Wine glasses can be divided into three main categories, full round ones for red wine, slightly narrower ones for white wine, and flutes for champagne.
Choosing the right glass will enrich the flavor of the wine and keep it at the perfect temperature for drinking. When serving a red wine, most wine experts will recommend a larger glass with a bowl shape at the bottom. Having a large glass allows you to swirl the wine in between sips to aerate it. Overfilling your wine glass inhibits the wine from absorbing oxygen, so you should confine the level of the wine to the lower third of the glass. This will enable you to swirl the wine to allow it to breathe, which will enhance the flavors and allow you to enjoy the aromas along with the flavors. Red wines are best when served between 61 and 66 degrees Fahrenheit. These glasses generally have a sturdy base and stem to prevent the glass from tipping over. The full bowl shape allows the wine to cool quickly to room temperature. Big reds like Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz need the biggest bowls and openings to release their full flavor potential. Choose taller glasses that are slightly wider in the bowl than at the top. Softer reds like Pinot Noir and Merlot are best served in similar glasses that narrow slightly more at the opening. While these glasses are primarily designed for red wines, they can also be used for white wines if you don’t want to splurge on two different sets of glasses.
Unlike red wines, white wines are meant to be served chilled. The glasses for white wines are narrower than those for red wines in order to reduce the heat escape from the wine while it is in the glass. This provides a smaller surface area and therefore less heat is able to escape from the wine which allows the softer aromas to float well in a narrow neck. White wine is generally best when its serving temperature is between 45 and 54 degrees Fahrenheit. Spirited white wines like Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Chardonnay are best enjoyed when served in a glass that has a slightly bulbous bowl with a little room and an opening that narrows slightly at the top. The more delicate white wines like Riesling and Pinot Gris taste best when served in a glass with a narrow bowl and a narrow opening. White wine glasses are meant to be held by the stem to prevent heat transfer between your hand and the liquid.
The champagne glass is also known as a champagne flute. The flute is a very narrow and tall glass that is designed to help the beverage retain its carbonation. Most carbonation escapes through the top of a glass, so the champagne flute is designed to be as narrow as possible to limit the amount of escaping carbonation.
Glassware is extremely important to wine appreciation because it influences how you perceive the color, aromas and taste. Choosing the proper wine glass is absolutely the key. Look for clear crystal, thin rimmed, large bowls that hold 10 to 18 ounces and that taper slightly at the top so they balance well in the hand. The clearer the glass, the richer the wine’s color appears. The thinner the rim, the less the glass distracts from the wine as you sip. A large bowl and a narrow opening help magnify the wine’s aromas, providing plenty of space for the aromas to expand, but little room for them to escape. Many glasses are too small but only a few are too large.
Hand blown glass is generally thinner, especially at the rim, and balances better than machine made glass. These days you’ll find quite a few combination wine glasses with hand blown bowls and machine made stems and bases. They can be a good compromise between beauty and cost.
Wine glasses traditionally have stems so that your hand doesn’t touch the bowl, covering the glass with fingerprints or warming the wine above proper serving temperature. Stemless glasses have become popular because they are easier to store if you have limited space, they are dishwasher safe and less prone to breakage without the fragile stems.
If acquiring all the various types of wine glasses seems a bit excessive, experts recommend using a multi-purpose tulip shaped wine glass with a wider bowl and narrower opening. These glasses will allow your reds to breathe, and while they won’t keep your whites as cold for as long, they will still capture their lighter aromas. As you discover which types of wine you like best, you can slowly collect the wine glasses that best compliment your favorite wines. The next step up would be to get an all-purpose red wine glass, an all-purpose white wine glass, and some Champagne flutes.