by Andrea Doyle | December 04, 2017

The correct piece of stemware might be the single most important component for enjoying wine fully, says Martin Dell, resort manager at Four Seasons Maui, a 383-room oceanfront property set on the island's Wailea Coast.  

Dell shares his affection for selecting the correct glass during a Four Seasons Maui group activity called "Glassology: A Tour of Shapes and Tastes," held in the private dining room of DUO Steak and Seafood, overlooking a waterfall pool at this luxury resort.

A certified sommelier, Dell saw his passion for glassware ignited while he was at the JW Marriott Hotel in Hong Kong. That property has a dedicated room for Riedel Crystal, makers of wine glasses since 1756.

"The type of glass one chooses for the wine being served has a huge impact on how it tastes," says Dell, who shares stories of his time working in key food-and-beverage roles at luxury resorts all over the globe -- Hong Kong, Doha, Sydney, and the Czech Republic -- in between his wine talk. "The proper glass takes the experience to another level. It unites the wine's personality, its aroma, and taste."As a matter of fact, before choosing the wine he is going to drink, Dell first looks at the glass selection.

Martin Dell shows groups
the importance of wineglasses

The correct glass creates a "chimney" so the wine's aroma wafts up toward the nose. More than 90 percent of taste is smell, Dell explains, and a glass that optimizes the bouquet is ideal.

During Glassology, five glasses with bowls of different shapes, a plastic cup in the middle, are arranged in front of each participant with Dell perched at the head of the table as he shares his knowledge. Crystal sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, and pinot noir glasses are joined by a short, thick glass popular for banquets in the 1950s.

Various wines are sampled in each, with an initial swirl in the mouth. "If you don't swirl, you don't get the full picture, the full bouquet of the wine," he says.

"Our tongues have five taste sensations," he explains, and sticks his tongue out to demonstrate. One area reacts to sweetness, others to sourness, bitterness, saltiness, and savoriness.

Dell describes how Claus Riedel invented different wine glasses for nearly every varietal. Fortunately, many glasses work equally well for different wines. For example, the bordeaux glass does well for most red wines as does the burgundy glass. "On average, what we spend on a bottle of wine is what we should spend on our glassware," Dell recommends.

During the group activity, attendees can experience how the same wine smells and tastes different depending on the shape and size of the glass. Surprisingly, in some cases, the plastic cup was preferred over a glass of the wrong shape.  

Before tasting wine, one's nose should go into the glass as far as possible to inhale the bouquet. At one point in the demonstration, Dell has the attendees cover their nostrils as they sip, demonstrating how smell affects taste and further showing the importance of the correct glass for optimizing the bouquet.

Temperature matters, as well. Pinot noir, for instance, should be served at around 60 degrees; sauvignon blanc, 44 degrees. "Room temperature is not ideal as you don't get the flavors. Too cold, the flavors do not open up," explains Dell.

Wine enthusiasts as well as novices will leave Dell's class with an understanding of the vessels used to serve wine in and this knowledge will help enhance the total experience.