Unless you’re brand new to the world of fine wines, you’re probably aware that different types of wine are supposed to be served in different types of glasses. Why? It has to do with maximizing the aroma and flavor of each vintage. In this post, we’ll describe the most common types of wine glasses, and the benefits of each.
Parts of a Wine Glass
In order to discuss wine glass shape, it’s necessary first to identify the parts of a wine glass. They are:
Bowl – The bowl is the upper part of the glass that holds the wine. It’s described in terms of its overall size, the width of the opening or rim, and its height, all of which can affect how the wine tastes. For almost all wines, a large bowl is preferred for swirling, which pushes air into the wine so that the flavors open up. The height of the glass and width of the mouth direct the wine to particular parts of the mouth – to the tip of the tongue for more delicate flavors, or to the back of the mouth for full-bodied, heavier wines.
Stem – The lower part of the glass, which allows it to be held. Variations in stem design are generally decorative. Though stemless glasses have been increasing in popularity, many connoisseurs prefer holding a wine glass by the stem, so that body temperature doesn’t affect the temperature of the wine in the bowl.
Foot – The base of the glass, that allows it to be freestanding. Variations in foot shape are generally decorative only.
Four Basic Wine Glass Shapes
While there are many specific variations preferred for particular vintages, for the most part you will find there are four basic wine glass shapes.
Goblet – The goblet is preferred for red wines, as it has a wide bowl with a large opening that allows the complex aroma of the wine to be fully appreciated. Typical variations of the red wine goblet include the Bordeaux (for cabernet sauvignon), which has a taller than a Burgundy glass, but the Burgundy glass (for pinot noir) has a wider, more-tapered bowl.
Tulip – The tulip-shaped glass preferred for white wines concentrates their lighter aromas and pushes them up to your nose. Also, the narrower profile keeps wine colder while you drink it. The exception is Chardonnay, which uses the same Burgundy-style glass as pinot noir.
Flute – The flute is designed specifically for sparkling wines like Champagne. The tall, narrow shape preserves bubbles longer, and helps to capture the flavor of the wine. . Many flutes are etched to further encourage active bubbling.
Dessert glass – Glasses for dessert wines are smaller than typical wine glasses, primarily because they are sweeter than other wines, and have a higher alcohol content, so you don’t want to drink as much.
Wine Glass Buying Tips
Within these basic categories, there are as many “grape specific” wine glass designs as there are grape varieties. Do you need to buy all of them to properly enjoy wine? Probably not! In fact, for most wine drinkers, a set of high-quality red wine glasses will serve for both red and white wines. Add flute and dessert glasses only if these make it to your table regularly.
When you are selecting wine glasses, you should always choose clear instead of colored, since the visual evaluation of wine is an important part of the tasting process. Whether you choose lead-free crystal or glassware depends entirely on your tastes and budgets (and how much time you want to spend caring for them!). In general, look for a glass with a thin lip, as this is better for enjoying wine.
Of course, great wine will still be great if it’s served in a plastic cup, and terrible wine will still be terrible if it’s served in a $100 cut-crystal wine glass – so don’t think that having the “right” glass is going to transform your wine drinking experience. It can enhance it though, so why not experiment, and discover for yourself if different wine glass shapes makes a difference?