Wine glasses, in their many shapes, not only add visual appeal, but they also serve an important function in enhancing the flavor of the wine. With so many varieties available, you can find wine glassware in nearly every style to accommodate any budget.
While crystal wine glasses are at the higher end of the price spectrum for glassware, the material which the glass is made of is less important than the glass”s shape. In fact, some wine experts even state that the size of the bowl is crucial to the ultimate flavor, as the bowl size affects how the aroma rises above or sits on top of the liquid as you drink the wine.
Wine Glasses: Different Types of Glasses
The basic wine glass shape is similar to a tulip in bloom, meaning that wine glassware always has a wider base with a more narrowed, tapered top. However, aside from this basic structure, the size of the glass, as well as the degree to which the top is narrow, varies dramatically for wine glasses meant for different types of wine.
Here is a breakdown of what types of glasses to use for each type of wine:
- Champagnes and sparkling white wines: Because this class of wine is bubbly by nature, champagnes and sparkling white wines are usually served in flutes (longer, thinner glasses that are not dramatically tapered). This glass shape allows the bubbles to flow up a longer length of the liquid, a pleasing sight to the eye. Similarly, because the glass is narrower, the gas of the bubbles can”t escape the liquid as fast as it would with a more open bowl. This preserves the carbonation.
- Dessert wines: The smallest wine glasses (those that are short and have short, small bowls) are ideal for serving sherry, port and other choice dessert wines. Because dessert wines are do potent and intense, they should be sipped and served in moderation. By pouring dessert wines into smaller glasses, you can be sure to not over serve them.
- Red wines: Glassware with larger bowls is the most appropriate for serving red wines. Younger wines are best in slightly smaller, more slender bowls with taller sides (these glasses are known as “chianti” glasses) to address the stronger tannins. Alternatively, more mature, full-bodied red wines should be served in glasses with larger, more open bowls to allow it to aerate and distribute the aroma.
- White wines: Serve light white wines in narrower, smaller glasses with a more elongated bowl so that the wine stays chilled longer. By keeping white wine at cooler temperatures, these more slender glasses enhance the flavor, whether it be fruity, woody or herby.
While you can get specialty wine glasses from manufacturers around the world, those limited on budget and storage space may want to consider getting a set of all-purpose wine glasses, a type of glassware produced by many manufacturers. These all-purpose glasses are designed to be acceptable in most serving situations, regardless of whether you”re serving red or white wines.
One of the more popular trends in glassware today is the stemless variety of all-purpose wine glasses. These wine glasses are particularly useful for wine enthusiasts with children or pets because they are less likely to spill.
Caring for Your Wine Glasses
Here are some tips for how to care for your wine glassware:
- Setting the table: When setting the table for a multi-course meal in which you plan to serve a mix of red and white wines, set the wine glasses to the right of the place setting, chronologically. Place the glasses in the order in which they will be used with the first glass all the way to the left and the final one the furthest to the right.
- Serving wine: When ready to serve wine, fill the wine glass only about 1/3 to 1/2 way full. This leaves room in the upper part of the bowl to collect the aroma so the drinker can smell the wine and note its flavors before drinking it. When pouring, handle white wine glasses by the stems to avoid warming the chilled liquid. Although you can handle red wine glasses a bit more because temperature isn”t as much of a factor, most wine-lovers claim that stem-holding does indeed eliminate unsightly fingerprints. On the other hand, if a red or white is too chilled, a small amount of warming is necessary.
- Storing glasses: Store wine glasses in an upright position in ventilated cabinet that will protect them from dust. Give the bowl a sniff test before filling with wine. Sometimes, lingering soap can leave a faint odor.
- Washing glasses: Always wash your best wine glasses by hand. A minimal amount of liquid dish soap and hot running water will get the job done. Use a lint-free cloth to dry the bowls and stems while they”re still warm and wet. If you wait to wipe down the glasses when they have cooled off, your glassware will be peppered with lint. Similarly, if you don”t wipe them down at all, your wine glasses will be stained with water spots. Some wine glasses are dishwasher safe. However, over time, these may become cloudy or etched through the cleaning process. The stems are also highly susceptible to breakage. As a result, avoid putting your finer wine glasses in the dishwasher whenever possible.
How to Choose a Wine Glass
Wine glasses come in so many varieties that you can actually pick glasses suited to a particular type of red or white wine. However, for generic, everyday use, a simple set of glasses for whites and another for reds is adequate. While the standard size for white stemware is 9 ounces, a wine glass for reds will be around 12 ounces.
When you”re ready to expand beyond the basics, here are some tips for how to select nicer glasses to suit your needs:
- Choose matched sets: If you tend to host formal parties, having a nice set of wine glasses will be helpful. Keep in mind that it”s perfectly acceptable to mix and match glassware for casual gatherings.
- Inspect the glass rims: Rims should have a “cut” edge that is actually smooth to the feel. Inexpensive glasses often feature a bumped or rolled edge that directly affects how the wine rolls across the lips and tongue. Consequently, bumpy rims can inhibit some of the more delicate flavors of a wine.
- Seek out crystal and hand-blown glass: Wine glasses made from crystal and hand-blown glass tend to be the best and most expensive.
- Be sure that glasses are sturdy: Purchase wine glasses with sturdy stems and wide bases. As you test out how sturdy the glass is, imagine how the stem will feel in your hand if the bowl is filled with wine. A base circumference that is too narrow can cause the glass to tip over, causing a loss of good wine and a major party faux pas!
- Select clear glassware: Avoid cut glass, embellishments and colored glassware that distracts from the color and view of the wine. You want to view the wine, especially reds, and observe its color as it moves around the bowl. Similarly, having clear glasses is important to detecting tainted wines. For example, white wines that are past their prime may develop a cloudy appearance, which you”ll want to note before tasting a spoiled wine.
Wine Glasses Enhance Wine Flavors
Serving wine in the appropriate glasses takes the senses to new levels.