Choosing the Right Wine Glasses

Finding the right glasses entails six points of consideration: size, shape, design, weight, material and aesthetics.

The size of the glass is determined by what kind of wine you intend to drink from it. Generally speaking, red wine glasses are larger than white wine glasses, and those intended for high quality wines are larger than those used for everyday wines.

Personally, I use a 17 oz.(480 ml.) capacity glass for ordinary red wines, and a 12 2/3 oz. (360 ml.) one for whites. In the case of Bordeaux, and other tannic, full-bodied, high quality reds, I use a 23 oz. (650 ml.) glass that was designed with Bordeaux specifically in mind. I of course don’t fill my Bordeaux, or any other wine glass, to the brim. For one thing, considering that a standard wine bottle only contains 750 ml. of wine, there wouldn’t be much left for anyone else to drink if I did, and for another, both the large size of the glass and the fact that it’s widest at its midway point allow the wine to “breathe” by affording a wide surface area of wine to be in contact with the air in order to promote oxidation. Oxidation helps to soften the tannins of a powerful red that might otherwise be overly harsh, and lets you more fully experience the complexity and various flavors present in a noble red. White wine, on the other hand, has far fewer tannins, and generally speaking, does not benefit from oxidation. A smaller glass is also better for whites because they are served chilled. Obviously, it takes longer to drink a larger quantity of wine, and you want to drink up each glass of white wine before it has a chance to become overly warm. One white wine that is an exception to these rules is fine white Burgundy, such as Chablis or Montrachet. These very high quality whites do benefit from exposure to the air, and are best served at the temperature of standard red wines, from 55 to 59 degrees Fahrenheit. Depending on the quality level, I usually serve white Burgundy, and other high quality Chardonnays, in 14 4/5 oz. (420 ml.) glasses or my 17 oz. red wine glasses.

The largest glasses are usually reserved for fine Burgundy. I use 26 1/2 oz. (750 ml.) glasses, but I’ve seen Burgundy glasses as large as 31 3/4 oz. (900 ml). But a discussion of Burgundy glasses really brings us more into the realm of shape than size. Burgundy is a rather delicate and highly aromatic red. Like Bordeaux, Burgundy is usually drunk form glasses designed specifically for it. They are balloon shaped: very wide in the middle, but tapering up to a relatively narrow opening at the rim. The wide middle creates ample surface area for the aroma to waft up from, while the narrow top keeps the wonderful Burgundy bouquet in the glass, preventing it from dissipating so that you can fully enjoy it.

Another type of uniquely shaped wine glass is the champagne flute. They have narrow, tall bowls to prevent their bubbles from dissipating to quickly. Tulip shaped Champagne flutes are better than straight-sided or trumpet-shaped ones because, as is the case with most wine glasses, the narrower mouth serves to concentrate the bouquet inside the glass. Speaking of shape in general, I prefer diamond-shaped glasses. They look nice, and an advantage of the diamond design is that it’s easy to see where the widest point of the glass is, which is the point to which a wine glass should be filled.

As far as design goes, traditional, long-stemmed glasses are definitely preferable to stemless glasses. The stem serves several important functions. First, by lifting the glass up off the table, it lets you see the color of the wine. Secondly, it makes it easier to swirl the wine in the glass to aerate it and get an idea of the amount of body the wine has as it drips back down the sides of the glass. Thirdly, it is a convenient handle that prevents your hand warming up the wine, and your fingers smudging up the glass.

Weight and balance are also important because you want a glass that feels good in your hand. This is a subjective area, but I personally don’t like heavy wine glasses, so I prefer ones made from thin glass. A thin rim is also more pleasant to drink from. There is a disadvantage to thin glass though, that can cause inconvenience and added expense: it chips and breaks easily. A way around this problem is to buy glasses reinforced with titanium rather than lead. Titanium wine glasses are not only more durable than their leaded counterparts, they are also lighter and maintain their clarity better.

As for material, you definitely want to go with fine Austrian or German crystal. That’s really not as expensive as it sounds. You can get beautiful, elegant, machine-made crystal from big name producers at reasonable prices, especially if you shop around on the Internet. Of course, their top of the line hand blown glasses tend to be very pricey, but it’s not necessary pay a premium when you can get very nice glasses for much less, including the titanium ones.

Which brings us finally to aesthetics, the most subjective area of all. It’s an important one though because, after all, the whole purpose of nice wine glasses is to act as an elegant foil for whatever wine you happen to be pouring, so aesthetics is just as important a consideration as functionality. Basically, I’d say decide how much you want to spend on wine glasses and get the ones that you think are the nicest among those that fall within your budget. It’s possible to buy a different size and shape of glass for each famous type of wine, but that’s overkill, in my humble opinion. I can’t see any reason to buy a special glass for Syrah, for example. If you’re having a very high quality Syrah, like a Hermitage or Penfolds Grange, you should serve it in Bordeaux glasses. If it’s a more humble version of this popular varietal, you can just use regular red wine glasses. The same goes for other powerful, full-bodied reds. In the case of a very good Pinot Noir, you should use Burgundy glasses because Burgundy itself is made from Pinot Noir grapes. If it’s a more ordinary Pinot Noir, regular red wine glasses are a better choice because the high-capacity Burgundy glasses will just make the wine’s ordinariness more apparent.

In my opinion, a full set of wine glasses should include regular red wine glasses (which can also be used as water goblets), Bordeaux glasses, Burgundy glasses, white wine glasses, (for Chablis and other high quality white Burgundies, you can use red wine or Bordeaux glasses), and champagne glasses. You may want to add some specialty glasses to that list if you happen to be a Brandy drinker or make a habit of serving dessert wines, but otherwise, you should be prepared for any contingency with these five types of wine glasses.

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Which Eyeglasses Are Right for Me? Bifocal, Progressive or Single Vision Reading Glasses?

It’s great being over 40.

No, 40 is not really the new 20. That’s because at 40 you really begin to come into your own, personally and professionally, unlike when you’re 20. It’s in your 40s when you start to figure out who you really are. Sure, you’ve made some mistakes. Who hasn’t? But now that you’re over 40 you find you’re actually learning from your mistakes, rather than making the same ones over and over again.

But just at the point you start to hit your stride, you also start noticing that physically, certain things don’t work as well as they used to.

Like your eyes, for example.

It used to be that when you were younger, whether you were nearsighted, farsighted or had perfect vision, your eyes could adjust to see things both far away and up close, whether you were looking through prescription eyeglasses or not. But now that you’ve entered your fifth decade, a curious thing happens. You notice you’re not able to see things up close as well as you used to.

Reading an instructional manual? No way.

The directions on a pill bottle? Fuggedaboutit.

Now you find yourself constantly moving what you’re trying to read back and forth, back and forth, as you attempt to find the exact position where you can see it clearly. You do this so much you start to feel like a trombone player.

You don’t want to admit it, but you know it’s true. It’s time to start thinking about multifocal glasses. Or at least reading glasses.

But what should you get? If you already wear glasses to correct nearsighted or farsighted vision, the first thing that probably pops into your mind is bifocals. But what enters your mind right after that is grandma, rocking and knitting and watching “Matlock.”

That’s not me, you say to yourself. I don’t want people looking at me, seeing that line on my glasses and thinking, “Out to pasture.” You heard there are such things as no-line bifocals, or multifocal glasses, called progressives, but you’re not sure about them. You’ve heard that some people have a hard time finding their visual sweet spot.

So you consider separate pairs of glasses, for distance, computer, and reading vision. But if you wear corrective lenses already, you might not want to have to worry about using multiple pairs of glasses. “Glasses strewn all over the house?” Uh-uh. “Reading glasses on a chain?” Even more emphatically: Uh-uh. Once again the dreaded image comes to mind: Grandma.

Don’t worry. You’re not your grandma. You’re years away from the early bird special at Denny’s. All you need is a little help with your presbyopia.

My what? OK, we’ll explain. When you’re young and your eye muscles are elastic, they easily expand and contract to allow the lens of your eye to change shape to enable you to see objects clearly at various distances.

This process is called accommodation.

But after your eye muscles do this for about 40 years, they get a little tired and stiff, just like your other muscles. Consequently, no longer can your eye muscles so easily expand and contract to enable the accommodation process.

This condition is called presbyopia.

If you have it, and once you hit your 40s there’s no way around it, you’re going to need some kind of reading magnification power. So let’s look at the various options to see which is right for you.

Again, if you already are wearing corrective eyeglasses, multifocal lenses will most likely be your best option. So let’s start with bifocals.

People who like bifocals prefer having their distance and near vision clearly separated by a visible line. They don’t care, or are less concerned about, what this implies about their age. However, people who don’t like the way bifocals correct their vision complain about the phenomenon known as “image jump”, which refers to the abrupt switch from distance to near vision, which can be disorienting.

Presbyopes who want a smoother blend between distance and near vision tend to prefer multifocal lenses with no visible line separating the larger distance portion and the smaller near segment. These invisible line bifocals (or, more accurately, multifocals) are called progressives.

That’s because the vision “progresses” from distance to near vision with no image jump. In addition, in between the portion of the lens with distance vision and the portion with near vision, there is a portion of the lens that provides intermediate or computer vision.

Let’s look at these no-line multifocal lenses a little more closely. Progressives could also be called no-line trifocals, because there are three fields of vision in the lens with no visible line separating them. This is great for disguising your need to wear “old people’s glasses” but it comes at a cost. Literally, since progressive eyeglasses are, as a rule, more expensive than single-vision or bifocal glasses. But there’s also an aspect to pay attention to in terms of the amount of vision correction on the lens.

The reading-segment lens of bifocals is, as we noted, roughly 28 millimeters across. But with progressives, the reading segment lens is about half that, roughly 14 millimeters across. In addition, there is no vision correction on either side of the reading portion of the lens.

To get a sense of how a progressive lens is configured, think of a mushroom.

Imagine the cap is the distance-vision section of the lens. Think of the mushroom’s stem as the intermediate and reading portion of the lens, around 14 millimeters wide. People who prefer the wider reading segment provided by bifocal lenses often feel that the progressive lens doesn’t provide a wide-enough near-vision reading corridor.

Progressives won’t work for everyone, though. Some people respond adversely to the lack of a visible line separating the three focal fields, to the point of feeling dizzy or nauseous while wearing progressives. For most first-time progressive eyeglasses wearers, this goes away in a few minutes or a few days.

For some people, however, the discomfort they feel wearing progressives never goes away. Moreover, wearing a pair of multifocal glasses, bifocals or progressives, can be dangerous for some people, according to research published by Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science. This study found that people wearing either bifocal or progressive glasses are more than twice as likely to fall when wearing multifocal glasses than they are while wearing single-vision glasses. This increases if the wearer is walking downstairs.

People who feel they might have a hard time maintaining their balance while wearing multifocal glasses, or who have tried and dislike bifocals and progressives, would very likely do better with separate pairs of single-vision glasses for distance, computer and reading vision.

Single-vision distance glasses are used for seeing distances roughly two feet away or more. Single-vision intermediate (computer) glasses are used for seeing distances between one-and-a-half and two feet away, basically how far away a person usually is from a computer screen. Single-vision near (reading) glasses are used for seeing objects six inches to one-and-a-half feet away, roughly where you would hold a book you are reading.

Progressives won’t work for everyone, though. Some people respond adversely to the lack of a visible line separating the three focal fields, to the point of feeling dizzy or nauseous while wearing progressives. For most first-time progressive eyeglasses wearers, this goes away in a few minutes or a few days.

For some people, however, the discomfort they feel wearing progressives never goes away. Moreover, wearing a pair of multifocal glasses, bifocals or progressives, can be dangerous for some people, according to research published by Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science. This study found that people wearing either bifocal or progressive glasses are more than twice as likely to fall when wearing multifocal glasses than they are while wearing single-vision glasses. This increases if the wearer is walking downstairs.

People who feel they might have a hard time maintaining their balance while wearing multifocal glasses, or who have tried and dislike bifocals and progressives, would very likely do better with separate pairs of single-vision glasses for distance, computer and reading vision.

Single-vision distance glasses are used for seeing distances roughly two feet away or more. Single-vision intermediate (computer) glasses are used for seeing distances between one-and-a-half and two feet away, basically how far away a person usually is from a computer screen. Single-vision near (reading) glasses are used for seeing objects six inches to one-and-a-half feet away, roughly where you would hold a book you are reading.

For single-vision distance glasses, all that is needed are the plus or minus numbers in the Sphere (abbreviated SPH), Cylinder (CYL) and AXIS sections of a prescription. Ignore the plus number (it will be the same for both eyes) in the NVADD (Near-Vision reading ADDition) section of your prescription till you are ordering intermediate and reading glasses.

For single-vision reading glasses, it’s a little more complicated, although it just requires a bit of grade-school arithmetic. Take the plus number in the NV-ADD section of your prescription and add it to the numbers in the SPH section. For example, if you have -1.00 in your SPHs, and +2.00 in the NV-ADD, when you add these two numbers together, you end up with +1.00 in the SPH section. That gives you near single-vision.

Remember, if you are ordering single-vision reading glasses, you will need to lower your distance vision pupillary distance (PD). Your PD is the measurement, in millimeters, between the middle of one pupil to the center of the other.

If you have a single PD number, which would be one number between 50 and 75, subtract three. For example, let’s say your distance vision PD is 63. Lower this by three, to 60, for single-vision reading glasses.

However, you may have a dual PD, which is the measurement from the center of each pupil to the center of the bridge of your nose. In this case, you would have two numbers, each somewhere between the mid-20s to the mid-30s. These two numbers should add up to the single PD number. For example, if you had a dual PD of 31.5 in the right eye and 31.5 in the left, your PD would add up to 63. Therefore, to get your near-vision dual PD for single-vision reading glasses, you would lower each eye’s PD by one-and-a-half, since combining two of that number adds up to three. That would be 60, just as it is if you have a single PD.

For single-vision intermediate (computer) glasses, if you take your NV-ADD number and divide it in half (+2.00 divided by 2=+1.00), then add that to your -1.00 SPHs (+1.00 + -1.00=0.00), you get your intermediate (computer) single-vision. You don’t have to change the PD at all, but you could lower it by one or two millimeters, if you have a high PD (over 66).

If you want to use a pair of bifocals to reconfigure your prescription to get computer vision in the top part of your lens and reading vision in the bottom, do the same thing you would do for single vision computer glasses.

Divide the NV-ADD in half and add this half number to the SPHs. But this time, leave the remainder in the NV-ADD section. That’s how you would get computer vision in the top part of the lens and reading vision on the bottom.

It’s as simple as that.