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Choosing the Right Glass for the 'Amateur Drinker'

Aug 3, 2008
One doesn't need to be a 'professional wine taster' a 'wine snob' or a fully paid-up member of 'CAMRA' in order to experience the most enjoyment from your favourite tipple in the right glass.

I'm not trying to preach to the converted or teach Grandma to suck eggs, there is already plenty written about choosing the correct shape glass to enhance the flavour of a whole variety of different grapes and grains. But in all honesty who invites eight friends for dinner and then provides a different glass for each drink; after all who is doing the washing up when they've all gone home.

What I'm trying to do here is offer a little practical advise on choosing the right glass for the for the right occasion without breaking the bank.

A Few Simple Rules when choosing the Right Glass

Crystal or Glass?

It really doesn't matter unless you're particularly interested in the ring you get when you tap your knife on the side of a crystal glass. What is important is the clarity with which you can see your drink, so a clear plain glass is best. If you really want a bit of colour keep it to a simple swirl so you can still appreciate the colour of your drink, after all this has been carefully created to be part of the enjoyment. For this reason I am not especially fond of cut crystal or frosted glass as it just serves to obscure. It is the drink you are appreciating not the glass.

Shape & Size?

Wine Glasses, - well traditionally they have a stem, which has its merits:

- You can hold your glass without affecting the temperature of your wine and obscuring the clarity with greasy finger marks.

- You can give the glass a good swirl to release the aromas of the wine.

- They definitely look more elegant when laid for a dinner party.

How ever a wine glass without a stem has its uses:-

- For every day drinking they don't tend to get knocked over.

- If you like to put your glasses through the dishwasher they are more likely to survive for longer.

- There are times when they can add to the informality of the occasion, for instance when friends drop in unannounced or you are having a kitchen supper party.

As for size and shape this is purely down to preference but there are a few points you may like to consider.

- A larger glass allows more room for the aroma of the wine to develop.

- It is usual to choose a smaller glass for white wine and a larger glass for a more full bodied red.

- Most serious wine drinkers like a glass with a rounded body and a narrower top to allow plenty of room to release the aromas of the wine in the body of the glass as you swirl whilst condensing them as you sniff and sip!

- But if you are not particularly into swirling, sniffing and sipping just quaffing, I suggest you choose a contemporary shape that is attractive to the eye.

Beer Glasses - these are generally down to purely personal preference. You either like a handle or you don't! However there are a few points you might like to consider.

- A straight glass tends to look a little more sophisticated and a handle slightly more manly - but hey who cares when you're watching the footy!!

- A pint glass will require less trips to the fridge to top up, but I think a smaller glass so you can share a bottle with a friend is a nice approach.

- Your smaller lager style glasses will double up for soft drinks and summer cocktails such as Pimms.

Champagne & Cocktail Glasses - Champagnes and sparkling wines are definitely best served in flutes.

- The bubbles last much longer.

- One tends to drink Champagne standing up so you're far less likely to spill it than in a saucer shaped glass.

- A slim flute looks more elegant and the bonus is - it doesn't hold as much, which is definitely good when you are paying for the Champagne!

Where as Cocktails tend to be better in larger glasses depending on there type and strength.

A Martini shaped glass is perfect for a simple cocktail that doesn't require too much adornment, it looks sophisticated and is synonymous with cocktails!

Tall hi-ball glasses are better if you want to pile in the crushed ice, fruit, straws and umbrella then party!!

Spirit & Brandy Glasses - a brandy glass pretty much speaks for its self. It needs to be large enough to give a good swirl and cup your hand around to warm your brandy. Spirit glasses take a little more consideration.

If you like your spirits straight or on the rocks, then a DOF a 'Double Old Fashioned' is the right glass for you. A small short tumbler big enough for a large shot plus a little ice or water.

Or if you prefer to take your spirits with a mixer then you need a hi-ball, a tall tumbler, great for gin and tonic with plenty of ice and lemon.

Either of these glasses will double up for soft drinks or water, it just depends on the size you prefer.

Liqueur, Port, & Sherry Glasses - unless you entertain a lot you probably don't use these very often. So in my opinion if you choose carefully you can choose one glass that will fill all these requirements.

Choose a glass that is sufficiently large to take a reasonable measure of sherry or port and remember it is not necessary to fill it up when pouring a liqueur.

Again a stemmed glass is more traditional and allows you to swirl to develop the aromas of your drink.

However a small shot type glass gives a more contemporary approach to serving these drinks.

In Summary:

If you like to do a little entertaining here's what I suggest you might need:

- Champagne flutes and two sizes of wine glass.

- A few beer glasses and either tall or short tumblers plus may be some brandy and liqueur glasses.

How much you want to spend on these is very personal but I would suggest you buy a larger quantity of less expensive glasses than say just six of a more expensive glass. There is nothing worse than breaking one at a dinner party and then not being able to get a replacement as it has been discontinued. If you normally entertain 8 -10 people I would definitely start with a dozen glasses, that way they should see you through a number of years before needing to start again.

On the other hand if you can't stretch to that little lot, choose a nice contemporary decent size wine glass and a tall tumbler, then open another bottle! You may as well get your priorities right, there is always next year to buy more glasses.
About the Author
Guy Bridge is the owner of On the Table, a contemporary tableware retailer in Dorset, UK. See the exclusive range of LSA Glassware in our online store.
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