Wine Glass Basics

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Tall, short, skinny, squat – wine glasses come in more shapes than you may have even realized. But, does it really matter what kind of glass you drink your wine from? And what’s the difference anyway? Let us explain.

 

Red-Wine

Wide-Bowled Glass

Red wine and oxygen is one of the greatest love stories there is. That’s why your good ol’ reds usually go in the biggest glass you have. For the same reason you would open your red early or use a decanter (or a blender – seriously, it works), a wide-bowled glass is a way to aerate the wine, which is just a way of saying flavors and aromas release when the wine meets oxygen. Wine glasses with wide bowls are great for reds because they are usually jam-packed with aroma and flavor just waiting to be let out.

Within wide-bowled glasses for red, you’ll find some difference in shape. The Bordeaux glass is taller than a typical red glass and the narrowed opening directs the wine to the back of mouth, so it’s good for bold, full-bodied wines like Merlot. Glasses with larger openings are good for lighter, full-bodied wines like Pinot Noir because the wine is directed to the tip of the tongue.

White-Wine

Tall & Slim Glass

Generally, white wines don’t have the same boldness or complexity in flavor as reds. They don’t need all that oxygen to be up in their business. And they’d really much prefer a narrower glass to anything else because you’re not going to want to serve your chilled white in a wide glass that’s exposing it to warm air. Not a problem for your reds, but you really ought to take better care of your whites. A tall and more slim-shaped glass will do just fine to keep your white cool, heck, even your rosé!

Like red glasses, there are differences in the style of white glasses. A narrower glass directs the wine to the back of mouth, so it’s good for bolder whites. A tall white glass with a bit larger opening is better for delicate and lighter wines you want to savor on the tip of your tongue.

 

Champagne

Champagne Flute

Champagne doesn’t like oxygen so much – except that first moment when you pop the top and successfully sink it across the room. But then Champagne starts to go flat. That’s why Champagne, or sparkling wine, likes to be nestled in a tall, narrow flute. There’s only a small surface area for oxygen to get to and that means more bubbles for you. Stay bubbly.

 

Dessert-Wine

Short & Squat Glass

You might be disappointed with the small glass your dessert wine is served in, but when you get hit with the sweetness and higher alcohol content, you’ll understand. Dessert wines are usually very sweet, and a small narrow glass is perfect to direct that sweetness – and alcohol – right to the back of your mouth, saving your tongue from sweetness overload.

 

Stemless

Stemless Glass

Oh and glasses without a stem? We think they’re fun, and they don’t mess with the aroma or taste of your wines, but it is true that if you don’t have a stem to hold onto then you may be warming your vino with your hands. All the same, when it comes to a casual drink (perhaps on the beach or at a picnic) stemless glasses are probably going to be the way to go.

 

Italian-Tumblers

Italian Wine Tumbler

But then again, Italians have been known to pour their wine into small, stemless tumblers. This comes from the casual nature of drinking wine in Italy as some form of table wine was traditionally served with every meal. Table wine is by no means “low-quality” wine, it’s just wine intended for everyday drinking, rather than formal meals.

At the end of the day though, drinking wine is about what makes you happy - whether you have a different glass for every varietal or you’re drinking straight out of the bottle.

 

Illustrations by Chawaporn Kitimahasak

4 Comments

  • Robyn Newton says:

    I’m a little confused by your second paragraph under Tall and Slim Glass. If a narrower glass is good for bold, full bodied wines and wider glasses are better for light, delicate whites why don’t we drink Bordeaux out of flutes and Viognier out of wide mouth glasses? Is this perhaps a misprint?

    • Paige Villiard Paige Villiard says:

      Hi Robyn! Within glasses used for reds and glasses used for whites, there are some differences in shape. A Bordeaux red glass is taller than a typical red glass, making the opening more narrow, but the bowl is still wider than a glass you would use for your whites! And for lighter whites that you want to savor on the tip of your tongue, you’ll want to use a tall glass that has a slightly larger opening! Thanks for pointing out the confusion – we’ve reworded it!

    • Robyn Newton says:

      Thanks! It’s clear as can be with the new wording. It was a very interesting article.

  • ANN BIAZO says:

    I like to drink my wine from stemless Italian glasses.

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