A Guide to Stemware
Whether you’re a new wine drinker or a seasoned connoisseur, you’ve probably noticed that there are almost as many options for wine glasses as there are wines. So, is it important to drink a certain style of wine from a specific glass? Let’s find out.
The Anatomy of a Wine Glass
A typical wine glass has four main parts. Starting from the bottom, the base is circular and large, so that the glass will have a lower center of gravity. Connected to the base and moving upward, the stem is usually long, thin, and functions as a handle. Directly above the stem, the bowl is the receptacle in which wine can be poured and held. The rim is the opening of the bowl - a convenient area from which to sip.
Desirable Qualities of a Wine Glass
A good wine glass should allow the wine inside to fully express itself. Those made from clear crystal or very thin glass are the best for observing the appearance of a wine. The glass should also be sturdy enough for easy swirling. Glasses with stems are preferable for preventing fingerprints on the bowl, as well as avoiding the transference of heat from your hands to the wine. Regardless of its size, the bowl of a glass should curve slightly inward at the rim.
Light White Shape
If you’re drinking lighter-bodied, aromatic white wines like Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, or Pinot Grigio, these are ideal - the enhanced vertical 'U' shape, as compared to a red wine glass, allows for the aromas to be released while maintaining a cooler temperature.
White Burgundy Shape
For fuller-bodied white wines like Chardonnay, Viognier, or Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc, these glasses will help express key notes in the wine because of the wider bowl. Some people also prefer to drink Champagne and sparkling wines from them.
Red Burgundy Shape
Light- to medium-bodied rosé and red wines produced from grapes like Pinot Noir, Gamay, and Dolcetto show well in these glasses due to the large bowl, which allows the flavors and the aromas of the wine to emerge.
Red Bordeaux Shape
These are great for full-bodied red wines made from grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Grenache, Sangiovese, and Nebbiolo. The wider bowl allows for the high alcohol and tannins in these wines to aerate, and the bouquet to develop fully. The height of the glass, when compared to the Red Burgundy glass, allows for the rim to direct the flow of the wine to the front palate. This enhances sweetness, thereby bringing forward the fruit notes in the wine, while softening any bitter tannins.
The tall, slim shape of these glasses helps to preserve the bubbles in Champagne and sparkling wines.
Dessert Wine Glass
Try using these when drinking sweeter wines, like Sauternes, Eiswein, Sherry, or Port. The bowl's small shape and narrow rim deliver the optimal balance of complex aromas and fruit, understating the high alcohol content to create a smooth finish.
The preceding list should serve as suggested guidelines - if you want to drink Sauvignon Blanc from a huge goblet, go right ahead. You certainly won't enjoy your favorite wine any less if you don't have the 'correct' stemware. If you’d like to own a good all-purpose wine glass, find one with a fairly large, curved bowl similar to the Red Burgundy shape.
Check out our blog Tips & Tricks to Serving Wine for details on stemless glassware.