Does the wine taste funny? Get a perfect glass

WINE TASTING with glasses of different shapes. PHOTO | WENDY WATTA
WINE TASTING with glasses of different shapes. PHOTO | WENDY WATTA 

When I went out for an intimate wine tasting session at Tapas Ceviche in Nairobi, I had no hint that I would be giving up my favourite set of wine glasses when I got back home.

Truth is, seasoned winemakers put in so much effort into crafting the perfect bottle and even after aging it for years, the glass is the last contact between your mouth and the drink itself.

Pieter Terblanche, the vice-president for Riedel - a glassware company, says the wrong glass can completely change the way you experience a drink.

With the Sauvignon Blanc, for instance, I had six glasses to try it from and it is incredulous how different it tastes and smelled in each one. Being high in acidity, it does not need a lot of space to open up although length can be good.

“Nobody is actually thinking about how glassware can completely change the taste, aroma and smell of a drink. We have analysed how different shapes can affect how you enjoy your wine. It is more than just a glass but a tool that can help you enhance the experience,” said Mr Terblanche.

Different shapes of glasses determine where the liquid will hit the different taste receptors of your palate, referring to bitter, sour, salt, sweet and even umami.

If the wine hits the side of your tongue as opposed to the back, the sensation is not the same. There are also other technical things to consider, like the way you tilt your head back when drinking from a narrow glass or lower your head when the rim is wide.

Most restaurants and bars use a universal glass to serve their wines, and according to Mr Terblanche, this can determine how many drinks patrons buy.

I noticed

that while using the universal glass for a Cabernet Sauvignon, for instance, the tannins were harsh and I couldn’t get the actual nosing of the wine.

When the glass was too wide, the drink tasted dilute as though it has over-oxidised. When there was a good balance between glass and drink, however, I wanted to order more wine.

A Chardonnay, for instance, has to land on the right area of your palate for you to get the full potential of the drink, and companies like Riedel have analysed all of this to make sure that your senses send the right message to your brain to bring out its crispness, freshness, aromas and floral flavours.

“If you are buying a wine or whisky glass for your home, do not walk into a supermarket looking for only what’s beautiful. You should consider functionality as well. Life is too short to drink good wine from a bad glass,” Mr Terblanche says.

A colleague tasted whisky in a fragile looking glass with a very svelte rim. He wasn’t sold. Most whisky drinkers are traditional. They like their whisky in a short stout glass. Heavy at the bottom is even better.

But Mr Terblanche might disagree.