We have asked Will Hargrove, our Head of Fine Wine, to shed some light on this interesting topic.
Christmas is the perfect time for decorating the dining table in preparation for the glorious Christmas meal with family and friends. Every element is important, from your choice of crockery to the Christmas crackers… but what about glassware?
At Corney & Barrow we believe wine deserves the right glassware. As well as being a decorative element, a wine glass is more importantly a flavour enhancer. The shape and design of a wine glass can greatly impact your tasting experience. But can it ruin a wine too?
Will joined C&B in 1998 and knows rather a lot about wine! So, we feel there is nobody better placed at C&B to answer our questions. He is known to be quite specific when it comes to glassware… a bit geeky about it, but we like that!
Q.) Will, could you give us your opinion about glassware: does it really matter?
It does, unquestionably, matter. However, there is an incredible variety of choices and shapes out there and it comes down to personal choice after all. As a minimum, you want clean, clear glasses of a decent size that have a thin lip and a stem. The style, the design, and the cost are very personal decisions.
Cleanliness matters for reasons we’ll cover below. A glass should be clear so that you can enjoy the colour of the wine – on occasion this can tell you a fair bit. A decent size is important so that the wine has room to express itself and come out of its shell. A thin lip really matters because it governs how the wine is delivered to your mouth. That does not sound very romantic but even trying water from a thin rim and a thick rim will be quite different. So why a stem? It prevents the glass from getting dirty and it means the temperature of the wine is not affected by a person’s hands.
Q.) Could a glass ruin your wine?
It is quite hard for the shape of a glass to ruin a wine, although a big bold wine in a small glass will mute the character. Conversely, a fragile older wine in a vast glass will be “lost”. Importantly what can go wrong with glasses is how they are cleaned. If detergent is used, or certain dishwashers, then you can sometimes get an issue where a glass smells clean but once the wine is poured into it smells dirty/rank. The way to avoid this is twofold. Firstly, wash glasses with only hot water (always best done the next morning!). Secondly, a technique called “avvinare” where you just pour a little wine into the glass and swill it around to “season” the glass and take away any bad smells. Do not be afraid to ask for a glass to be replaced in a restaurant.
The avvinare method.
Q.) There are many different types of glassware available on the market? Any tips on where to start?
I think if you cover off the points above, the rest of it comes down to your taste. Without being too boringly practical, it is best if the glasses are easy to store and that you can buy extra/replacements relatively easily.
You could also go for any kind of glass called “universal” or “Chianti” by producers. This would be a good way to limit the number of glasses you need to buy and replace. These are usually a good economical solution, not too fancy so should please everybody, and of an average size for any style of wine.
Q.) What advice would you offer our wine enthusiasts when it comes to deciding which shape of glass/es to buy first?
As stated above, I would advise as a first step to buy universal glasses. This is an easy way to try a brand before buying the whole range.
Glassware can be pretty expensive, if your ultimate goal is to get the whole range of specialised glasses – to have a pretty table for Christmas, or simply because you like it – then having the universal as a first step will help you decide the style and design you like before purchasing more.
Q.) Crystal or glass? Does it make a difference?
Again, it is personal preference – crystal can be heavy. What I really recommend trying is drinking from a mouth-blown crystal glass – this is an incomparable experience. The glass will then be so light that it has a minimal impact on the wine. This makes a real difference.
Q.) What is the best glass for champagne and why?
So Champagne is an area where people do get it “wrong”. I say this as flutes are simply too small and narrow and the coupe shape is the opposite with no focus. The ideal glass is the same as for almost any white wine i.e. a standard restaurant glass.
Q.) There is a shortage of crystal glasses at the moment – could you explain why?
Having spoken to different sources this was because during Covid the Austrian regulations (where a lot of the glasses come from) meant that work forces were small to such an extent that they used the opportunity to turn the furnaces off. This is only usually done once a decade with planning and therefore now there is a shortage. As with a lot of things a degree of panic buying/hoarding has exacerbated the problem.
Marquis d’Angerville Lunch, March 2018.
Q.) Is there a specific way you should hold the wine glass and why?
Technically speaking it should be by the stem or the base so as not to affect the temperature of the wine. This also gives you the best view of the colour and keeps the glass clean.
Q.) Do you have a favourite glass shape (and wine to go with it)?
My taste has changed over time and now I would say I want something that combines the minimum requirements and elegance. I do like the Zalto glasses especially the Bordeaux one. For Burgundy and Nebbiolo I love the Sensory glass by Roberto Conterno.