Types of Wine Glasses and What Wine They Are Used For

If you’ve taken to entertaining at home (Covid rules oblige) then read on. Once you’ve taken the time to carefully choose the right wines and made sure you’ve stored the bottles correctly, invited a group of interesting and erudite people, made something yummy to eat, paired the food and wine with elegance and panache, then do not fall at the final hurdle and serve your wine in any old glass. 

Make some space in your cabinet because we’ve detailed the reasons you need the glasses ideal for bringing out the taste of everything from full-bodied Cabs to chilled Chardonnays.

Why Do We Need Different Types of Wine Glasses?

First of all, does it really matter out of which glass you drink your wine? Well actually, you’re damn right it does. There are many functional reasons for the different shapes and sizes of your wine glasses, with each of them designed to enhance the aroma and taste of their corresponding varietal.

However, choosing the right glass for your wine isn’t as easy as it sounds. A wine glass must meet three criteria for proper tasting: look, nose and palate. In other words, the wine glass should let the taster clearly see the wine’s colour, allow the wine’s different aromas to be released and reveal all its flavours when tasted in the mouth. Depending on the type of wine, its colour and its region, the right glass can sometimes be completely wrong. 

Red wine glasses should have a bigger bowl in order to appreciate the wine’s aroma. The shape should be wide at the bottom and slightly narrower at the top. However, there is a minutiae of details here too, as the shape of the red wine glass varies according to the region – what works for Bordeaux might not for Burgundy. Then, you need to think about how best to serve your white wines too. Here we like to opt for smaller, thinner glasses than for reds. These should be narrower at the top; white wine benefits from the concentration of aromas kept in by the smaller opening. 

Finally, we want whatever glassware on our table to look as good as the wine inside tastes. The best glasses balance these very practical concerns with our almost equally important demand for something that looks (and feels) good when you’re holding it. If you can manage to get a glass that is the right shape plus looks like a million bucks, then you’re golden.

General Tips When Choosing Wine Glasses

Crystal vs. Glass Wine Glasses

First of all, you need to decide if you want to buy crystal or glass glasses. All crystal is glass, but not all glass is crystal. There are pros and cons to both.

Crystal wine glasses are the musical glasses that sing when you rub a finger around their rim. Their weight and prestige mean they are far more expensive than glass glasses but do they actually make the wine taste better?

Well… kind of. One of the joys of crystal is that it can be spun very thinly and can therefore be manipulated to make a very thin rim, almost eliminating the transition between glass and mouth. Crystal also gives for a smoother finish – meaning that the drink flow is easier. 

However, crystal is notoriously fragile. What’s more, it’s porous, so can’t be put in the dishwasher. So if you have butterfingers, clumsy guests or young children, then I’d say better stick to glass. 

The pros of glass are as follows:

  • Glass wine glasse are far more durable, less expensive and won’t be harmed if you put them in the dishwasher. 
  • There is also far more choice in both shape and budget as glass is really the material that most people choose for their wine glasses. 

However, every pro of cristal glasses is a con with glass glasses: 

  • There is far less prestige in a glass glass. 
  • Glass glasses are not usually designed to enhance the wines flaovurs in the way crystal glasses are. 

Stemless vs. Stemmed Wine Glasses

Stemless glasses are the talk of the town at the moment. They’re Instagrammable gold, take less place in your cupboard and are far more versatile than a long-stemmed glass. They’re also more user-friendly – stemless glasses are cool, and give off an “anytime, anywhere” vibe. The idea behind a stemless glass is that they democratise the wine, something which appeals greatly to the new generation of wine lovers and investors. Stemless glasses are by definition less formal than glasses with stems, and some sommeliers argue that less formality isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If you want to relax and socialise then you do not want to be worrying about your priceless crystal getting broken. 

But the point of a glass with a stem is to not affect the temperature of the wine with the heat from your hand. Keeping wine at the optimal temperature is key to letting its nuances shine through. Holding the glass directly at the bowl (the only possibility with stemless glasses) will increase the temperature of the wine and potentially interfere with the flavour. 

The reality is this: if you are serving a relatively inexpensive bottle of wine to a casual group of friends then why not look cool with a stemless glass? But, if you’re serving something a little bit more fancy – then really guys, please break out the good glasses. Not only are they easier to swirl (which doesn’t just make you look fancy, it also helps to aerate the wine), but you’ll avoid bringing the wine up to body temperature – especially important when drinking white.

Types of Red Wine Glasses

A wide-mouthed glass makes the best partner for the many varieties of Bordeaux wines. There are a few to try:

Bordeaux Glass (For Full-Bodied Reds)

  • Bordeaux wines tend to lean towards heavier reds such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Malbec. The ideal glass is tulip-shaped, relatively tall and suited to the tannic red wines that are often found in the Bordeaux region. 
  • A large, deep bowl will allow the ethanol to evaporate at the rim and let the aromas to develop fully.
  • Similarly, long stems allow for the ideal amount of space between your nose and the wine, letting the flavours of the varietal to fully sing.
  • A thin rim directs the wine right to the abckl of the mouth, enhancing the flavour spectrum.

Burgundy Glass (For Lighter Reds)

The Burgundy glass is more rounded in shape than its west coast cousin. This type of glass is called “un verre ballon” (a ball glass”) in French, so you get the idea of the shape from there.

  • The Burgundy glass is suited to the lighter delicate flavours of its eponymous region. 
  • This glass is shorter than the Bordeaux glass but it has a bigger bowl. 
  • It is wider and narrows towards the top which enhances the aromatics of the Pinot Noir wines of Burgundy.
  • The wine is directed to the tip of the tongue so the drinker can taste the more delicate flavours.
  • Typically, Burgundy glasses have the thinnest rims of all, allowing for easy drinking.

Standard Red Wine Glass (For Medium-Body Reds)

The standard-shape red wine glass is close to the tulip-shaped glass (the Bordeaux glass), but is generally larger with more volume. Suffices for all reds, if you’re not too fussy. 

The standard glass is becoming increasingly popular as not that many people have space for a battery of different sized glasses. Personally, I even use my standard glasses for my basic whites too.

  • Ideally suited to New World wines which are not too high in alcohol. 
  • Large glass with a tapered, round bowl and smaller opening.
  • The narrow opening smooths out the complex flavors and softens the tastes. 

Types of White Wine Glasses

Natually, whites follow the same example as reds. Depending on the kind of taste experience you are expecting, then you will have to alter your glassware accordingly. The right (or wrong) white wine glass can make or break the wine it holds. 

In general though, white wine glasses are designed with a smaller bowl than a red wine glass. This is to preserve and deliver more aromas, maintain the wine’s desired cooler temperature and let the delicious acidity found in white wine really stand out. 

Sauvignon Blanc Glass (For Light- to Medium-Bodied Whites)

Sauvignon Blanc is a chameleon when it comes to white wine. There are fruit-forward and citrus-accented types from New Zealand that embody flavour profiles of pear or white peach. But a Bordeaux Sauvignon Blanc might have a more oaky taste. And you might even find final notes of citrus, cut grass, lemongrass, or even earthy wet stone in Sauvignon Blancs from other regions. 

  • According Matt Knight of glassware company Riedel “a glass with a narrow aperture, is the perfect one.”
  • It should also have “a slightly triangular shape of glass to hold the aromas in the bowl itself.”
  • The wide bowl nd coutroured rim will help balance the natural acidity minerality and fruit forward taste of Sauvignon Blanc. 
  • This type of glass world well for any dry white wines, such as Riesling for example.

Chardonnay Glass (For Full-Bodied Whites)

Two types of Chardonnay glass exist, for oaked wines and unoaked such as Chablis.

  • For Chablis, we suggest a bowl shape similar to that of a water glass. 
  • The ideal Chardonnay glass should have a wide bowl, and be very rounded. 
  • If the bowl shape is too small, it doesn’t allow the wine to open up, so not as many flavours come through.
  • The size of the opening should allow the wine to flow from one side of your palate to the other, bringing out all the different characteristics of the wine.

Standart Sweet Wine Glass

Sweet wine glasses, also called dessert wine glasses, are as the name implies, made for sweet wines that you have at the end of your meal. 

  • Because of the sweetness and high alcohol content of the wine it holds, a desset wine glass should be typically smaller than for the reds and whites you drink with your meal. 
  • Another reason that glasses for fortified wines such as sherry and Madeira are small is that they are ideal for sipping. The compact shape should  accentuate the rich aromas and sweet flavours.
  • Port wine, is  typically served in a compact and slender stemmed glass,. This is meant to bring out the sweetness and rich fruitiness typically associated with after-dinner drinks.

Types of Rosé Wine Glasses

Although rosé has yet to take its place on the stage of inevitable wines, we won’t dismiss the pleasure of drinking an icy cold glass of the pink stuff on a summer’s day. And to make this taste even better, we suggest:

Young Rosé Wine Glass

  • A flared lip rose glass for younger rose wines. This is ideally suited for wines that are younger, crisper and less sweet than the more mature varieties.
  • Long stems are essential: like whites, you must not heat the wine in the bowl. 
  • A flared rim will accentuate the sweetness of the wine, and balance the flavour profile. 

Mature Rose Wine Glass

  • Glasses for mature and full bodied roses are round in shape, and taper slightly towards the top. 

Sparkling Wine Glass

There is really only one type of glass that you can serve sparkling wine in: a flute glass. While those saucers that we all loved so much in The Great Gatsby might look gorgeous, they don’t do much for the wine. In fact the very opposite – the wide rim makes the bubbles go flat quicker than you can say “old sport”.  

  • Sparkling wines should be served in tall and narrow glasses in order to harness all those playful bubbles. 
  • The long stem will keep the bubbly cool, if you hold it correctly!
  • The reduced contact surface between air and wine slows the release of aromas down.
  • The wide vertical surface allows one to look through the wine and enjoy its colour.

The case for wine glasses of all shapes and sizes very much comes down to what type of experience you are looking for. If you are having a beach barbeque with a few friends, then surely you won’t need to break out the crystal (unless you’re in Downton Abbey). However, if I went to a vertical tasting and I wasn’t served the wine in the correct glasses, then that might annoy me. Like most things in life, there is a time and a place for everything, up to you to decide when are where that is. 

Now you know which glasses to serve your wine in, why not learn all about wine flavors


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