3 Factors of Wine Glasses That Make Them Different

Picture this: You enjoy a glass of wine to relax in the evening. But when you go shopping for wine glasses, the store has about 10 different shapes and sizes! Your relaxing drink just turned into a confusing decision. What if you get the wrong one? Will it ruin your favorite wine? Don't worry. We've all been there.

The world of wine glasses is a nuanced place that you can spend years studying. Several factors determine how a wine tastes in each glass.

But whether you want to become an expert or just need to know if those glasses will work with your favorite Riesling, you need to know what you're looking for.

Different Wine Glasses for Different Wines

If you know a thing or two about wine, you're probably familiar with the different types of wine glasses. At the very least, you probably know that there are different glasses for whites and reds, as well as the (in) famous champagne flute.

But there are different wine glasses for each varietal, with their own unique shape to the glass. If you're a casual wine drinker who just wants to enjoy their drink, you may be worried about having the wrong kind of glasses. Never fear — we'll walk you through what makes each one unique and what types you should stock at home.

Parts of the wine glass

Before we get into it, it's important to know what each part of a wine glass is actually called. When we're describing the effects of each glass later, you'll know what we're talking about. Plus, you can impress your friends next time they compliment your wine selection.

There are three parts, so it's pretty simple to keep track of. There's the bowl, which is the part that actually holds the wine. This part has the most variation in shape and size, and so changes the way you taste the wine.

Below that is the stem. That's the part you hold if you're intent on tasting the wine properly. Holding your wine glass by the bowl could warm the wine and change the flavors. Also, it leaves smudgy fingerprints that are difficult to get off. However, for everyday drinking, stemless glasses are easier to transport and less expensive.

Finally, there's the base. It keeps the wine glass standing. There's not much else to say about it.

What are they made of?

Visual presentation of wine isn't just an aesthetic choice. Color tells wine experts important information about the wine. It can be hard to see in a decorated or colorful glass. Unless you're trying to become an expert, though, you should buy whichever wine glasses appeal to you.

If you want the best wine glasses money can buy, search for those made out of fine lead crystal. Lead-free crystal is also an option and doesn't get cloudy with time.

Both of these let you see the wine without obstruction, and they sparkle when the light hits them. They do cost a bit more than other glasses, though.

Why are there different shapes of wine glass?

The main three factors in the shape of a wine glass are size, shape, and opening. The differences between these, which can be subtle or drastic, are fine-tuned to the wine varietal they accompany. Each one perfectly aerates or concentrates the wine you're supposed to drink it with.

The reason why there are different types of wine glasses comes from how you drink each type of wine. Have you ever let a bottle of red breathe before drinking? More oxygen helps bring out the flavors of red wine, such as a cabernet, which is why you'll often find that red wine glasses are wider.

On the other hand, white wine glasses help keep those varietals fresh, without letting the wine oxidize. Plus, a taller stem keeps the wine farther from your hand, and so colder.

There are other factors, as well. The champagne flute earned its shape because it keeps bubbles flowing and concentrated. However, this glass is losing favor to alternatives such as the wide and shallow coupe. Glasses such as these help you smell the champagne better.

There are so many more reasons for the subtle differences between wine glasses, and we'll explore them now.

What does the shape of the glass determine?

As we mentioned earlier, the width of the wine glass' bowl is one of the first things you may notice about your glass. But width is far from a catchall term. One wide bowl may have a particularly narrow rim or flare out squarely at the bottom. A white wine glass may be nearly as wide as a red.

Width at the base of the bowl opens up more of the wine to oxidization. For example, the pinot noir glass is one of the widest wine glasses you can find. But it angles inward sharply at the rim, focusing the scents of the wine at your nose.

Why does that matter? Scent is a crucial component of flavor. If you've ever eaten with a stuffy nose and seen how every taste is dulled, you understand this. The right glass can change a wine's scent from alcoholic to fruity or neutralize the acids for a more mellow flavor.

What Wine for Which Glass?

Some wine glasses are more generally for red or white wines. A red wine glass usually has a wider bowl all around. It gives the wine space to breathe, but it won't necessarily bring out the right aromas.

One common "universal" glass is the Riedel Vinum Riesling Grand Cru, which can obscure a lot of the flavors and aromas of reds that it isn't made for.

If you really want the perfect glass for your wine, you'll want to get one made especially for that varietal. Our chart breaks down some of the main characteristics of popular wines, which we'll delve deeper into below.

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Wine Varietal

Glass Factors

Wine Traits

Cabernet

Shallow base, narrow rim

Lets small quantities breathe, focuses the aromas

Bordeaux

Wide and tall bowl with pronounced taper

Directs wine to the back of your mouth

Chardonnay

U-shaped bowl with larger opening

Lets you taste the sweet and sour of the wine

Pinot Noir

Wide bowl with flared rim

Focuses fruity flavors to the tip of your tongue

Coupe Glass

Wide, shallow bowl

Brings out the flavors of champagne

Red wine

Red wines are generally richer, fuller, and denser than white wines are. However, this isn't true across the board. While some red wines are more intense and acidic, there are lighter reds that work well with dishes traditionally associated with white wine.

In general, red wines have rich, herbal, and fruity flavors. Often fruits associated with their flavor profiles are red as well, such as various berries, cherries, and plums. Red wines are often spicy, as well.

A typical red wine glass usually looks something like the Burgundy. It has a wide bowl and tapered rim. It traps the aromas and focuses them toward your nose. Use a Burgundy glass for lighter reds, where the aroma attributes much to the drinking experience.

On the other end is the Bordeaux glass, which is taller and thinner than you may expect from a red wine glass. The height of the glass helps strong alcohol aromas dissipate from richer reds.

While there are other shapes that correspond closely to each varietal, these two are workable options that don't restrict the wines from showing off their profiles.

White wine

Similar to red wine, white wines usually have fruit flavors that correspond to the clear, golden, or yellow color of the wine. Fruits such as apples, pears, peaches, and mangoes all appear in various white wines. Citrus flavors are also common.

Wine glasses such as the Chardonnay are concerned with keeping the wine cool and fresh, and directing the wine where it belongs on your tongue. For Chardonnay, that means keeping it on the tip and sides of your tongue, where it hits the sweet, salty, and sour taste buds.

One of the other main white wine glasses is the Viognier. This glass has a small bowl which preserves the aroma for which Viogniers are famous. Since Viognier is a tricky wine to make, it's important to get all the right flavors out of it.

Rosé, and others

Of course, several wines fall outside the red and white scale, and those have different glasses of their own.

A rosé glass depends on the maturity of the wine. For younger wines, the glass should have a flared lip. For more mature wines, the lip should taper. Plus, the stem is longer to keep these wines cool.

Champagne is often in a flute to emphasize the carbonation. But that's a recent development, and more traditional wine glasses such as the coupe glass are making a comeback. They let you enjoy the flavor of the wine, not just the bubbles.

Fortified wines like port use wines that are narrow, like Bordeaux glasses, but much shorter. It transports the aromas to your nose in a way that the Bordeaux glass does not.

Picking the Right Wine Glasses for Your Home

So, with all of these wine glasses to choose from, which is the best option for your home? Well, there's not one glass that works better than the others, no matter what. Even the "universal" wine glass restricts the flavor profiles of most wine.

The first step is to decide what type of wine you like the most. If one varietal, such as pinot noir, is all you drink — get that pinot noir glass. If you prefer full-bodied reds but don't have a preference, a Bordeaux glass would be the best for you. The same goes for whites. A Chardonnay glass is a versatile option for many crisp whites.

What type of wine is your favorite? What glass do you use? Comment below and let us know!


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