DRINKS/ Just The Facts Ma'am

Glass is in session

One of the most well known wine glass makers in the world is Riedel glass out of Austria. According to acclaimed wine critic Robert Parker “The finest glasses for both technical and hedonistic purposes are those made by Riedel.”

According to Maximillian Riedel’s Facebook page it was in the 1950s, that Riedel Crystal of America, “introduced the concept of varietal specific wine glasses”. What most people don’t realize is that now a days, wine glasses are as diverse as the bottles of wine themselves. You have red wine glasses, white wine glasses, flutes and aperitif glasses. But how do you decide which one to use with which wine? Is there a general all around glass that I can use for both? How can you tell which is for red and which is for white?  And why does it make a difference anyway, a glass is a glass right? Wrong.

Wine glasses are shaped differently depending on where the wine should be directed to create the most appreciation for the flavor in the mouth. All wine glasses are made up of the same characteristics starting with the bowl, a base and with the exception of a newer design by Riedel which has developed a popular stemless glass for both red and white wines, they all have a stem. My personal preference is for a traditional stemmed wine glass. I like that by holding the stem, it allows for the wine to stay at a consistent temperature versus being heated up by being held in the palm. And it also keeps the bowl from getting finger prints all over it so you can enjoy the visual aspect of the wines. The shape of the bowl can also affect the taste and aromas of the wine which is why the right glass can make all the difference. A simple way to remember what shapes go with which wines is that:

A white wine glass should have straight sides and be tulip shaped, allowing for the aromas to be easily released, while letting the cooler temperatures  remain consistent by restricting the amount of air circulating around in the glass.

A red wine glass should have a large round bowl, that allows you to put your nose into the glass so you can smell the wine’s aromas and bouquets. It also has more surface area which lets more air come in contact with the wine.

With reds you also have an option of a Bordeaux and or Burgundy glass. Bordeaux wine glasses have a longer stem, with a smaller bowl and is designed for a much more full bodied, heavy wine such as Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon (primarily from the Bordeaux region hence the name) and allows for the wine to pour directly into the back of the mouth for the maximum flavor experience.

Where as a Burgundy wine glass has a smaller stem and a larger bowl so that the aromas can be enjoyed more deeply and the wine is directed to the tip of the tongue and front of the mouth. So as to be able to pick up the more delicate notes of Burgundian wines such as a Pinot Noir or Gamay, primarily from the Burgundy region.

These days champagne is usually served in flutes, tall and thin with an elongated bowl, but champagne is also served in saucer shaped glasses that are short and squat, with a wide, shallow bowl. The flute allows for the full experience of the carbonation by focusing the flow of bubbles into the mouth, and intensifying the aromas. Where as the saucer strengthens the aroma of the grapes while allowing the other flavors to shine.

Dessert wine glasses also known as aperitif glasses should be smaller, with an angled rim at approximately 14 degrees to direct the wine to the back of the mouth so that the sweetness doesn’t overwhelm the drinker. Because dessert wines like Port and Sherry are sweeter, have a more viscous mouth feel and are higher in alcohol the smaller glasses make the perfect serving size.

Lastly is there just a good all around general wine glass that can be used? Well sure…typically any wine glass that is made of clear, thinly cut glass to keep the air out, and has a tapered bowl. Crystal is not mandatory but it does enhance the essence of the wine. In explaining the differences in the wine glasses it’s very easy to see why each kind of wine would need a different glass. But in all honesty if you just want some wine and don’t have a wine glass available…any receptacle that is handy or even right out of the bottle will do just fine too.

“The wine-cup is the little silver well, Where truth, if truth there be, doth dwell.”  William Shakespeare


I would like to thank the following websites for their contributions to this post.





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  • Reply
    April 17, 2012 at 9:10 pm

    You’re so smart, my love. Thanks so much for the great article. And I agree that I prefer glasses with stems. If you “need” to warm up your wine, you can still cup the bowl and swirl.

    • Reply
      April 18, 2012 at 3:32 am

      I love you!

  • Reply
    Rona Newberg
    April 18, 2012 at 5:03 am

    I learned a lot about wine glasses. You did a great job of explaining the differences.

  • Reply
    A Sparkling Safari | ShareSLO
    November 3, 2014 at 10:11 am

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