body temperature coming in contact for elongated time periods. The other purpose of the stem is to also avoid getting the hand to be close to the rim of the glass. With all sorts of scents that fingers carry (fragrant soaps, hand lotions or perfumes), it is better to keep the hand away from the rim where the wine’s real aromas can be overpowered or masked by the ancillary aroma from hands,” Saxena explained.
The glass’ bowl is where the wine rests. The bigger it is, the bigger the rim, which gives the wine enough space to swirl. Also, when the wine is swirled it creates a central vortex where all the major aromas and flavours are concentrated.
“When the nose is put into the glass after a swirl, a concentrated set of notes come straight out. A bigger surface area is good to get maximum volatile compounds responsible for aromas to be released. The rim of the glass is equally significant. This is where the wine meets the palate. The rim should ideally be as thin as possible to make the transition of wine from glass to the palate is smooth,” Saxena explained.
There are several types of wine glasses available with more options being added. The effect is a wide variety that can make it quite perplexing to choose the right one.
Saxena recommended that one keep in mind some simple facts. Wine glasses can be categorised based on the make, varietal, style, etc. Though majority of glasses available in India is machine made, the handmade versions the ones that are most sought after.
“The various varietal specific glasses are based on the shapes and their aesthetic appeal rather the salability of the wine varietal. The popularity of the wine style is not a major driver for the permeability of the glass style in the market yet. The key varietal-based glasses that are readily available in various lifestyle stores are cabernet, burgundy and Riesling glasses,” he added.
There are some brands that are more popular than the rest, largely because they have their own market segment that they operate in. Indian Hotels Company Ltd, for instance, works with bulk producers like Ocean Glass that is available across the country, as well as Zalto, which is available online. “But what is really pocket friendly and doesn’t take away the finesse or the quality away from the glass are brands like Riedel, Schott Zweisel, Spiegelau, Nachtmann, etc. These wine glasses are becoming very popular with the masses as well and are reaching glass racks of homes of wines lovers all over the country,” Saxena pointed out.
Agarwal concurred with him. “I think Ocean Madison Series is perhaps the most used because of their efficient cost and durability in terms of HORECA usage. For the top end, the prominent brands we see around is Schott Zwiesl, Spieglau, Eisch and to some extent in very select restaurants and homes – Riedel. Lucaris is focusing on India now and you will certainly see a lot of them,” he added.
After understanding the complex intrigues that go into the creation of a wine glass, the pleasure of drinking definitely increases manifold.