When size really does matter

CHEERS: BARTON ON WINE

WARREN BARTON
Last updated 09:09 10/12/2013
Pouring wine
How much should you get?

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Fair Go did not go far enough when Pippa Wetzell attempted last month to answer what on the surface seemed a pretty simple question:

How much wine should you expect to get when you order by the glass?

The answer is anything but simple.

It depends firstly on the expectation of the customer based on their knowledge of wine and their reason for drinking it.

And on the size of the glass in which it's served.

Hence the question I would first have asked the Napier woman who complained to Fair Go about being charged more for what she reckons is less wine every time she goes out for a drink:

Do you always drink the same wine out of the same-sized glass?

No? Which is the answer I'd expect.

Then let's just leave it at that, for a couple fairly obvious reasons.

Different wines cost different prices and wine glasses do not all come in the same size - also for some very good reasons, which matter more to those who understand and appreciate wine than to those who don't.

At one end of the spectrum there are drinkers who use wine as they would beer and expect it to be served in the same way.

I am not for a minute suggesting the complainant in this case is one of them, but these are the people who insist on having their glasses filled to the top, "forcing" those in the hospitality industry who are too ignorant, or too lazy to explain, to provide small, cheap and completely inadequate glassware.

At the other end of the spectrum are the purists who insist on using the right glasses for the right wines. In other words, glasses which are variously shaped to direct the different wines to those parts of the mouth where the flavour will be most appreciated; to capture and distribute the wine's aroma toward your mouth and nose; and glasses that are big enough to allow the wine to be swirled, encouraging the aromatic process.

The downside of this for customers who enjoy wine but are less pernickety is that the cost of such glassware helps justify even bigger mark-ups (which are already horrendous) on the cost of the wine.

Somewhere, of course, there is a happy medium - for wine drinkers in general and for people who are providing the glasses and the wine.

The answer is at least three different types of glasses, one set for whites, another slightly bigger, rounder set for reds, and flutes, which are tall and thin, for bubblies.

After pouring a reasonable serve the white and red wine glasses should never be more than half full and the flutes - well it really doesn't matter because bubblies are never swirled in the glass. It dissipates the bubbles.

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Follow these general guidelines and suggest to the person serving your wine that they observe them too and be surprised.

It won't alter the taste of the wines but it will certainly alter your perception and enjoyment of them.

To see what I mean, try these:

Mahi 2012 Marlborough Chardonnay, $29
Chardonnay is winemaker Brian Bricknell's favourite variety, and he emphasises the point with this elegant, concentrated beauty that is built around fresh, ripe citrus fruit with hints of butterscotch. Classy.

Sacred Hill 2013 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, $22
One of a number of sauvignons made under different labels by this Hawke's Bay winemaker. An appealling, softer, more restrained sauvignon driven by passionfruit and tropicals.

The Ned 2012 Southern Valleys Marlborough Pinot Noir, $24
A very approachable wine with a good pedigree that's ideal for everyday drinking. Soft and rounded with dark berry-plum flavours with a hint of spice and florals. Food-friendly, too.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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