Wine Glasses

Wine Glasses

Although you don't need a huge range of different wine glasses to enjoy wine, the type of glass you use will affect your perception of the wine, including its quality and flavour. Whilst some people insist that there is a specific glass for every type of wine, the basic requirements are actually a lot simpler:

1. Colour

The glass should be plain and clear so that the true colour of the wine can shine through and be appreciated.

2. Shape

The lip or rim of the glass should not be too thick and the glass should always be widest at the bowl, which should then narrow to a smaller diameter at the rim. Tapered glasses will trap the bouquet in the glass, whilst flared glasses dissipate the aromas rather than concentrating them.

3. Size

The bowl should be large to hold approximately 120 ml (4 fl oz) of wine, with enough empty space at the top (about two-thirds) to allow swirling the glass to release the nose.

Wine glasses come in different sizes, and it is possible to buy a glass that holds two-thirds or even a whole bottle of wine. This is perhaps a little excessive, and a good general sized glass should hold between 310 ml (11 fl oz) and 375 ml (13 fl oz). Dessert wines are usually served in slightly smaller glasses - around 200 ml (7 fl oz).

4. Stem

Most wine glasses have stems that connect the base to the bowl or cone of the glass. It is proper etiquette to hold the stem of the glass, as this prevents your hand from heating the wine, and your fingerprints from smudging the bowl; both of which would detract from the appreciation of the wine's colour, clarity and flavour.

As long as you follow these basic rules, your glassware should be ideal for enjoying your wine. Be careful to rinse your glasses thoroughly after washing, as traces of detergent can taint a wine quickly, and dramatically inhibit the fizz in sparkling wine. Ideally wash the glasses in really hot water and use no detergent at all. Allow them to air-dry or use a lint-free cloth kept for drying glasses only.

Store your wine glasses upright on a well-ventilated shelf to avoid trapping stale odours, or preferably hang them upside down from a wooden glass rack.

When choosing your glassware, do bear in mind that wine glasses do break. You should therefore buy something that you can afford to break on occasion, and that are easy to replace.

Choosing Different Styles for Different Wines

There are three main styles of wine glasses:

  • all-purpose white-wine glasses,
  • large bulbous glasses for red wine, and
  • a flute shape for Champagne or sparkling wine.

Avoid the traditional bowl-shaped glasses for sparkling wines - although they may have a romantic image, they allow the bubbles to disappear far too quickly. A tall, slender flute shaped glass will help them last far longer.

As a rule, the bowls of red wine glasses are larger and wider than those for whites, which allows the wine more exposure to the air. The typical 'balloon' shape is best for red wine for this reason and an all-purpose tulip shape will allow the drinker to appreciate a white wine's aroma and bouquet at its best.

However, if you can only invest in one set of glasses, buy the all-purpose white-wine glasses. White wine shouldn't be served in a balloon-shaped red wine glass, but the all-purpose white-wine glass is perfectly fine for red wines.

It is possible to buy a whole range of glasses which are specifically designed for each type of wine, and companies such as Riedel offer Chianti, Shiraz and Chardonnay glasses - along with many others. Although this might sound like a clever marketing ploy, there IS a scientific theory behind having a different shape for each wine. When the wine is poured out, the aromas fill the glass in layers according to their density: the lightest vapours at the rim, the heaviest on the bottom. Consequently the size and the shape of the glass can be fine-tuned to the typical aromas of a particular grape variety.

Having said all this, you can really drink wine out of any container - a cup, a glass, a tumbler, or even a mug. Many countries still serve wine in tumblers or short glasses, although this tradition comes from a time when wine was drunk to relieve the burden of a hard life. Nowadays, we also drink wine to appreciate its flavour and colour, to enjoy its effects and discuss its qualities. So it makes sense to choose a glass that will help you see, smell and taste the wine at its very best.