Glasses, noses, and other big deals.


The nose knows…

Quick – what brand of wine glasses do you own?

If you had to think about this for a minute, or simply don’t know, don’t worry – It doesn’t matter.

Who cares if you’re using fine crystal like Riedel or Schott Zwiesel? Maybe you’re vessel of choice is that old, beat-up plexiglas thing you picked up at that garage sale last year. Or maybe you’re stylin’ with those new-fangled “breathable” wine glasses, guaranteed to aerate your wine faster than you can say bull crap. If you’re getting frustrated trying to decide which design, maker, material, etc. to choose from, I’m here to ease your anxiety.

Relax. Breathe (you, not your glass). The one thing you really need to worry about is the size of your glass. And to a lesser extent, its shape and thickness. The biggest mistake people make with their choice of wine glass is using something too small.

So why is bigger better?

Wine wants to breathe, to mingle with the open air and express itself. And it can’t do this when it’s crammed into a itsy bitsy glass the size of a tea cup. This goes for both red and white wine. Think of wine as the subject of the song Don’t fence me in, and that “wide open country” mentioned therein is the inside of your wine glass.

Put simply, your glass needs to be large enough for you to swirl (carefully, carefully) a wine freely, allowing oxygen to mingle with the juice inside of it. This helps release particular esters in the wine and enhances the sensory experiences of both smell and taste. An “ester” is a chemical compound inherent in fruits and other organic matter, and agitating these guys is what you want to do. Many of the deep, complex aromas within a given wine come from these compounds.

It’s also important to mention here that your big glass should have a fairly tapered opening. Having all that volume within the glass is great, but the idea is to release the wine’s aromas without losing all of them too quickly. Avoid the traditional wide mouthed goblets.

So that’s the science of the “bigger is better” argument. But there’s also the case of aesthetics. If you’re gonna’ spend the money on a good bottle of wine, you ought to be able to see the stuff in your glass. A wine’s appearance in a good-sized glass is truly a beautiful thing, and shouldn’t be taken for granted. This is one of the real advantages of a nice crystal glass; the brilliance of the material and the elegance of its design makes an excellent stage for your wine. Compare the appearance of wine through different materials and see for yourself.


Even whites are happier in a big glass

Another aspect of your glass choice to consider is the thickness of the rim. A bulky, thicker rim doesn’t allow you to control the flow of wine into your mouth like a fine, thinner rim will. And most good crystal glasses are designed to direct the wine to particular areas of your palate, thereby enhancing or shielding certain tastes. These are big selling points – and a good reason – to look into crystal glasses.

But what about economics? Crystal glasses are expensive! Not always. You can get some pretty good deals on Riedel, Spiegelau (now owned by Riedel), and others. But they’re way more fragile than normal glass, and it can be traumatic, to say the least, when you break one. If you’re spending forty, even fifty bucks on a single glass, I have to ask: why?

Companies these days are throwing all sorts of crazy marketing at the public, making their case for the holy grail of wine glasses. I came across a website for a glass that was normally $78, but was now at the special price of $54. Per glass. What makes a glass worth such a high price tag? Aaaah, this is the famous “Silhouette” crystal wine glass, a large Bordeaux-shaped glass that has – get this – a notched edge for your nose to comfortably fit into when sniffing. You then rotate the glass around when sipping so your schnoz won’t touch the glass. Hmmm…

Well, you be the judge. Click on this link (you gotta see this…) to watch a video demo of the glass in action.

I’ll give them points for playing Vivaldi throughout the demo and using a hot brunette to show you how it works. And that’s about all I’d give ’em. But maybe this is a good idea, really, for those of us with big honkers. Like me. I started to search through pictures I have of myself and after looking at a dozen or so, I realized one thing’s always consistent: my beak.

Notice, if you will, the hillside that’s attached to my face in these pictures.


I’ve been blessed with what some people call a “Roman nose”. More like a Roman obelisk. But imagine the marketing possibilities! A friend of mine, we’ll call him Jeremy (because that’s his name), came up with the brilliant idea of goggles made specifically for the Jewish schnoz. We were on vacation in Hawaii last year and every time we went snorkeling, he’d come back to the beach wincing in pain from the extra tight fit of his goggles. “They need to design these things for Jews” he announced. “They can call them Jewggles “. We all laughed, but I’m betting he left a lot of money on the table… Think about it. Riedel O’s? Why not Riedel Nose?

What about the wine glass you’re given at a restaurant? Here’s where I become the anal wine snob I try very hard not to be. My thinking is this: if you’re going out to a restaurant with the intention of paying for all the stuff you’ve opted not to deal with at home – setting the table, cooking the food, serving yourself, etc. – then you shouldn’t have to worry about the wine glass your given.

Unfortunately – and amazingly – restaurants are often way off-track with this. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been given a glass that’s too small, filled too much (although, that’s not such a bad thing), or just totally inappropriate for the wine served. Owners do have to worry about the expense of potential breakage, and fine crystal isn’t always viable for them. But for the love of Bacchus, get the size right!

Another friend of mine, we’ll call him Vince (because, well, that’s his name) once had a bunch of the guys over for fight-night. It was more of a beer gathering, but there was plenty of wine there too. One of the guys who was invited showed up with a bottle of wine- and his own wine glass. Now that’s going a little too far. If you’re paying top-dollar out for a meal and they give you a sippy-cup for your wine, you have every right to cause a fuss. But leave your glasses at home.

Well, that’s about enough of that. We could go on and on about all this, and we haven’t even mentioned Champagne flutes, the benefits of crystal material, flared lips, stemless glasses, and so on. Suffice to say, you’ve got lots of options. But the important thing to remember here is, like my nose, bigger really is better.




~ by Jared on August 10, 2009.

4 Responses to “Glasses, noses, and other big deals.”

  1. Eff, I miss you! I drank wine from a Kerr jar today. That pic of you in the white drinking coffee totally brought back the image of you in a beige jumper & a hairnet, I don’t know why – Da Jesus! Seriously.

    • …”Nobody F*#!s with the Jesus!”

      A Kerr jar eh? Was it at least a big Kerr jar? Remember when I chug-a-lugged that Valmur Champagne?? Whoo-EE, that was fun! Except when it came out my nose. But then, my nose has room to spare 🙂

  2. Why not suck the wine up through your nose?!!!!
    Heck, my nose turns up and my nose hairs do a dance for everyone to see!!!!! Which is worse?!

  3. LOL!

    Hmmm… never noticed that about your nose, B.J. Maybe it’s because I couldn’t see past my own!

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