I am sure there are a few of you out there who are wondering why I might write an article on filling your wine glass. It is a funny industry, the wine industry. Many Western cultures see it as separate from the gastronomy industry, but for me, it is not. Not one individual would call anyone a snob if they ordered a steak medium-rare. If it arrives in front of you and it is not cooked to your requested temperature, what do you do? You send it back. So, why are us wine lovers subject to such titles as ‘snob’? My palate is just as spoiled and knows what it wants just as it is for those of you who can appreciate a well-cooked, quality piece of meat to your requirements. Wine and food go hand in hand. So when I order a glass of wine; first of all, I wish for the wine to be served in the proper wine glass, at the ideal temperature for the wine I ordered and filled into the glass, just where it should be.
For me, this is a fairly important subject, in speaking to those of you who want to learn more about wine, how you can enjoy it at its best. Now, about filling the wine glass…
First, you must find the proper glass for the wine you are pouring. I will get back to you in another text regarding this topic. If it is a red, you need a red glass, for a white, a white wine glass. If this was not so important do you really think Riedel would have gone through all the trouble in making varietal- and even producer-specific wine glasses?
Now, the anatomy of your wine glass, from bottom to top…
You have your base or foot, followed by the stem, up to the bowl and then the rim or lip. For all intents and purposes of this text, we will just talk about the bowl part of the glass, as this is where the wine goes. Go find yourself a wine glass. Have a look at the bowl of the glass and find the point in which the glass bulges at the widest point. I am going to call this, the ‘equator’. Now do any of you remember social studies or geography class when they taught you about the important latitude lines on the globe? The two other lines found on either side of the equator are the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn. The former is in the northern hemisphere and the latter in the southern hemisphere.
A properly filled wine glass is filled to the Tropic of Capricorn; allow me to explain why. In order to enjoy a wine, the wine needs to breathe. Many feel the all-so-exuberant act of swirling is a bit haughty, but it has a very important purpose. A lot of what we smell has a lot to do with what we taste. When the wine is settled at the correct pour point, it lacks the surface area in contact with the air in order to ‘open’ the wine. However in contrast, this gives you space to swirl, thus increasing the surface area the wine has with the air!
A lot of people go through all the trouble in finding the best decanter for their wine when in fact, the best decanter is your glass. By swirling and giving oxygen to the wine, you expose all of the aromatics and flavor components of the wine. There may be tens or hundreds of them. All it takes is a little aeration. For a young red wine with strong and abrasive tannins, the oxygenation will soften them; for aromatic/aged whites, it will enhance and develop these delicate perfumes and flavors. To ‘decant’ a wine, even just in your glass is to age it. Aging wines, when we speak of your wine cellar, is done by oxidizing them, though in a slow and controlled state. In your glass it is just a bit faster. Minus all the harsh tannins, youthful characteristics and closed aromatics accomplished by swirling, you can truly appreciate the wine for what it was meant to be. It is not rocket science, you just need a good pour.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Christie Kiley, International Sommelier and Chef, has over a decade of experience in both restaurants and wineries. She began working kitchens under talented chefs. Nights off from the kitchen, she would work at the same restaurant as a server. Her passion for food grew into the wine industry. She has worked wine harvests in Napa, learning the nature of the product from soil to bottling. Working the back- and front-of-the-house in restaurants and wineries in sales, and as a food and wine educator, has given Christie an in-depth knowledge in both food and wine throughout many aspects. She currently lives in Buenos Aires, where she has just received her International Sommelier Certificate from the Escuela de Argentina Sommeliers (EAS) after two years of study. She works as a wine and food writer and Sommelier at a boutique hotel in Palermo where you can catch her most nights of the week entertaining guests with her unique wine tastings.