Wine Glasses: Does it Matter Which Glass You Choose?

by Rhonda Turner

Using the correct glass improves the taste of wine and makes for a better wine experience.

Each specific glass shape and composition enhances a wine's aroma and directs the wine to the proper taste buds.

It’s all about taste. Honestly, you can drink wine from whatever you want: wine glass, coffee cup or stainless steel tumbler. However, following proper wine etiquette, including glass choice, is more about enjoying a great-tasting wine than following crazy rules. Ultimately, using the correct glass improves the taste of wine and makes for a better wine experience.

So how does one choose the appropriate wine glass?

A good wine glass should have three essential characteristics. It should be of good quality and user-friendly – making it easy to clean and store. It should also be easy to handle without breaking. But above all else, the glass should make the wine taste good. 

There are many different wine-glass shapes, but their design follows one fundamental principle: There is a direct link between smell and taste. It is tough to taste anything without smell. Don’t believe me? Try tasting something spicy when you have a cold!

Two of the three steps to tasting wine include sniffing the wine’s aromatic compounds, also referred to as the nose and taste. Since aromatics are responsible for producing wine flavors, wine glasses are designed to take advantage of this. 

The Science of Sniffing

The wine-tasting ritual of sniffing and sipping is not all pretentiousness. There is precise science behind the process. Wine aromas intensify as you inhale based on their concentration around the glass rim. In 2015, a Japanese study used a Sniffer Camera to test the concentration of ethanol vapor emitting from wine. Each glass shape had a specific vapor distribution confirming the science behind the famed tasting ritual.

Generally, wine glasses are made up of three components: the bowl (which holds the wine), the stem and the foot. Most wine-glass manufacturers join together the three different parts to make one glass. However, higher-quality glasses are created from a single piece. Also, with one or two exceptions, wine glasses curve inward at the top to concentrate a wine’s aroma. And the lip of the glass should be as thin as possible to minimize glass contact with the mouth. 

Another factor in wine glasses is the glass itself. Wine glasses are available in everyday glass, crystal glass and borosilicate glass. But unless affordability is a factor, try to opt for crystal (mineralized glass) stemware. 

Ultimately, each specific glass shape and composition enhances a wine’s aroma and directs the wine to the proper taste buds.

But how does all of this affect wine glass choice?

Whites

White wines are typically served in shorter, smaller bowled glasses with a slight tuliping to the shape. The smaller glasses express aromatic flavors and the acidity in wine and maintain a cooler temperature longer.

Reds

The perfect red-wine glass should resolve the bitterness of tannins and soften intense flavors. Red-wine glasses should have a longer or taller bowl, allowing for space between the wine and the lip of the glass. In fact, the larger the glass surface area, the better. A choice red wine glass also has an opening wide enough to bring wine to the edges of your mouth and a slight tuliping to concentrate the aromatic characteristics of the wine. Ultimately, a good glass will make the wine taste smoother.

A standard glass is perfect for drinking medium-bodied red wines, including Merlot and Pinot Noir. A biggy-sized Bordeaux glass may be suitable for those who only drink reds. 

Whereas a larger wine glass is best when drinking bolder red wines, such as Cabernet Sauvignon or blends. These feature a larger surface area to let ethanol evaporate, highlighting the aromatic compounds, allowing for a better perception of the wine. 

Related: How long does an open bottle of wine last?

Flutes

Flutes are the most common glass shape used to serve sparkling wines. They have a constant diameter and are usually more fragile than other glass shapes. The smaller surface area extends the life of the bubbles and can be filled 3/4 full without affecting the sparkling wine experience.

Universal Glasses

Recently there has been a push for a “universal wine glass.” Universal glasses are a perfect solution for those new to wine or the cost-conscious connoisseur. These glasses marry the best of both red and white with larger, shorter bowls, strong stem and minimized opening. They are often more angular in design. And several manufacturers, including Zalto and Gabriel-Glas, offer such a user-friendly glass.



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