What’s up, glass?
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What’s up, glass?

The world of wine glasses is as complicated as that of the drink itself. Does one use the bigger glasses for white wines or for reds? Girija Duggal is intrigued by a few questions...

india Updated: Apr 24, 2009 19:01 IST
Tavern talk | Girija Duggal

The world of wine glasses is as complicated as that of the drink itself. Does one use the bigger glasses for white wines or for reds? Small-bowled red wine glasses for Bordeaux or for Burgundy? And why are there different sizes in the first place, anyway? Those were the questions that plagued me when I was introduced to the world of wines.

‘Another example of upper crust snootiness’, thought I. As it turned out, there actually is some logic to this variety of shapes and sizes, not only with wine but with glassware across the bar…er…board.

Consider the mind-boggling range of glassware first. There’re elegant champagne flutes and squat brandy snifters, martini glasses and coupettes, highballs for mixed drinks and lowballs for stirred cocktails on the rocks, 25-50 ml shot glasses and huge 400-2000 ml beer mugs. Some have alternative names, like highball (also Collins/Slim Jim), martini glass (cocktail glass/martini saucer), and old fashioned (or rocks). And the final straw — some, like beer and wine glasses, actually boast sub-species or sub-sub-species!

The shape and size of the ‘right’ glass helps to bring out the entire bouquet of flavours and aromas of the alcohol, optimises one’s enjoyment of the drink, or just enhances its presentation. Hence, red wines are served in long-stemmed glasses with large, round bowls —the space allows for greater contact with air and helps release all the flavours of the wine. White wine glasses have smaller bowls that taper towards the top, helping contain the subtle aromas and keeping the wine cool for longer.

Brandy snifters, unlike wine glasses, have stubby stems that allow direct contact with the flat of the palm — this warms up the liquid faster. In beer, the slender, tall pilsner showcases the colour and clarity of the light Pilsner-style beer and helps maintain a good head, while the Weizen gives space for large, thick heads that wheat beer produces.

Thankfully, there’s no need to get into a tangle over alcohol glassware; a home bar can cheerily get along on a few basic types. Lowballs, mugs or pilsners, red and white wine glasses, and perhaps a pair of highballs and snifters are good enough. The aim, after all, is to hold a liquid elegantly, raise a toast and gulp it down!

First Published: Apr 24, 2009 18:11 IST