Wine glasses can be pricey, but they can alter how you taste a wine.

The right wine glass can affect the enjoyment of the wines you consume.

One of the preferred choices of wine connoisseurs is Austrian crystal manufacturer Riedel’s range of variety-specific wine glasses.

Georg Riedel and his son Maximilian have built much of their reputation as wineglass makers extraordinaire on the concept that the shape of a wineglass determines the flow of the wine into the mouth and where it touches the various taste zones of the tongue.

Sweetness is tasted on the tip of the tongue, acidity and saltiness on the sides, and bitterness at the back.

According to Riedel, the shape of the glass can direct the flow of the wine to the right zone of the tongue to bring out the best in each variety, and they manufacture several ranges of wine glass that address this.

It is common knowledge that a larger bowl on a glass gives more room to swirl a wine before drinking, breaking the surface tension and allowing the liquid to release its aromas more readily. However, to ensure this can be done without the risk of spilling, do not fill a large glass to the brim.

White wine glasses are smaller than red wine glasses because smaller pours allow the wine to be drunk cooler, as the glass can be topped-up from the bottle, replaced in an ice-bucket between pours. This helps the wine to remain cool and refreshing to the last drop.

As for the purpose of a Champagne flute, it is to slow the release of the mousse, the bead of bubbles that travels up the glass prior to release. That’s in contrast to the coupe glass whose larger surface area allows the wine’s sparkle to diffuse rapidly, leaving a still wine.

The thickness of the glass bowl influences the drinking experience. Thick glass with a rolled rim interrupts the smooth flow of wine onto the tongue.

The idea that using the shape of the glass to direct wine to the area of the tongue that flatters it most is most appreciated with sweet wines. The steeply curving rim of Reidel’s Sommelier Sauternes glass and its narrow aperture serve to deliver the wine onto the tip of the tongue, where sweetness is detected.

Most wine drinkers give very little thought to the glasses they use. For many, expensive glasses such as Riedel are a luxury. But for the privileged who drink Grand Cru Burgundy, vintage Krug or old Château d’Yquem, buying the right – albeit pricey – glasses that can greatly enhance the drinking experience is a sensible investment.