by Jacquie Kubin
Form ever follows function, stated architectural giant Louis Henri Sullivan and when it comes to the perfect wine stem, it could not be better said.
For sommeliers, restaurant owners and home wine aficionados, that well documented function, can take many forms that are pleasing to the eye, the touch, the taste and stand up to their intended use.
“Being outside of Charleston, we are considered a destination restaurant sought after by those culinary nomads willing to travel for an excellent meal meaning we must strive for extreme excellence out of necessity, as well as love for what we do, ” states Ken Vedrinski, Executive Chef/owner Sienna Restaurant, Daniel Island, South Carolina.
“We demand crystal-clear elegance in our stemware presentation, however it must also be practical in cost and durability. For our table tops we choose Stolzle stemware as it provides a visual statement of excellence that supports the foods we are offering.”
Wine is no longer the mystery of the fine dining world. Recent trends toward wider wine acceptance and knowledge have wine drinkers taking the time to learn about and requiring the right stem to enhance intimate dining experience and larger at-home entertaining.
But what is the right stem. Big for red? Smaller for white? Well yes, sometimes. However a big, oaky Chardonnay can become overpowering in smell, and taste, if served in glass that is too small.
A Stozle Red Wine Balloon Glass (Photo by Jacquie Kubin)
There is much to know which leads us to the experts, and in this case following Chef Vedrinski’s lead, to Stolzle-USA, a stemware producer in Germany for over 200 years.
“Americans are starting to embrace wine and as people become more educated about wine, they are also learning about the glass it should be served in,” said Matthew J. McKeown, Business Development Manager, Stolzle-USA. “Through our website (www.stolzle-usa.com), and by reaching consumers through the restaurant marketplace before offering our product at the domestic retail level, we are working to educate consumers on our over 200 years of stemware knowledge.”
From stems found at box-retailers to expensive art-inspired glasses one may fear to use, stemware enjoys its own version of the 3-C’s – cut, clarity and color that effects its beauty, use and cost.
A fine wine does deserve to be appreciated by our senses and a fine stem enhances that appreciation. First on your purchasing list is a quality, lead-free crystal that is pleasing to look at and that allows the color of the wine to shine through.
Second, the correct bowl size allows the drinker to savor the aromas while the correct shape helps to direct the flow of the wine to the tongues sweet taste receptors, avoiding those that pick up bitterness.
Third, a smooth, thin edge to the bowl is pleasing to the touch of the lips and helps direct the wine to the taste receptors. Equally important is a stem that is sturdy and smooth to the touch. The stem has its own function and that is to help the wine keep the proper temperature.
So what we are looking for is a beautifully crafted glass that is a pleasing to look at and that enhances the wines color and clarity. That glass should also offer the clear ring of a quality crystal glasses that when toasted together provides the sound of love and celebration to an intimate dinner or festive occasion.
Once the stemware is chosen, which glass from which wine? Have no doubt, the right wine stem can make, or break, a bottle of wine and/or meal.
This means that bigger wines, Cabernets, Merlot, Shiraz requires the more classic Bordeaux shape glass to enhance the nose and focus the wine stream to the sweet part, the tip and top of the tongue.
The larger bowl of the Bordeaux stem with the slightly taller sides are suited for the larger flavors of Cabernet and Merlot, similarly the Chardonnays with its many fruit scents and oaken characters or the generous tones of a Rhone Valley Viognier also work well in larger glasses.
Similarly the large Burgundy bowl captures the aromas and funnels them to the nose while the wine cascades in a wider stream over the broader rim of the glass, helping to minimize contact to the bitter receptors at the back of the tongue, avoiding the bite of the tannins.
These wines benefit from the larger bowl that allows the wine to open-up, or breathe, by increasing the surface of the wine and enhancing its interaction with the air, releasing its scents and flavors, or nose.
The Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio are ‘crisp, dry and unwooded white wines that shine beautifully in a classic white wine glass. A thinner bowl and tall sides allow these wines’ crisp fruity characters to take on a lovely feel in your mouth as the stream is directed toward the front of the tongue and sweet taste receptors while the thinner frame concentrates and directs lighter, fruit essences to your nose.
The bottom of the glass in choosing the right stem is that smell dictates taste and the right glass focuses the wine’s nose, or delicate scents of the wine, to the nose, or olfactory receptor of the drinker.
Simple to remember, you need a slight taper and bigger bowl for the bigger wines to allow more air to release their many layers of aroma. Lighter wines, on the other hand, require a tighter glass, to keep the aromas inside the glass to enhance the flavor.
Champagne flutes, with their narrow opening and tall sides are designed to keep the flavors within while helping to protect the wines “bubbles”.
At Stolzle, Sullivan’s “form ever follows function” dictum rings true however when servicing restaurant clientele and their emerging consumer base, presentation is very, very important.
“Each of our collections offers something different, while always maintaining a sense of style, durability and presence,” said Mr. McKeown. “Our Milano and Weinland collections are high volume glasses that are beautiful and strong. In fact, the Weinland collection is the official banquet glass of the New York Waldorf Astoria.”
And if a glass can stand up to that type of use, and abuse, it will also work well for your next wine tasting, while being elegant enough for your next dinner party.
For Stolzle, another important element of their stems is that they are now, and have always been, free from lead and other toxins.
“Our factory has been one of the leading environmentally friendly factories in Germany for the past 200 years,” Mr. McKeown said. “To us that means a lot.”
A clean, clear, well shaped glass not only toasts the health of the user, it also allows the wines color and clarity to shine through as it cradles a wine – white to red — in all its fruitful glory.
Jacquie Kubin is Mayor of Donne Travels and Editor of Donne Tempo Magazine, a Travel, Culinary and Lifestyle magazine for women.