• by Jenny Benzie, Advanced Sommelier + Certified Wine Educator, Proprietress of Épernay Wine & Spirits •
It doesn’t matter what kind of party you are hosting on Nantucket, there is always sincere thought and consideration thrown into the mix of your planning and preparation for the event.
There are so many ways to celebrate on Nantucket: a casual fête of a magical bonfire on the beach at 40th Pole, an impromptu backyard barbeque near Miacomet, a toast to another beautiful Nantucket sunset from your back porch in Madaket, a clambake rehearsal dinner at Jetties Beach, or an unforgettable wedding celebration under the stars at Cliff Beach… You have spent some amount of time and energy to choose what you were going to drink for such occasion, why not put a little effort into what you will be drinking out of at this Nantucket gathering? When it comes to tasting wine, the glass you use will have a much greater effect on what you smell and taste in the wine than you might at first think is possible. You’re probably thinking this sounds like a bit of a stretch of the imagination, but let me explain how this can enhance your overall experience.
Let’s start by what you should look for in your drinking vessel. Also known as drinkware, there are a wide variety of choices available. The Bowl. The shape of the bowl will affect what aromas and scents you smell as you gently swirl the wine in the glass. A wide bowl will have more surface area that allows the wine to ‘breathe’ and expose it to air in order to release aromas. The type of glass commonly used for bigger style wines, such as those made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Malbec, is referred to as a ‘Bordeaux’ glass in homage to the region where these grapes originate. This glass can also be used for Sauvignon Blanc, a white grape which also hails from this same area.
A so-called “Burgundy” glass, also named from the region in France in which certain grapes are known, is typically used for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. While this glass has a slightly larger bowl than the forementioned, the rim of the glass is smaller. This allows for the accumulation of aromas in these more delicate grape varieties. It is also suitable for use with other thinskinned red varietals such as Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, and Grenache.
There are a number of options for white wine glasses which very greatly in size and shape in order to accentuate the different styles and characteristics of the wine. A safe all-purpose choice is one with a more narrow bowl that has less surface area that is ideal for wines with a softer bouquet that do not need to aerate as much. As for bubbly stemware, there is great debate as to what the preferred vessel of consumption may be when drinking Champagne (or other forms of sparkling wine). The flute is a stem glass with a tall, straight-sided narrow bowl. This bowl is designed so that the signature bubbles found in these types of wines stays effervescent by limiting the amount of surface area at the top of the glass. The tall cylindrical style of the glass also allows you to view the visual effect of the mousse (ie the ‘frothiness’) of the sparkler. In comparison, the shape of the coupe, which is storied to be modeled after Marie Antoinette’s breast, is a shallow bowl like shape with a much larger surface area than the flute. This allows the bubbles to dissipate at a higher rate then the flute and also when using even a standard type of wine glass. A perfect balance in between these two types of stemware is a typical white wine glass. This allows the drinker to experience more aroma from the sparkler than would be found from a flute and also less dissipation of the bubbles than from a coupe.
The Rim. Most wine glasses have a tapered rim that allows the aromas of a wine to concentrate at the top of the glass without disappearing into thin air while the glass is being swirled. The shape of the channel in which your aromas flow will determine how much you can get on the nose. Much ofwhat you smell in a wine is able to alter the taste as well.
A flared rim in which the glass flares outward rather than inward is also an option, but not as preferred as the aromas are not trapped in the glass then and seem to get lost.
The thickness of the rim will also determine how the wine lands on your tongue. A thin rim can be equated to the elegance of a performance by a gold medal winning Olympic skater such as Dorothy Hamill in which the wine smoothly glides onto your palate. A think rim is more similar to when your wine hits a speed bump and comes crashing down onto your tongue in a harsh, abrupt, unpleasant manner and just splashes everywhere.
The Stem. The purpose of a wine glass with a stem is to keep the heat of your hand away from the wine by not holding the bowl of the glass. The perfect way to remember how to properly hold this type of glass is to always hold it like you would a rose – by the stem, not by the delicate flower itself. Also, it is unsightly to see fingerprints all over the bowl of this type of glass. Stemless glasses are often referred to as wine tumblers. For this type of glass, it is perfectly acceptable to use your hand around the glass while you are drinking from it. These are perfect for every day use and casual entertaining and can be used for all sorts of beverages.
Most importantly, no matter what type of wine you are enjoying, your glass should always be clear so that you can see what is going on inside. When in doubt, drinking from a Go Vino is the way to go while here on the island. This is a stemless go-anywhere wine glass that is shatterproof, reusable and recyclable. It is made from a flexible, BPA free polymer suitable for all beverages. Perfect when you are poolside without the fear of breaking a glass. For a day on the sailboat, you can bring your boxed wine and a handful of Go Vino glasses. They can easily travel with you anywhere you go in your beach bag, cooler, suitcase, etc. For those hosting a large clambake on the beach, this is the perfect solution to having to rent glassware or use brightly colored plastic cups that don’t match your décor. Best yet is that all your guests can take their Go Vino glasses home with them as a souvenirs to remember your great event.
Here comes the fun part (as if you need another excuse to party on Nantucket) in order to test the differences that glassware makes with your drinking pleasure. Gather a group of friends and an assortment of different shapes and sizes of glasses. Try the same wine, but from different drinking vessels and see how the aromas, scents, and flavors of the wine change from glass to glass. You will be amazed at the variations you discover. Cheers – and here’s raising my glass to you!