The beauty of wine is that it is all different. Each has its own color, flavor profile, body, nose, notes, tannin levels and finish. The experience of each is taken into consideration when a really fine crystal wine glass is crafted. The size, shape, lip–everything-about the glass is researched so that type of wine is experienced to its greatest potential. An excellent example of the concept of form following function in wine glasses is the difference between Bordeaux and Burgundy crystal wine glasses.
Bordeaux Wine Glasses
The glass consists of three parts: bowl, stem and base. There are three variables when creating a wine-specific glass: size, shape and rim diameter. Bordeaux-specific wine glasses typically have a large, tall bowl. A perfect example would be the impressive Riedel Sommeliers series Bordeaux wine glass for reds (there are many other fine crystal manufacturers that make wine-specific glasses, but for the purpose of this article I’m using one of my personal favorites). It is a simple, unadorned-yet-elegant glass engineered specifically for the heavier reds of the Bordeaux region of France (or their international counterparts), which produces not only the varietal, but also the many blends that include Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Carbernet Franc and Petite Verdot grapes.
The large bowl of the Bordeaux-specific glass provides ample surface area for the full-bodied reds to be swirled to aerate and open up the nose of the wine and evaporate alcohol, taking into account the interaction of the fruits, minerals, acids, tannins and alcohol of the wine. The tall height of the bowl allows for the optimal amount of oxygen to fill the glass and enable the person drinking it to experience a heightened sense of the aroma, or bouquet. The cut rim allows the wine to direct smoothly onto the center of the tongue, creating the perfect balance of fruit, tannin and acidity.
Burgundy Wine Glasses
The Burgundy region of France produces its wine primarily using the Pinot Noir varietal. Actually, 90% of the wine produced in the region is made with Pinot Noir grapes, which are very fragrant and alluring. Again, using the example of the Riedel Sommeliers Burgundy glass, the notably wide, large bowl serves the purpose of aerating and opening up the nose of the wine, while also allowing alcohol to evaporate. This causes the aroma of the wine to rise to the nose of the taster, enhancing the experience of the complex aromatics. The cut rim of this red Burgundy wine glass flares out slightly, to allow the wine to flow to the tip of the tongue. Burgundy is generally higher in acid, and the placement of the tip of the tongue accentuates the sweetness of the wine.
Whether you are a fan of red wines such as the Bordeaux or Burgundy used in this example of wine-specific crystal wine glasses, or if you prefer white wine, you should experiment with wine glasses made for use with a certain wine variety. It is extremely interesting to discover how the same wine can taste completely different using different glasses. This is actually a really entertaining type of wine tasting you can do with your friends and neighbors–I personally enjoy doing it a great deal because it never ceases to amaze me how some very innovative crystal manufacturers have understood the concept of form following function and exhausted themselves, through trial and error, to perfect it.