The Shape of Wine Glasses – does it really matter?

The first time I went wine tasting I noticed that the person pouring the wine gave us different glasses when we switched from white to red wines. I wondered why. I mean, somebody has to wash all those glasses! Why are red wine glasses bigger? Why are sparkling wine glasses skinny? And does it even matter?

Typically red wine is served in a glass with a bigger bowl. This is because red wines tend to be bigger and bolder, and the larger bowl allows for more oxygen to hit the wine, opening up the aromas and flavors. You always swirl your glass of red wine, right? The bigger glass makes swirling easier and allows your wine to breathe more. It actually makes the wine taste better and helps you define the tasting notes easier.

White wine is served in glasses with a smaller bowl. White wine doesn’t need as much space to breath. The opening is narrower because it preserves the aromas. You will also notice that white wine glasses often have longer stems (the part you hold). That’s because white wine is served at a cooler temperature than red and you don’t want the heat of your hand to warm up the wine.

Sparkling wine should always be served in flutes. Besides the fact that it’s so pretty in the glass, the skinny glass helps maintain the bubbles (carbonation) longer. If you serve sparkling wine in a wider glass the bubbles will disappear more quickly. And we certainly don’t want that, do we?

My husband and I visited Louis M. Martini in Napa and got to taste a very expensive Cabernet Sauvignon. They actually partnered with Reidel, a wine glass supplier, to design a glass with a very specific bowl and rim that would allow the wine to hit your mid palate when you tilt your head back instead of the front of your palate so that you could get the very best taste in the right spot of your mouth. When they told us this I thought, “Seriously?” (Insert eye roll!) But then I tasted it and could not believe it! It tasted so much better in that specially designed glass than a regular red wine glass. Incredible! So the shape of your glass really does matter.

So do I need to go out and buy expensive stemware? No. I’ve read that crystal is better than glass because it refracts light due to it’s mineral content. Some people think wine tastes better in crystal, but crystal glasses will cost $20 – $30 a piece or more. I don’t know about you, but I’m just too klutzy for that! I break glasses, so I buy all of my wine glasses at Crate and Barrel. They have a wide range of prices as well, but I buy the ones that are $4 a piece. That way you don’t break the bank when you have to replace them. This allows me to have different kinds of glasses: red, white, sparkling wine, port, and stemless. I use the stemless for more casual entertaining. (But not for whites remember.)

So whether you are enjoying a glass of red, white or sparkling, the shape and size of your glass really does matter. Happy swirling and sipping! 🍷

4 thoughts on “The Shape of Wine Glasses – does it really matter?

    1. Hey Tony. I like stemless glasses too, especially for drinking wine outdoors. We use stemless when we have a fondue dinner as well so we don’t tip our glasses over. 👍🏻😊🍷


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