Picture this - you're in the home section of a store, walking down the glassware aisle, and see rows and rows of different wine glasses. You pick one that catches your eye and casually look at the price and it's $50! You then ask yourself, "If I spend money on a good bottle of wine, do I even need to fork out more cash on a glass to drink it in?"
The short answer is yes. Wine glasses aren't just an aesthetic choice but they're also an important tool to help you get the most out of your wine. You wouldn't drink a $75 bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon out of a red plastic cup, would you? Now that's an extreme example, but you get the idea. Let's go over how to choose the right wine glass.
The Basic Anatomy of A Wine Glass
First, you need to know the anatomy of a wine glass. All wine glasses, except for stemless wine glasses, have four essential parts:
The rim refers to the mouth of the glass, the part that touches your lips when you take a sip.
The bowl has the most variation between wine glass types. The shape of the bowl determines how much air gets into your glass. Oxygen helps the aromas, or the wine's smell, develop. You may have heard the term "letting a wine breathe," which refers to this process.
The stem connects the bowl with the base. While the stem makes a wine glass look elegant, it's also functional. By holding your wine glass by the stem, you prevent the heat from your fingers from warming up your wine.
The base keeps the glass stable and standing upright. Some serious wine drinkers hold their glasses by the base to further reduce their fingers warming up the wine.
Now that you understand what makes a wine glass a wine glass let's get into specifics.
Red Wine Glasses
Red wine needs to open up more than white wine. As a result, red wine glasses have larger bowls designed to allow more oxygen into the glass. There are three main types of red wine glasses: Bordeaux, Standard, and Burgundy.
Bordeaux Wine Glasses
This glass has the largest bowl out of any wine glass style. The large bowl allows the maximum amount of oxygen into the glass so the wine can breathe better. These glasses are designed for Bordeaux blends and are great for other full-bodied red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah. Remember, you're not supposed to fill the entire glass up to the rim. You want to leave adequate room in your glass for your wine to breathe.
Standard Red Wine Glasses
This glass has a medium-sized bowl which is noticeably smaller than Bordeaux glasses. The size of the bowl still allows a significant amount of oxygen into the glass to aerate the wine. This type of glass is great for medium-bodied reds such as Cabernet Franc but generally works for all varieties of red wine.
Burgundy (or Pinot Noir) Wine Glasses
Pinot Noir is a lighter red wine variety, and these glasses are designed to allow the wine to breathe but still keep the aromas in the glass. The Pinot Noir grape is the red grape used in the Burgundy region of France, so this style can be called either a Burgundy or Pinot Noir wine glass. There may be slight variations in bowl design between the two glass styles.
White Wine Glasses
White wine glasses have a smaller and narrower bowl than red wine glasses. Most white wines are not as tannic or aged as long as red wines are and do not need to open up as much. The smaller bowl helps to keep the delicate aromas of white wine in the glass so you can smell them better. The two general categories are glasses for high-acid white wines and full-bodied white wines.
High Acid White Wine Glasses
Wine glasses for high-acid white wines, such as Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc, have a smaller bowl than full-bodied white wine glasses. The smaller bowl reduces the amount of oxygen in contact with the wine to help to keep the aromas in. The smaller bowl size also helps to keep the wine chilled.
Full Bodied White Wine Glasses
Glasses designed for full-bodied white wines, such as Chardonnay, have a rounder bowl with a wider opening allowing more oxygen to reach the wine. While the bowl is wider than on a high-acid white wine glass, these glasses are still narrower than red wine glasses.
Sparkling Wine Glasses
You don’t want to drink flat champagne, do you? That’s why wine glasses for champagne and other types of sparkling wine usually have narrow bowls to keep the bubbles from dissipating. There are three types of glasses for sparkling wine: flute glasses, tulip glasses, and coupe glasses.
If you've been to a wedding or any celebratory occasion with a bottle of bubbles, you've probably seen this type of glass. Unlike other wine glasses on this list, the bowl is long and very narrow to help preserve the bubbles and keep the wine cool.
Tulip glasses have a slightly larger bowl than flute glasses, but the bowl tapers and narrows towards the rim like a tulip flower. The larger bowl allows more oxygen into the glass to open up the wine, but the unique shape still preserves the bubbles.
You might recognize these glasses from movies set during the 1920s-1930s. While coupe glasses conjure up images of luxury in bygone eras, the bowl on these glasses is extremely wide and shallow, which causes sparkling wine to go flat faster.
Dessert/Fortified Wine Glasses
Dessert and fortified wines are much sweeter and have a higher alcohol content than other types of wine. The glasses for these wines are much smaller than other wine glasses because these wines are served in smaller servings.<
Universal Wine Glasses
Universal wine glasses work for all different varieties of wine. Will they enhance your wine-drinking experience as much as variety-specific wine glasses? No, but they won't diminish your experience either.
Universal wine glasses are great if you often drink different types of wine, don't have the storage space, or want to avoid investing in multiple specialized glasses. They are also an excellent choice for when you have company over because they cost less to replace than specialized wine glasses.
Do I Really Need All These Wine Glasses?
Investing in specialized wine glasses is a good idea if you are a serious wine drinker and want the best possible experience, especially if you tend to drink specific varietals repeatedly. Do you only drink Bordeaux blends? Then invest in a Bordeaux Glass. Dessert wine only for you? Then pick up a pair of dessert wine glasses.
Doing so will ensure you're able to enjoy your favorite wine in the best possible way. On the other hand, if you drink a wide variety of wines and are less serious about the whole experience, then universal wine glasses are a great, practical choice.