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Dear Dr. Vinny,
Would you please give me a small introduction to red wine glasses—in particular, the different shapes of them? I work as a waitress at a restaurant where we have a huge wine list, but we only have the common Cabernet glasses and the Burgundy/Pinot Noir-shaped ones. However, our guests often say they’ve got some huge glasses for their Shiraz/Syrah and other glasses for other wines, so they’re making me blush more and more with the question, “Are those the only types of red wine glasses you’ve got?,” and demanding proper shapes for every grape. Would you be so kind as to tell me a little about the other types of red wine glasses, so I would know what to say to expressions of this growing demand?
In general, red wine glasses are bigger and fuller than white wine glasses, if for no other reason than that smaller glasses allow white wine to stay chilled longer. Among red wine glasses, you mentioned the two main categories: the Bordeaux-style glass, which is taller and has a relatively smaller bowl, and the Burgundy-style glass, which has a bigger, shorter bowl to showcase more aromatics.
Some wineglass makers get even more specific than that, designing glasses for specific varietals like Zinfandel and Syrah (both of which, by the way, are variations on the Bordeaux-style glass).
I find it unusual that diners would expect a restaurant to have something as specific as a glass for every varietal. Sure, sometimes I’m at a restaurant and I wish they had better glassware. For me, that typically means thinner glass, or glasses with larger bowls so I can give my wines a healthy swirl. True story: I used to have a friend who would bring his own glassware whenever he brought his own wine into a neighborhood joint that was accommodating but casual. It was strange, but he had cleared it with the owner and he was a regular, so it was OK.
There’s a possibility your restaurant might want to invest in better-quality glassware, but there’s also a possibility that your diners are just very demanding. I think it can be OK for a diner to ask if you have different glassware, and you don’t have to blush about it, particular for varietals that fall outside of the Bordeaux or Burgundy profile. You can say, “We typically serve Syrah in these Bordeaux-shaped glasses, but if you prefer, I can grab some of the Burgundy-style ones, which have a bigger bowl.” You can always show them their options and let them pick. If I were a picky diner, I’d appreciate having a choice.
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