Wine drinking is an ancient tradition. Over the years a sense of decorum and a unique etiquette have developed around the practice, including using a range of different wine glasses for each style of wine. Nobody thinks twice about serving and drinking beer directly from the bottle. There is a casual, more proletariat culture among beer drinkers. Conversely, sophisticated – and perhaps more judgmental – wine aficionados know the importance of the rituals surrounding the serving and imbibing of wine, and impressing them or aspiring to join their ranks involves a little more finesse than simply popping a cork and pouring an aged zinfandel into mismatched tumblers.
So what, besides archaic aristocratic snobbery, is the rationale behind pairing specific wine glasses with different wines? The answer makes a lot of sense. Wine is a beverage of complex elements to be savored and enjoyed. Different wines are meant to be served at different temperatures to accentuate their rich bouquets, which is why a wine cooler is a vital appliance for anyone wanting to get the most out of their wine-drinking experience. Additionally, the glasses in which they are served also play a vital role in releasing the rich characteristics of each wine in a proper balance. In fact, a lot of research, tasting, and trial and error went into the development of distinctive wine glasses for different wines. Here’s what those dedicated wine researchers found:
The Perfect Glass
Wine is a beautiful thing and an experience for all the senses. A thin, clear glass allows you to see the rich colors as you swirl the wine to release its complex aromas. Wine glasses that are too thick or ornate limit this aspect of the wine-drinking experience.
What Do Stems Do?
Traditionally, wine glasses sit atop thin stems with a rounded base for balance. Modern variations preserve the shapes of the various wine glasses but remove the stem and base, effectively creating a wine tumbler. So what’s the difference? Well, stemless glasses look sleek and modern while glasses with stems look more classy and traditional. For the most part, the differences are cosmetic. One thing glasses with stems provide is the ability to watch you wine swirl without blocking the view with your hand. Big deal, right? The one downside to stemless tumblers for the truly obsessive wine connoisseur is that gripping the glass causes the temperature of the wine to rise more quickly, limiting the period of time that your wine hold its optimal temperature. Again, probably not a big deal to most people.
Wine Glasses for Reds
In general, you want a wine glass with a wider bowl and large opening to enjoy the richer flavors in red wines. 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.
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.
Wine Glasses for Whites
White wines are served colder than reds. White wine is generally best when its serving temperature is between 45 and 54 degrees Fahrenheit. In general, choose glasses with a narrower bowl and a smaller opening, which helps keep the temperature cool for a longer time and allows the softer aromas to float well in a narrow neck.
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. Sparkling wines like Champaign are best complemented by an extremely narrow glass called a flute that helps to preserve the cooler serving temperature and keeps the wine from going flat too quickly.
Generic Wine Glasses
Acquiring all the various types of wine glasses may seem a bit excessive to you if you’re just starting out as a wine drinker or if you don’t drink enough wine to warrant an extensive collection of glassware. If this is the case, 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 complement your favorite wines.