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Use the right shaped glass to make wine sing

IF you&rsquo;re anything like the vast majority of people, you probably don&rsquo;t give a huge amount of thought to your wine glasses. As long as they look the part &ndash; big for red, smaller for white and flutes for fizz &ndash; who&rsquo;s complaining?<br /><br />Well, after a tasting last week with Austrian crystal company Riedel, I&rsquo;m afraid to say I would be. When I met Riedel&rsquo;s Martin Turner he was armed with four glasses to showcase four different types of wine. There was a fifth glass &ndash; the kind most pubs use for their &ldquo;small&rdquo; glasses, and which Turner referred to as &ldquo;the joker&rdquo;. You know the one: squat, thick and ugly.<br /><br />Turner poured a bit of mid-price Sancerre into it. &ldquo;Now swirl it,&rdquo; he said, and as I did so, it slopped dangerously at the edges. &ldquo;Now smell it,&rdquo; Turner instructed. A horrid pubby tinny smell tingled my nostrils, and a sip yielded the same flavour. But it wasn&rsquo;t the wine that was poor, it was the glass, with its cheap rolled rim and small, ugly bowl. We poured the wine from the Joker glass into a large Sauvignon Blanc glass, which was completely smooth right through to the polished rim. It gave off fantastic aromas &ndash; whereas the fruit had been concealed and trapped in the pub glass, so that only the acidic (&ldquo;mineral&rdquo;) notes reached the nose and then the mouth, here the floral notes came out on top. This seemed like a different wine.<br /><br />Why the huge difference? Two things: the size and shape of the glass. These are the main factors affecting aroma and delivery into the mouth, both absolutely critical to the wine-drinking experience. Aroma provides vital information for the drinker as our palates merely confirm what our noses smell. With the Joker glass, we lost the fruit aromas over the edge because it was too small and straight-sided. The Sauvignon glass is miles bigger than the pub glass, and also more egg-shaped. &ldquo;With a light, tart wine like a Sauvignon, you need to be able to keep all the aromas in the glass, so depth and size are important,&rdquo; says Turner.<br /><br />The third key point about glasses is the &ldquo;physical mouth delivery&rdquo;. It is very important to channel the wine into your mouth correctly &ndash; the tongue has receptors for acidity on the side, sweetness and fruit on the tip, and oakiness and alcohol in the back.<br /><br />A good Sauv Blanc glass holds the wine in a spacious but slender bowl, and its smaller rim channels it to the middle and back of the tongue, bypassing the acid-detecting sides. An oaked, almost viscous New Zealand Marlborough Chardonnay smelled and tasted so overpowering in the confined Sauvignon glass that the eyes almost watered &ndash; but in a wider bowl-shaped glass, the over-dense notes calmed down and balanced out while &ldquo;the wide rim directs the wine sideways and forward in the mouth so the alcoholic notes are tempered,&rdquo; says Turner. How right he was &ndash; in the big Montrachet glass intended for Chardonnay, the Marlborough became gentle without losing its voluptuousness.<br /><br /><strong>SOFTER AND SMOKIER</strong><br />A very beautiful receptacle that looked a bit like a brandy glass came next &ndash; this is the Burgundy glass and it is intended for light reds, such as Pinot Noir and Barolo. When you take a sip from a taller glass like this one, the liquid at the bottom tips up sharply and gathers speed as it runs up the glass, finally rushing to the back of the mouth, where the base note receptors await its soft tannins. The high acidity of this kind of wine means it doesn&rsquo;t need to be sent to the side of the tongue.<br /><br />We tried the Pinot Noir in the giant Bordeaux glass, intended for much heavier reds. The big bowl tipped it in all the wrong directions on the tongue and made it unpleasantly acidic and watery. In the Burgundy glass, though, it became fruitier, softer and smokier &ndash; and about 10 times nicer.<br /><br />But with a slug of Cabernet Merlot in it, the Bordeaux glass came into its own. The tannins were diffused and calmed. The extravagantly large bowl allows for hardcore aeration, the process by which a wine opens up and its three note levels mix (fruit, mineral and base) &ndash; something from which big dense reds really benefit. And the Bordeaux&rsquo;s wide rim ensures the wine sloshes through the acid and fruit detectors on the tongue before the full weight of its boozy tannins clobber you.<br /><br />&ldquo;Your brain is lazy,&rdquo; says Turner. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s only interested in first perceptions. That&rsquo;s why getting the aroma right is so important. Once you&rsquo;ve smelled something good, your taste buds will follow suit.&rdquo; I&rsquo;m a convert.<br /><br />www.riedel.co.uk