Wine Wisdom: Getting the Right Glass

Selecting a Wine Glass Requires an Assessment of Your Needs

The right glass provides operators with the opportunity to showcase their wine program and accentuate the guest experience. When deciding what glass is best for your establishment, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons of factors such as wine list offerings, glass shape/design, durability, capacity, value perception, storage and washing method. I suggest bringing in a small amount of the proposed glass for a “real life” operations test to confirm it meets your needs before you make a large purchase to change out your entire venue. The goal is to be sure all these factors are considered before making a final decision.

One of the main determining factors for selecting a wine glass involves the complexity of your wine program and your menu prices. Based on these factors, you will need to address the number of glasses necessary. If you offer a limited number of wines, it would be best to go with one all-purpose wine glass. Normally, all-purpose glasses have a tall, narrow shape to accommodate both red and white wines. If your program is more complex, you may want to offer two different glasses based on the main types of wine, such as a Burgundy shape (normally a bit smaller bowl with a wide area in the middle, which accentuates Chardonnay and Pinot Noir) and a Bordeaux shape (tall and narrower, which accentuates most other wines). It’s also important to look at your menu pricing, as your glassware can help elevate or deflate the guest’s impression and experience. Normally, a more casual concept with a limited wine program can offer a standard glass, whereas a casual-plus or fine dining venue should opt for multiple glasses and possibly crystal quality.

Also, bear in mind the impression of value. Be sure to look at your standard wine portion size in any glass being considered. There is ongoing debate as to how much space should be left in a glass once filled. You’ll need to make a decision on your statement of value compared to the aroma and bouquet guests experience; some guests assess value based on whether the glass appears “full,” while others comprehend the value of the nose. Normally, casual concepts tend to be more focused on value, which leads down the road of a smaller glass with less open space. However, for the casual-plus or fine dining operator, it’s important to provide a glass in which to savor a wine that is priced at $16 a glass. Some venues choose to offer two types of glassware — a lower capacity type for by-the-glass offerings and larger one for by-the-bottle.

When it comes to durability, there are a variety of factors to examine. First, will the wine glasses be washed by hand or by machine? Most “glass” glasses are more durable than the higher-end crystal versions. If you are going to machine wash, be sure your machine has a glass rack with individual compartments to prevent breakage. It’s important to understand how a prospective glass has been produced. Many producers offer heat-treated products to prevent thermal shock as well as beaded rims to prevent chipping and cracking. The one thing to always keep in mind is that the length and width of the stem is a determining factor in breakage. A longer, thinner stem is more prone to breakage. If glassware stems are a worry for your location, you may want to consider a stemless glass, which has become more popular in the last few years.

Wine glass storage behind the bar and in the dining area can sometimes be a challenge. Glassware should be stored with the bowl opening down to allow water to drain properly and prevent dust buildup. Hanging glassware racks are one way to keep wine glasses out of harm’s way while saving counter space. Be sure to check with your local health department on approved methods of glassware storage.

Taking these wine glass specifications into consideration will help control breakage, ease operations logistics and accentuate the guest experience. Let’s toast to that! NCB

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