Different types of wine glasses
Posted on 29 May 2020
Many of us might only have universal bowl-shaped wine glasses that are basically working for most of our red and white wines. Even if any of those glasses will definitely have beneficial aromatic effects and allows us to swirl the nectar easily, we should start thinking differently since science backs it up.
Why are wine glasses all different?
The architecture of glass—the length of the stem, the shape of the bowl, etc. - impact on the perception of the wine we’ve got, from its smell to its taste, from its bouquet to its body and alcohol to its tannins and acidity. Thus powerful bold wines expand in larger glasses able to release an aromatic complexity when lighter and more subtle grape varieties tend to benefit from smaller glasses which restrict, yet consolidate, the aromas.
Certain types of wine deserve certain glasswares to be properly and fully enjoyed even by simple amateurs. Let’s make it simple.
What are the different types of wine glasses?
1. For red wines:
Red wines are best served in large wine glasses; they allow mitigating the bitterness of tannin or spicy flavours to deliver a smoother tasting wine.
- A Bordeaux glass suits bold reds with high tannins (Aglianico, Nero d’Avola, Sangiovese…). This glass is a classic. It is taller than traditional ones yet the bowl is not quite as large. The height creates distance between wine and mouth which enables ethanol to dissipate on the nose; combined with straighter sides, the wine can breathe and develop in contact with the air. If you were to have only one wine glass, this would be yours!
- A Standard glass suits medium/full-bodied reds (Primitivo, Chianti…). Thanks to the smaller opening, flavours meet the tongue in a continuous flow as opposed to all at once, which softens the spiciness and richness.
- A Burgundy glass suits lighter more delicate red wines with floral notes (Nebbiolo, Pinot Noir, Dolcetto, Schiava, Freisa…). With its broader bowl than a “standard” glass which helps to build up all the aromas nuances, it is one of the most distinctive wine glass shapes.
2. For whites:
White wine glasses are typically smaller than red ones. Their U-shaped upright bowl helps to preserve floral aromas and to maintain a cooler temperature, and the long stem also prevents from warming up the wine when holding it.
- A Chardonnay glass suits full-bodied whites (Friulano, Muller-Thurgau, Malvasia…). It has a smaller bowl than a red wine glass but still a perfect shape for collecting aromas. Nonetheless, a larger Burgundy glass might be even better to emphasise the creamy texture of some more complex or oak-aged nectars.
- A Sauvignon blanc glass suits fresh light/medium-bodied whites (Pinot Grigio, Trebbiano, Soave…). This tall glass with a slender bowl captures the nuanced floral and fruit aromas and guides them straight to the nose.
3. For highly aromatic and alcoholic dessert wines (Moscato, Vin Santo…) served in very few quantities, smaller glasses are mostly used. A classic Port glass has a narrow mouth which still allows the wine to “breathe”.
4. Finally, the best glass to retain the carbonation and capture the flavour of sparkling wine (Prosecco, Franciacorta…) is the long, narrow, upright bowl flute (definitely more efficient than any vintage coupe).
Now last but not least, the cherry on the cake.
Would you say that you know how to hold a wine glass properly?
Its design actually affects its contents and the drinking experience.
Stems keep temperature steady, make swirling easier and avoid fingerprints which can obscure the nectar’s colour. So stemmed glasses should be held… by the stem, keeping our fingers pinched around it. Just hold it towards the base using your thumb, index and middle finger and let your other fingers rest on the base. The only exception bears in a wine that has been chilled too much; in this case, wrapping palms around the bowl will warm it up slightly.