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You're Drinking Wine Wrong — Here's How To Fix It

Riedel gives us the inside scoop.

You're Drinking Wine Wrong -- Here's How To Fix It
Photographed by Genevieve Garruppo.

Most of my friends know that I'm a bit more obsessed with wine than the average person. It's my drink of choice while out to dinner, I always have a few bottles at home, and touring vineyards is one of my favorite things to do. Heck, I even took a full course on how it's made back in college (thank you studying abroad). So when I did a tasting with Riedel recently, I was surprised to learn that I have been drinking wine wrong this entire time.

While I know how Chardonnay goes through malolactic fermentation and can usually pick up on varietals from a sip, I never thought to consider how my glass was affecting the taste and aromas of the wine I was drinking. That is, until I tried the same blend in a variety of Performance glasses from Riedel. Each one was designed specifically to be used with a different popular wine varietal. I poured some Pinot Noir into them all and it tasted different out of every. single. one. Yet in the glass designed for the grape, it was clearly the most delicious and aromatic experience.

As I was bewildered by this new revelation, I had to learn more. So I asked Maximilian Riedel, the 11th generation president & CEO of the glassware company, to teach me why picking out the right glass is so important. Read ahead to learn why what you serve your wine in really matters.

You're Drinking Wine Wrong -- Here's How To Fix It
Courtesy of Riedel.

Lonny: Why is it so important for us to consider what kind of glass we are drinking wine out of?

Maximilian Riedel: Wine glasses are incredibly important to the wine-drinking experience, showcasing a wines aromas, flavors, and true color, which can be changed by the shape, texture, and color of a glass. Clear, crystal wine glasses are most ideal, as color distorts the visual appearance of wine. Size is important as wine requires breathing room to express aromas, one of the most important components in experiencing any wine. Shape allows for wine to be delivered to the proper area of the palate, therefore effecting the flavor perception of a wine. All of these factors correlate to the glassware choice, so the right choice is imperative to a good glass of wine.

How does glass shape determine how a wine tastes?

M.R.: There are multiple characteristics of glass shape that each affect our perception of a given wine. Larger bowl diameters allow for faster alcohol evaporation, meaning we smell the true fruit flavors of a wine rather than the heat alcohol can give off. A wider rim helps bring oxygen into the glass, helping release aromas.

The shape and angle of the rim determines where the wine is delivered across our palate, changing our perception of its flavors. If a wine’s aroma is subtler, then a tapered rim helps to concentrate the aromas. These details may seem subtle, but they enhance a wine in the way a generic glass may not.  

You're Drinking Wine Wrong -- Here's How To Fix It
Courtesy of Riedel.

What are the biggest mistakes people are making when it comes to choosing a wine glass at home or at restaurants?

M.R.: The biggest mistake I often see is the selection of the wrong shape and size of a glass that in turns stifles the wine served in it. For example, a California Pinot Noir served in a small wine glass does a huge disservice to the wine. This New World-style needs room to breathe and a smaller bowl with a large, restaurant-sized, pour cannot do this. The same can be said for a white wine, specifically an oaked Chardonnay, which similarly needs room to aerate within the glass and poured into too small of a wine glass can dampen the wine.  

When hosting a party and serving multiple types of wine, what kind of glass would you recommend putting out if you are limited to just one?

M.R.: In a situation where only one glass can be served, I would gravitate towards a shape that will be conducive to red, white, and sparkling wines, ideally a mid-sized bowl with a slightly tapered rim. A mid-sized bowl will allow a red wine to aerate and a tapered rim allows the aromas and flavors of a white wine to flourish within the glass. This shape can even work for sparkling wines when in a pinch. Many professionals in the restaurant and winemaking world serve Champagne in white wine glasses to preserve the aromas, flavors, and effervescence of a Champagne or sparkling wine.

You're Drinking Wine Wrong -- Here's How To Fix It
Courtesy of Riedel.

Is there anything else our readers should know about buying wine glasses?

M.R.: My advice in buying glassware is to begin with what you enjoy. If you typically enjoy Rieslings among white wines and Pinot Noir among red wines, I recommend buying glasses for each of these varietals.  I do recommend having glassware for the four most-often consumed wines in the US: Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Pinot Noir, but how large you build out your varietal collection is up to you.

My second piece of advice is, consider your lifestyle: if you have plenty of room and often entertain, you might prefer glasses with long stems, like Riedel’s Veritas or Vinum XL Series. On the other end of the spectrum, if you’ve got toddlers and pets running around the house, or live in a smaller apartment, your lifestyle might be better suited for the stemless Riedel “O” Series, which stack for easy storage space in tight cabinets and gently roll on their sides when tipped to conveniently prevent spills and broken stems!