Real quick: If you like to drink wine out of a mug or a mason jar, we’re not going to tell you to stop. You can keep living your best life and nobody’s going to judge you. However, the reason to consider one kind of wine glass over another is because the right wine glass will make your wine taste better.
Why is that? The shape of the wine glass affects the density and position of the wine’s vapors, aka the particles that carry flavor compounds to your nose. Your brain translates those compounds into different recognizable flavors and aromas. It’s how we’re able to take a sip of Viognier and say, “Mmmm, I’m getting notes of peach.”
The “wrong” kind of glass won’t damage the wine or prevent you from enjoying it, but it’s one of those common mistakes we all made as wine newbies. At some point, you may decide to up your wine game, and after you’ve done the work of figuring out which vino best suits your palette, you may as well get the most out of it.
Take a look at how to choose the right wine glass and which wine glass to use for which wine.
A Quick Note about Stems
Most of the differences among wine glasses have to do with the size and shape of the bowl – the round part of the glass where the wine goes. Wine experts generally recommend stemmed glasses because the stem gives you a place to hold the glass without raising the temperature of the wine.
However, if you prefer stemless glasses for any reason – whether it’s because they’re easier to store in your cabinets or because you’ve been known to drop things at inopportune moments – it’s all good. Stemless glasses are just fine.
Choosing Your Glasses
If you get really into owning different wine glasses for different occasions, you’ll find that there are specific, proper wine glasses for basically every varietal. We don’t think it’s necessary to get quite that intense about it. Plus, unless you have miles of storage, having that many glasses can be unrealistic. You really only need about two or three kinds. Here’s a rough breakdown of how to choose the right wine glass for optimal wine enjoyment.
Looking for the proper red wine glass? Here are the facts – red wine tastes best in a larger glass. Why? A wider opening can smooth out the wine’s tannins. Plus, with more space between the wine and your nose, there’s more time for the ethanol to evaporate, allowing you to take in more of the wine’s aromas.
For bold red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Bordeaux blends, use a full-bodied wine glass known as a Bordeaux glass.
A standard red wine glass is great for medium- to full-bodied reds like Malbec, Syrah/Shiraz, or Zinfandel. The smaller opening of this glass can help smooth out notes of spice.
For light red wines like Gamay, Zweigelt, or Pinot Noir, go with a Bourgogne glass, which helps to collect the subtle aromas in these more delicate varietals.
Go with a glass with a small bowl for light white wines like Pinot Gris or Sauvignon blanc, and a slightly wider bowl for full-bodied white wines like Chardonnay or Viognier.
When it comes to sparkling wine, a Champagne flute is the classic choice. Long and narrow, this glass traps the bubbles in, keeping the wine effervescent longer. However, some people prefer a slightly wider glass, like a tulip glass or even a wide-rimmed coupe glass for older or richer sparkling wines. The wider opening allows the flavors to open up, making for a more nuanced sip.
If you’re thinking, “Help! I live in a studio apartment!” or “This is overwhelming and honestly, I’ve got enough to worry about right now,” – we totally get it. Fortunately, wine glass manufacturers get it too. Recently, universal glasses have started popping up, and they’re designed for any kind of wine – be it red, white, rosé, or sparkling.
Universal glasses generally have stems, wide bowls, and slightly tapered rims. They’re only intended to be filled to the widest part of the bowl. That way you have plenty of room for swirling. If you like a variety of vino and you’re not too picky, these glasses might be the way to go.
In Vino Finito
Ultimately, you should feel free to drink wine out of whichever kind of vessel you like, though the right wine glass can allow you to enjoy wine to its fullest expression. Whichever glasses you choose, make sure to show them a little TLC so they don’t lose their shine over time.
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