Picture a wine glass in your mind. You probably envisioned the standard ‘restaurant-style’ wine glass used almost ubiquitously across the United States. But, did you know that there is actually a specifically sized and shaped glass for almost every type of wine out there? Each one is designed to extract the flavors and aromas unique to each varietal of wine, while maintaining the ideal drinking temperature. If you’ve seen some of the interesting shaped glasses available and are wondering “Which glass is right for my wine?”, read on for our beginner’s guide to selecting the right glass for your wine, and turn your next wine drinking experience to an elegant and well-informed affair!
Material: Glass or Crystal?
If you’ve been shopping for wine glasses, you probably noticed a huge price discrepancy between standard glass and crystal wine glasses. But why the difference? Crystal glasses maintain a more consistent temperature in wine, and their strength allows for thin non-lipped edges that feel more natural when sipping wine, as well as for intricate engravings and etchings not possible on glass. Historically, crystal wine glasses were (and many still are) made with lead oxide. Today’s unleaded crystal contains barium carbonate and zinc and titanium oxides, but results in the same heavy, high-quality stemware. Crystal wine glasses have higher refractive index than plain glass, making the glass, and the wine inside, appear to sparkle in the light. While crystal glasses such as the Riedel glasses found in our Private Cellar Gift Set are an elegant choice that offers benefits to the wine tasting experience, standard glass stemware is a perfectly fine choice as well.
Selecting the Perfect Shape
Red Wine Glasses – Red wines such as Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Shiraz and Zinfandel are served in large wine glasses with full, round bowls. These glasses should have larger openings than wine glasses of similar capacity, to allow the drinker to dip their nose into the glass and detect all of the aroma. The large bowl style also allows for more air to come in contact with the red wine, releasing complex flavors and aromas.
Bordeaux glasses are specifically taller than most traditional red wine glasses but have slightly smaller bowls, designed for full bodied, heavier red wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The height of the glass allows the wine to tilt directly to the back of the mouth, maximizing its flavors. Burgundy glasses are made for medium-to-light-bodied wines such as Pinot Noir or Grenache. While not as tall as Bordeaux glasses, the bowl is larger to direct the wine to the tongue.
White Wine Glasses – White wines, like Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio or Chenin Blanc should be served in a tall glass with a bowl that is more U-shaped, compacted and upright than a red wine glass. Because white wine is traditionally served chilled, a white wine glass maintains the cool temperature of the wine while still allowing the flavors and aromas to be released. For younger white wine, the glass should have a slightly larger opening to release the wine’s sweetness, while mature white wines should be served in a straighter glass with a narrower opening that dispenses the wine to the back of the tongue, to taste the boldest flavors of the wine.
Champagne and Sparkling Wine Glasses – Sparkling wines, such as Champagne, Cava or Prosessco, are traditionally served in upright, narrow, tall glasses to retain the carbonation and capture the many subtle flavors of the wine. However, in recent years, sommeliers, cellar masters and glass makers have argued against this tradition and recommended using white wine glasses. Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon, cellarmaster at Champagne House Louis Roederer, said: ‘Our Champagne style needs aeration to fully demonstrate its potential, so we often use white wine glasses. Some 25 years ago we even developed our own tulip glasses, which were larger than the flute.’ The argument for the tulip-shaped glass is that each bubble carries the aroma to the surface, following the curve of the glass, favoring a stretched ascent. At the widest point of the tulip-shaped glass, it bursts – freeing its flavors and aromatic subtlety. The tapered, narrower rim captures these aromas and delivers them directly to the nose.
Dessert and Fortified Wines – Dessert wines, like Port, Sherry, Ice Wine, Muscat or Madiera, generally have a higher alcohol content, making small dessert wine glasses perfect for a smaller serving. The same rule of thumb applies to cordial glasses. Dessert or fortified wine glasses should be smaller to direct the wine to the back of the mouth so the sweetness doesn’t overwhelm.
Comment Below: Do you have specific stemware for various types of wine? It’s definitely a fun collectible for the discerning oenophile!