Mason jars, plastic cups, the wine bottle itself; whatever gets your favorite reds, whites, ports, and champagnes to your lips right? Perhaps, but if you want to take your wine drinking to the next level, knowing the right vessel for your vino is critical.
Put simply: the right glass draws out the flavor, consistency, and smell of your favorite wine to improve your overall experience. To help you step up your sipping game, we’ve explored wine glass structure, material, and variety.
How a Wine Glass Enhances the Taste
You might think that the glass doesn’t affect how you experience drinking wine, but it does. A Japanese medical group used a sniffer-camera to measure the ethanol vapor concentration in three different types of glasses: a wine glass, cocktail glass, and a straight glass.
Using this new image hardware, researchers captured ethanol vapors from wine forming a “ring shape” within the wine glasses. Conversely, ethanol vapors from wine poured into a cocktail glass and straight glass formed no ring. This ethanol formation around the inside perimeter of the glass, where researchers found alcohol content to be stronger, makes wine’s aromatics more accessible to your nose as you take a sip—and a sniff.
These ethanol vapors are intricately tied to the taste of wine. While the claim “90% of what you think you taste actually comes from smell” has been disproven, it remains true that your nose and mouth work together to create the total taste profile of food and drinks. Case in point: think of how bland everything tastes when you have a stuffy nose.
Wine Glass Structure
There are four parts of a wine glass: the foot, the stem, the bowl, and the rim. The most important elements are the bowl, which holds the wine and the rim, where you sip. If your preference is stemless glassware, the bowl and rim are all you need.
Types of Wine Glasses
Glasses for White Wine
White wines are served in stem glasses with “u” shaped bowls. The shape of the bowl helps to:
- Accentuate the acidity
- Keep the white wine at its cool temperature
- Maintain and enhance aromas
Additionally, there are different glasses for light-bodied and full-bodied white wines. The difference is that a full-bodied white wine is served in a glass that has a slightly larger, “u” shaped bowl to accentuate the creaminess.
Glasses for Red Wines
Stemware for reds is a little more diverse, because, well, reds happen to be a little more diverse. There are glasses for full-bodied red, light-bodied red, rosé, and spicy wines. The larger, round bowls of the red wine glasses provide more surface area for the wine to have contact with the air and oxidize or breathe, reducing the harshness of wine before you sip.
- Bordeaux glass, with a rounded, elongated bowl, is best for full-bodied reds such as cabernet sauvignon
- Burgundy glass, with an “o” shaped bowl, is best for light-bodied reds such as pinot noir
- Rosé glass is best for, well, rosé. Compared to other red glasses, the rosé bowl has a diamond shape.
Champagne and sparkling wines call for a slender flute or tulip-shaped glass. The slenderness of champagne flutes and tulip-shaped glasses keeps the bubbly, bubbly. If you are not big on carbonation, sipping from a vintage coupe glass, with a wide and shallow bowl, disperses the bubbles. The bowl of a vintage coupe makes way for a softer and fruitier taste.
Port wines are served in a shrunken wine glass to accommodate the three-ounce serving, compared to a serving of wine at five or six ounces. The smaller shape of the glassware keeps alcohol vapors from evaporating. This is key because of the high alcohol content in port wine. A port usually contains 19 to 20 percent alcohol compared to 11 to 13 percent of your typical wine.
Stem vs Stemless
The warmth from your hand will ever so slightly warm your wine. A stemmed glass creates a natural buffer between your hand and the wine, but only if you hold the glass by the stem. Some people find themselves holding the bowl of a stem glass with their palm or have their hand wrapped around the bowl. A stemmed glass would be best for whites, which keeps the wine away from the warmth of your hand and helps maintain the ideal serving temperature of 49-55 degrees. Stemless glasses can work for red wines since the ideal serving temperature is 62-68 degrees.
Which Wine Glasses Should You Buy
Think about your lifestyle for a minute:
- What type of wine do you consistently consume? Red, whites, sparkling?
- How often do you drink wine at home versus out of the house?
- How often do you (or someone else) break wine glass?
- Do you have a rambunctious house with kids or pets?
- Do you prefer hand-washing dishware or throwing it all in the dishwasher?
- Do you have storage for a variety of glasses or just a few?
If you find your wine glasses shattered on the floor more often than you’d like, stemmed glasses are not your friend, since well, they tip over more easily. If you want the formality that stem glassware offers, then you probably want to run the risk, right?
Additionally, you can still have the look, but also the sturdiness with your choice of material. Wine glasses come in crystal, glass, and acrylic. Here’s a quick overview of the characteristics of these materials.
Crystal: high-end material, thinner, but stronger than glass, should be hand-washed, can find dishwasher safe, lead-free crystal
Glass: not as durable as acrylic or crystal, more affordable than crystal, dishwasher safe on the top rack
Acrylic: causal glass, durable, dishwasher safe, very affordable
Start out by trying different, cost-friendly wine glasses found at an antique or second-hand store. This can help you explore what glass styles you like before you invest in a nice set. You can mix and match materials and glass types too. Perhaps you have a kid-friendly set for a family party and a more formal set for book club night.