Wine Stemware: Around Europe in Six Glasses
Let’s take a virtual wine tasting tour to learn about some of Europe’s best wine regions. Many of the wines below are enjoyed in their own uniquely-shaped stemware, which begs the question...
Why Does Wine Stemware Matter?
The shape of a wine glass plays an important role in bringing out the wine’s nuanced aromas and flavors. The size of the glass’ opening affects how much oxygen is in contact with the wine. Swirling increases the wine’s surface area even further, and that oxygenation allows the wine to “breathe” and “open up”, releasing its unique aromas.
Ethanol vapors are also released, and the bowl of the glass helps to collect those aromas in a ring-shaped pattern around the rim. Japanese scientists confirmed this pattern by tracking the concentration of gaseous ethanol as it is released from wine. They analyzed many types of glasses and found that the shape does affect vapor distribution; this means that a person would discern different aromas when smelling the same wine in different glasses.
The shape of the glass also impacts how quickly the wine flows and where it lands on your palate when drinking. Since smell and taste are so strongly linked in how humans perceive flavor, these factors—along with the wine itself—combine to bring out the complexities of the drink.
Considered French wine royalty, Bordeaux wines are traditionally a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Bordeaux are classified as Left Bank or Right Bank, depending on the vineyard’s location along the Gironde Estuary, and which grape is driving the blend. These wines are served in tall glasses that deliver their bold flavors directly to the back of the mouth.
Produced in Germany’s Rhine Valley since at least the 1400s, Riesling is a sweet white wine that yields strong floral aromas and apple and pear flavors. Riesling’s refreshing crispness pairs perfectly with spicy foods, and the wine is best enjoyed from its signature tulip-shaped glass.
Located along the breathtaking Adriatic coast, Croatia’s Dalmatia region is highly regarded for its Plavac Mali red wines. The grape variety is a relative of Zinfandel and it produces wines that are bold and full of flavor. Plavac Mali is traditionally served in smaller glasses that allow you to savor the wine’s dark berry and spice flavors.
Chianti epitomizes Tuscan wine—it’s earthy and rich and pairs perfectly with any Italian dish. The Chianti region stretches from Florence to Siena and its wines are produced with Sangiovese grapes. A Chianti glass is similar to a Bordeaux, the bowl opens up the wine and brings out its complex flavor profile.
Spain’s bubbly is mostly produced in the Catalunya region near Barcelona. Cava is produced using the same methods as France’s Champagne, but the principal grapes are Spain’s indigenous Xarello, Parellada, and Macabeo varieties. Enjoy in a tall, narrow flute that retains Cava’s bubbles and captures its delightful flavors.
Let’s finish our tour of European wines with a sweet dessert wine produced in Portugal’s Douro Valley. Port was such a vital export that, in the 1700s, the Douro Valley was made the world’s first designated wine region. The fortified wine is made by adding brandy, which stops fermentation and leaves high levels of alcohol and residual sugar. Port is best when sipped slowly over a dessert or cheese platter.