If you often dine in a fancy restaurant or simply have a mini bar at home, then you’re quite familiar with the shape of the wine glass. But have you ever wondered why it is designed that way? Why do red wine glasses or even white wine glasses have a stem? Is it just to make it look fancy and sophisticated? This is one of the many concepts about wine glasses that seems to be overlooked. In this article, we’re going explain the background behind it.
Why do wine glasses have stems?
The first stemmed glass is said to have originated in Venice, the capital of glassmaking, around the 1400s. The style was based on the structure of the chalice that was used for religious purposes. At that time, wine was drunk in cups that were either made from wood, leather, pewter or clay, so the stemware didn’t receive much attention. Around 1450, the cristallo glass was invented and was used on the island of Murano in Venice. With this, it helped in enhancing the look of glassware especially with its colorless appearance.
It was only until the late 18th century that the stemmed glassware gained popularity due to the booming glassware business. Also, using the stemmed wine glass represents status, so when you see someone back in that time using or owning a wine glass, you can think that he/ she is rich. Since then, this particular design for wine glass has become the standard for serving wine. Nowadays, people have developed numerous designs for glasses that are supposed to be trendy. Nevertheless, the stemmed wine glassware still prevails because it offers something beyond the look.
The first crucial thing that we should know about wine is that maintaining its temperature is important. From the time it is stored until it is served, optimal temperature is key in having a nice wine, with all its flavors and aromas intact. Our hands are one of the warmest parts of our body and the stem provides the grip that lets you hold the glass without coming in contact with the bowl. What happens when you touch the bowl instead of the stem is that heat from your hands radiates and warms the glass - eventually raising the temperature of wine. This form of body heat can affect the flavor of the wine and there’s a chance that the alcohol taste will overpower the other flavors.
Moreover, when you’re holding the glass at the stem, it prevents you from creating smudges on the surface of the glass. Wine has such divine colors and you don’t want to ruin it by having grease or fingerprints on the glass, that just makes the presentation dull and not as appealing.
If there’s one thing that people love to do when their glass gets filled with wine, it is swirling the wine. It is not for naught or for fun, swirling the wine actually helps in releasing all the wonderful aromas of the wine. Holding the glass at the stem makes it easier to swirl, you can observe the color of the red wine and admire it. But, if you’re not used to swirling, it's better take it slow to prevent you from spilling your precious alcohol.
Lastly, the stem plays a huge role in upholding the etiquette of holding wine glasses. There are several ways on how to hold a wine glass but most of them involve the utilization of the stem to apply the three factors mentioned above.
Do all the wine glasses have stems?
With all the good points mentioned above, one might think that all red wine glasses and white wine glasses have stems - but no, that’s not the case. There is such a thing called stemless wine glasses that look like only the bowl component of the stemmed glass. Experts have debated about the benefits of this style of wine glass given that the stemmed glasses are clearly designed according to purpose. Nowadays, the stemless wine glassware has made its way into the spotlight and is widely used in restaurants and bars.
The main thing that these wine glasses has to offer is the ease of storage. Because of the absence of a stem, it is easier to store these in cupboards and have them cleaned in the dishwasher. Furthermore, stems are fragile and so they easily break when not stored or not handled properly. With this, these type of wine glasses are sturdier and provide a solid grip.
Stemless glasses are very similar to the glasses that we use everyday. Without the stem, you’re clearly going to leave some of your fingerprints on the surface of the glassware. Although, it doesn’t matter since stemless wine glasses are intended for casual occasions - so you’re not as conscious about handling it properly as compared to the traditional glassware. You can serve both red wine and white wine in it. Some argue that it is more beneficial for reds since it warms the wine and positively affects its flavor - depending on what type of red wines, that is.
They are still eye-catching. They may not be as elegant as the stemmed ones but it's totally fine, as they are meant for casual events. What matters is that they are accepted and they still serve their purpose.
Wine is all about elegance. And what better way to pour your Sauvignon Blanc than in a classic wine glass? It has become a symbol of the wine. The structure may have come from resemblance of the chalice, but its evolution has worked out really great. Of course, nothing's stopping you from utilizing a stemless glass, a tumbler, or even chugging it out from the bottle. Yet, there’s an etiquette surrounding the proper handling of wine. The stem actually helps fulfill that etiquette and enhances the flavors and aromas of the wine. It also allows you to admire the visuals of the wine upon swirling it. It’s just that wine takes a very long time with very delicate processes to get it right and it’s only natural that it receives the proper vessel that it deserves.
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