The Wine Glass Conundrum

One of the great mysteries of wine is what type of wine glass should you use and why. There are so many types of glasses to choose from. A quick Google search will provide you with anywhere from 10 – 20 different shapes and styles of wine glasses. That doesn’t even include the stemless/ tumbler style. It is important to know the 3 main components to wine glasses: the bowl (where the wine actually resides), the stem (the part you hold on to while enjoying the wine), and the foot (the bottom of the glass that sits on the table when you’re not holding the glass tight).

It really does matter which wine glass you use. The shape of the glass influences the amount of aromas that are released. Smell and taste are unquestionably linked together; thus, for the most complete tasting experience, you need proper glassware to maximize your perception of the wine. With upwards of 20 different glasses, how are you expected to know which glass for which wine? I believe that you can entertain and enjoy wines in your home with only three types of wine glasses – a classic wine glass, a flute, and a Burgundy-style glass. I do openly admit that it seems I have a bias to two types of wines – chardonnay and pinot noir. I do not. I’m trying to maximize your tasting experiences without filling your cabinets with wine glasses and allowing you to spend more money on your wine versus your glassware.
A classic wine glass is perfect for your white wines. The white wine glass bowl will be more U-shaped and upright. When looking for a classic white wine glass, you want to look for a larger opening to direct the wine to the tip and sides of your tongue to be able to better experience the sweetness of the wine. White wines do not require much aeration, therefore, a smaller bowl is all that is needed. The narrower bowl keeps the wine more compact, keeping it cooler and helping concentrate the aromas and flavors. The narrow bowl will also limit the amount of oxidation in the wine, which is not needed for a white wine. The longer stem of the classic wine glass will allow you to hold the glass further away from the bowl limiting the body heat of your hand inadvertently warming the wine.

The Burgundy glass will provide you all the experiences you need when enjoying a glass of red wine. The bowl will be fuller and rounder with a much larger opening to allow you to dip your nose into the glass to enjoy and identify all the aromas in the wine. The complex aromas and flavors of red wine need a larger service area to allow the wine to come in contact with more air allowing for proper oxidation and “opening up” of the wine. The larger stem of the red wine glass allows the wine to proceed directly to the back of the mouth to maximize the tasting experience. The larger bowl also allows for proper aeration when swirling the wine.

When enjoying a bottle of bubbles, a traditional flute is recommended. The narrow shape of the flute keeps the oxygen out allowing the bubbles to stick around longer. It also will keep the wine more concentrated allowing the wine to stay cooler and not warm as quickly. The longer stem will also keep your body heat from prematurely warming the wine. Recently there has been much talk about not even needing a flute to serve your sparkling wine, since a classic wine glass will suffice. There are benefits to this, the wider opening allows you to get in the wine and appreciate the wonderful aromas of a sparkling wine, while this may prove to be a little difficult with the flute. Use which ever you’d like. Personally, I’m old school and prefer the flute.

I do think that stemless wine glasses have their times and their places – picnics, outdoor activities, sporting events, etc. I recommend shying away from them at home and sticking with stemmed glasses. Remember, if you are touching the bulb of your glass, then you are warming up the wine with your hands. You are also able to swirl easier when you have a stem and the stem also keeps unsightly finger smudges off your glass.

The bottom line is that there is no right or wrong way to drink wine. Think about your aromatic & aesthetic preferences, check your cupboard to see what’s clean, and make your glassware choice.