Does crap wine taste better in good glasses?

This post is not akin to discussing the pros of Chanel against the cons of NHS bifocals.
The glasses I’m talking about are Speiglau, Riedel, C&S… Who? They’re the Lagerfeld, Tom Ford and D&G in the world of glassware – a world I love.
I’ve got more wine glasses than most girls have shoes. As my friends rummage through Whistles and Myla on the first floor of John Lewis, I dart through the dressing gowns and slink down to the basement, to drool over glasses. Oh yes.
Oh dear.

Anyway, back to the question: does crap wine taste better in good glasses? Am I fool to invest time and money into my glassware?

To find out, I bought the cheapest, most awful looking, bottle of red wine I could find, which was not as easy as you’d think. Even in a Tesco Metro, in Dalston. I was hoping to get my hands on an Echo Falls or one of those in a 2 litre plastic water bottle; but the worst I could find was a generic ‘Australian Red’ costing £3.15, down from £4.15. No surprise there was no grape variety mentioned and the bottle felt shockingly cheap.

I poured an equal amount of wine into three glasses:
A big, posh, crystal one, with a fine rim and bulbous body for maximum swirlability.
Note to self: stop giggling. (Swirlability, BTW, is important, and not just for poncing it up. It aerates the wine to release aromas. Wine is a volatile liquid, unlike water, so the more you move it around, the more volatile it becomes and the more aromas it releases.)

The second glass was a basic, cheap small wine glass, cost about a quid, fine for using to get pissed at parties but really adds nothing to the wine drinking experience. (Still better, however, than the piddly ones at St John.)

Finally, a small chunky tumbler, normally used for water. Annoyingly, also seen in proper restaurants, usually the Spanish kind. (Yes, Brindisa, I’m talking about you.)

And then off I went, swirling (where possible), tasting first like a normal person – quickly, without thought, invariably swallowing, and then like a pro – swirling, sniffing, mouthwashing, air drawing, gargling, spitting… and oh ok, swallowing…

Results were surprising, so much so, the only way I can deal with them is in bullet point form:

  • Although not a huge difference in taste across all 3 glasses, the worst was the ‘middle’ glass – the small, cheap wine glass. Not only did this feel cheap to hold, I think it gives you higher expectations than a humble tumbler. The tumbler could fool you in some way that you’re in a local bistro in the middle of nowhere drinking some local plonk from a carafe, in a sort of ish romantic way…
  • A wine that gives off unpleasant aromas is not best drunk from a glass designed to maximise those aromas, ie. a large quality one. It does however feel gorgeous to hold, which should be taken into consideration, as wine is a multi sensory product. This also explains why inexpensive rose wine on a terrace in the South of France tastes great, and rose wine on a balcony in Bromley does not.
  • A good but simple wine – of neither complexity nor unpleasantness – should be fine in any glass, aroma wise, as it has neither a lot to give off nor need masking.
  • The wine was drunk at a lower than normal temperature, which I am certain is what made it more palatable during the initial experiment. Later on, a sample at room temperature, in the big, posh glass, was really not very pleasant at all – jammy and acidic at the same time, which is almost an achievement in itself. This was one of the more interesting finds – the fact it was a little too cold was actually what made it palatable. It held the aromas in, which would normally be a bad thing, but in the instance of a wine with any unpleasantless, this can work it it’s favour.

For more thorough research I need to find a bottle of wine that is truly vile; it’s fairly reassuring that wasn’t as easy as I expected.

So, to conclude – next time you find yourself in the unfortunate position of having a crap bottle of red wine in your possession, stick it in the fridge for 20 mins before drinking it.

Most people drink red wine of any quality too warm anyway. It might not be the most flavourful thing you’ve ever drunk, but it will be refreshing and alcoholic, and frankly that’s as good as that bottle’s gonna get. Also, do buy yourself some some decent glassware – both for the way it feels and looks but also, should you find yourself in the position of opening a good bottle, you’re not maximising the potential, and also value for money factor, if you keep it contained in a tiny little tumbler. Like putting Rhianna in nun’s habit. Silly. As with the old ‘price per wear’ theory of clothes, that tricks every boyfriend in the land, it’s the same with wine: flavour per sip. So, really, those Spieglau crystal glasses, are actually incredibly good value.

The red wine rules

  • Crap wine – avoid or use for cooking. If that’s not possible, chill it.
  • Average wine – any glass will be fine, but nice glasses look and feel way nicer which will improve the overall experience.
  • Good wine – stop being silly and use proper good glasses, no argument.
  • Comments

  • avatar

    This has inspired me to buy some lovely wine glasses. and much more wine.

    • avatar

      Yay! We like to be inspirational. It made me remember to never bring a shit bottle of plonk to any of Ruth’s parties… 😉

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