How do you choose your wine glasses? For the average wine consumer, having 4-6 red and white glasses on hand is usually the norm (and completely acceptable for everyday drinking and guests). Even I will admit that right after college I used red wine glasses for everything I drank – we’ve all been there. It wasn’t until I became a Sommelier that I realized the true beauty that could come from having a spectacular wine in the right glass.
The fact is, many wines actually develop better and taste different depending on the glass used. This isn’t to say that you need to go out and buy a huge variety of glasses for everyday use, but this information is important if you have a special bottle just waiting to shine in your cellar.
Let’s start with the glass.
Most wine glasses consist of a base, stem, and a bowl. Today, stemless glasses are also becoming more popular, and they’re really great to have around. You will notice that wine glasses are all different shapes and sizes depending on the type of glass you select. All high quality wine glasses are shaped to direct the wine to the part of your mouth where the flavor will be most fulfilling. You will notice the bowl of the glass is positioned upright with a narrower opening at the top, to help capture the wine’s aromas and direct them to your mouth and nose. In all types of wine glasses of any quality, the bowl will always be large enough to swirl the wine. This is important for aeration and the release of aromas.
Red Wines – Larger Bowl for Full-Bodied Aromas
For red wines, you will want to use a wine glass with a larger bowl and opening so you can almost dip your nose into the glass to get the full effect of the aromas. When drinking reds, it is common to use a Bordeaux glass in which the stem is taller and the bowl slightly smaller, than say a Burgundy glass, where the stem is smaller and the bowl bigger. Many people like Bordeaux glasses for Cabernet, fuller bodied wines, and heavy red wines. For Pinot Noir or full-bodied, lighter wines, a Burgundy glass would suit well, because the bowl is shaped for the style of wine.
White Wines – “U” Shape to Maintain Temperature
White wines look slightly more “U” shaped, allowing the aromas to release and keep cool temperature longer. For crisp white wines on the younger side, you may want to try a glass with a slightly larger opening, so the wine will direct itself to the sides of the tongue where the sweet taste buds lie. These glasses are also good for Rieslings. For slightly more mature whites, a straighter, taller glass may be used to assist the wine to the back of the mouth where the bold flavor detecting taste buds are.
Sparkling Wines – A Flute for Flavor
Sparkling wine is usually served in a flute or upright narrow glass to hold the carbonation and keep the flavor. Although there are many different styles of flutes, they all serve the same purpose for the sparkling wine. There is no need to aerate and swirl a sparkling wine – simply sip and enjoy!
Dessert Wines – Small Glasses Help Balance Sweetness
Dessert wines are many times served in what looks like a “mini” or small wine glass. These glasses should be smaller, so the wine can hit the back of the mouth and the consumer is not overwhelmed by the sweetness in the wine or the higher alcohol content.
For the average wine consumer, buying wine glasses is a matter of personal preference, but if you entertain often or like to enjoy many types of wine, having a set of standard red, white, and flute glasses will surely suffice. One important point to consider when buying wine glasses is to purchase ones with a thin, not thick, rim. You will be surprised how much better the wine can and will taste when the rim is thin, regardless of which glass you choose. And if you ever decide in the future that you would like special glasses like the ones mentioned above, you can find them at almost any wine retailer.