As a very casual drinker but a huge fan of hosting dinner parties, I hadn’t really thought much about the varietals of wine as a younger adult (I usually selected the second cheapest wine option for gatherings) — but I’ve started to change my tune as I’ve gotten older and more refined (like aged wine, you may say). A person of a certain age might want to learn some basic knowledge of glassware and how to properly serve and drink wine, and for me, at 38, that time is now.
To get started on my journey, I acquired a glassware set from Made In Cookware, a brand most famous for its highly affordable and forever-durable stainless-clad pots and pans that has since expanded into tabletop wares. “What we wanted to take our chef-quality and manufacturing ethos in the US and in Western Europe and apply that to various kitchen and dining categories,” says Jake Kalick, Co-founder and President of Made In Cookware, of how the Germany-manufactured wine glasses and decanter came to life. “What’s exciting about glassware is that it appeals to a wide range of people, even if they don't cook. It’s a nice entry point to Made In whereas cookware or a $90 chef knife might be really intimidating.” And as part of its glassware launch, Made In is donating 15% of the sales price from any Wine Glass Set to Wine Unify, a non-profit committed to fostering wine education for underrepresented groups.
Wine, for me, has always been an intimidating topic, so I asked Kalick to guide me (and R29 readers) on how to become a more informed “wine person.” Ahead, get the expert’s take on how to best use and take care of glassware, why you ought to invest in a decanter, and how the simple process of oxygenating wine can really enhance the imbibing experience.
Why are red wine glasses and white wine glasses shaped differently?
“There’s definitely a subculture of wine drinkers who prefer very specific shapes for very specific varietals or types of grapes of wine — the size of the glass, the amount of exposure to air, the angles, the curves, the accents,” says Kalick. But Made In’s mission was to create universal glassware for all reds and all whites, which is why the red wine glasses have a larger mouth and a “bulbous, round shape that's great for exposing the wine to a wider surface area because it might need more oxygen [than a white wine] to let the aromas and tastes come out.” The white wine glasses, in contrast, have a narrower and higher profile that helps keep aromas and bubblies more concentrated and allows for a better upward flow.
Kalick mentions that “real wine nerds might have separate cabernet and burgundy glasses,” as an example of how varied wine glasses can be, but that simplicity was the driving factor when it came to these two glass designs. “If you buy just one red wine glass, whether you're drinking cabernet, pinot noir burgundy, merlot, or whatever other red grape, this glass has the characteristics that will allow the wine to perform better in the glass and let it shine.”
What is a decanter and how do you use it?
A decanter is a vessel that helps wine oxygenate more quickly to help open up the flavors — and it can be used for any type of wine, aged young or old. Kalick recommends slowly pouring wine from a bottle into the decanter against the top lip, similar to the way bartenders tilt a pint glass when dispensing beer from a tap into the glass. “Let the wine stream down the entire side of the into the bottom so the wine is exposed to as much surface area to air as possible,” says Kalick. “That's how you expose it to the oxygen.”
Once the wine is in the most bulbous part of the decanter (just pour as much as you need—it won’t hold an entire bottle’s contents), you can “just let it sit there for a while,” says Kalick. "Now, if you're opening a cabernet that's 25 or 30 years old, you might decant it for a half a day to a full day before enjoying it with your meal. It takes that long to really open up all the flavors.”
As for the shape of Made In’s particular decanter, you’ll notice that it’s a lot slimmer than some of the wider vessels you’ll see at fancy restaurants, which can oxygenate more wine at a faster rate. “A big tenet of our brand is just being utilitarian, and we wanted to appeal to as wide a range of people as possible. For one, there’s a storage issue — we’re not going to have some super wide ornate decanter that you can't put anywhere. Two, we don't want to get too wild with design because we're only making one decanter that we believe works for everyone,” says Kalick.
What wines are ideal for decanting?
“You can decant any wine you want. It's never going to make a wine worse. It's a nice dinner party trick and allows you to see the color of the wine before you pour it in a glass,” says Kalick. But, he says, there are two specific kinds of wine that he recommends decanting. The first is very old wine that’s been sitting in a bottle for a really long time because of the sediment that may have started developing at the bottom of the bottle. “By decanting, you are able to carefully pour into the decanter and keep the sediment in your bottle — it's totally fine and not bad for you to drink but it’s a texture not everyone likes in their mouth,” says Kalick.
The second kind of wine that’s ideal for decanting are ones super high in alcohol or wines that are really young — these especially need a lot of oxygen to open up the aromas. “Introducing oxygen quickly helps get everything mellowed out and tasting the way it should taste. A really young wine that’s exposed to some oxygen will make it feel like it's been living longer,” says Kalick. “It's going to kind of evolve the wine quicker than if it was just sitting in the bottle.
What should I do with decanted wine that I don’t finish drinking?
This depends on the wine itself. “Wines that are higher in alcohol can stay out on your counter for longer because they’re a little bit more resilient. If you open up a bottle of red that's high in alcohol, you can leave it on your counter for maybe a half a day or another day, but once it oxidizes too much, it will turn in flavor [so anything beyond that] it's probably better to put it in the fridge and let it be in a controlled temperature,” Kalick says.
Your other option is to carefully pour the decanted wine back into the bottle and use “one of those nifty wine pumps that sucks oxygen out of the wine bottle because it’ll allow the wine to stay even long,” says Kalick, although he cautions it’s not always fool-proof. The general rule of thumb is that you’ll want to finish any decanted wine the day of, so pour only as much wine into a decanter that you plan on drinking, and keep the remainder in a tightly sealed bottle for next time.
How do you properly clean glassware?
Kalick says you can get wine glass cleaners which are brushes specially designed to wipe your delicate wine glasses and decanter with. (Made In also makes a cleaning powder for its glassware.) But Kalick doesn’t even use those brushes — he recommends warm water and a little bit of dish soap and swirling it around before rinsing it out well. The Made In glassware is also been designed to be dishwasher-safe for people who prefer to load it into the machine. “Just make sure you dry it right away so that the water doesn't sit on there and then create water spots.”
Are “nice” wine glasses and a decanter worth the price?
The way Kalick justifies investing in well-manufactured glassware is that “people spend so much money on wine, whether it's $5 a bottle or $30 a bottle over the course of a lifetime,” he says, “but you’ll have wine glasses for a while — and I think the one thing that you realize once you start using a nicer glass is how much better the wine feels in the glass, how much more enjoyable the tasting process is in a nicer glass with a laser cut edge where the wine rolls right into your mouth as opposed to getting stuck on this wide and bulky rolled rim.”
If getting more educated on wine is something you’d like to do, even for the casual drinker, getting started with a set of high-quality red wine glasses, white wine glasses, and a decanter is one way to do it. (And, of course, drinking and experimenting with what suits your palate best.) “From our perspective, if you want to get the true impression of the wine from the nose or the taste or the mouth, a nicer glass sourced from the right raw materials is going to allow you to do that. A fine, clear, durable wine glass is going to feel fancier and more premium, even if you’re drinking from a $5 bottle of wine.”
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