Have you ever noticed how many different types of wine glasses there are? Every restaurant has their own wine glass, of a different shape or size than types of wine glasses used at their competitors’ restaurants. Not only that, but there are different wines glasses used for each type of wine. Confusing, right?
But how important are the types of wine glass used? Does a different glass affect the flavour of the wine, or is it all about the “look”? Read on to find out everything you need to know about the types of wine glasses used, as well as how to choose the best type according to the wine you are drinking…
Parts of a Wine Glass
There are three parts to every wine glass:
- The base – This part needed to keep the wine glass standing.
- The stem – This is the part you hold, and it connects the base and the bowl.
- The bowl – This is the part that holds the wine. Aim to fill the glass around one third, or to where the bowl is at its widest – to maximise the wine’s contact with the air. Bowls are tapered to concentrate and direct the aromas to your nose. This allows you to swirl the wine around the glass (further releasing the aromas) without spilling any onto your shirt!
Each of these parts will vary, but the shape and size of the bowl is the most crucial factor.
Types of Red Wine Glasses
Red wine glasses have larger, wider bowls, bringing more oxygen into contact with the wine. This allows the wine to ‘breathe’ more, releasing the complex flavours and aromas of the wine.
Cabernet/Merlot glasses have an average-length stem, a wide base, and a large bowl that tapers slightly at the top. This is a glass designed to get a lot of oxygen in contact with the wine to bring out the fruit flavours and lessen the tannins.
Syrah/Shiraz glasses are smaller than most red wine glasses. The rim sharply tapers inward from the bowl, which helps to bring out the fruit aromas first and the tannins after.
Pinot Noir glasses can have a rim that is turned out, directing the intense wine flavours straight to your nose and tongue. It has a shorter stem than other glasses, but a large bowl that is the widest of any wine glass.
Types of White Wine Glasses
Did you know that the bowls of white wine glasses tend to be smaller than the bowls of red wine glasses? This is because the aromas are lighter.
Chardonnay glasses have a wide bowl and a top that tapers slightly. It is a similar shape to the Pinot Noir glass, but slightly smaller.
Sauvignon Blanc glasses have a long stem and a narrow bowl that tapers slightly. The tall, slim design of the glass makes it easier to detect the aromas of the wine, whilst minimising the amount of oxygen in the glass to keep the wine fresh.
Riesling glasses are both taller and narrower than Chardonnay glasses. The taller, tapered design of the glass concentrates the fruity aromas in the upper portion of the bowl, and the long stem keeps the wine chilled.
Types of Champagne Glasses/Sparkling Wine Glasses
Not sure what glasses to serve your champagne or sparkling wine in?
Champagne glasses are known as “flutes”, thanks to their tall, slender, taper-free design. The glass keeps the bubbles and liquid on the tip of your tongue, giving you the aromas upon your first sip.
This narrow style is the best glass for Prosecco, most champagnes and other sparkling wines. For vintage champagnes, or richer non-vintage champagnes, there is a move toward wider bowls, or even using smaller white wine glasses. This is to allow the richer, more complex flavours to develop. The wide base keeps the tall glass stable.
The old-fashioned ‘coupe’ style champagne glasses may look nice, but could hardly be less suitable for fizz. The wide opening means the bubbles dissipate quickly, and the shallow bowl means it’s very easy to spill!
Types of Rose Wine Glasses
If you’re a rose wine drinker, you can use white wine glasses. Narrower bowls are usually better, and a long stem will help the maintain the cool temperature. This design brings out the fruity aromas of the wine.
Types of Dessert and Fortified Wine Glasses
You’d be surprised to find that there is a wide variety of glasses used for dessert and fortified wines:
Port glasses have a small, slender shape. The design of the glasses help your palate to focus on the fruit, oak, and spice flavours in the port rather than being drowned out by the heavy alcohol flavours.
Ice wine/dessert wine glasses are designed with a highly tapered rim. The design makes it easy to swirl the wine, but helps to keep the wine to air ratio balanced. The glass also emphasizes the acidity of the wine, preventing the sweetness from being overwhelming.
Crystal vs. Glass Wine Glasses: Does It Matter?
Surprisingly, the material used to make the wine glass DOES matter!
If you want something fancy, look for leaded or lead-free crystal for your wine glasses. Both types of glasses cause the light to refract, giving your stemware a sparkle that makes it highly elegant. The glasses are thin, so they feel more delicate. Leaded crystal can become cloudy over time with washing.
However, if the glass is frosted, you won’t get a clear view of the colour. For experienced wine drinkers, the colour can say a lot about the wine. Crystal glasses of less-than top quality can skew or distort the wine’s appearance.
Wine glasses should be made with plain, clear glass. This will help you have a clear, unobstructed view of the wine in the glass!
Note: Grip the wine glass by the stem. Gripping the bowl will leave fingerprints on the glass, and will warm the wine.
Styles and fashions change over the years, the main change over recent decades is the increased size of wine glasses, alongside the quality and variety on offer. Champagne flutes are getting wider, and many people are starting to favour a flatter bottom in the bowl (such as the Zalto Universal) to maximise surface area (and therefore air contact with the wine).
Trying the same wine from different glasses is a great way to highlight the difference and the importance of choosing the best glasses for wine. Now that you know how to choose the right wine glass, it’s up to you to make sure you have the proper glasses according to the wine you’re serving.