Wine Glasses for Every Occasion – Why Size Matters

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All wine glasses are equal but, some wine glasses are more equal than others.

A fashion consultant will advise you to dress according to your body type; to enhance your best features. The same applies to wine. Different glasses are designed to enhance different wines’ best attributes.

As even subtle differences in a wine glass’ design can notably alter your experience of a wine, different glasses are shaped to enhance the aromas, flavour profile, mouthfeel and finish of specific wines.

wine glasses hanging upside down, ready for your favorite wines

Certain wines need to breathe in the glass. The shape of a wine glass impacts how much air comes in contact with the wine. It also affects how much aroma is released and how much of it reaches the nose. Furthermore, it impacts where the wine first hits your tongue.

With seven basic types in use today, as well as an array of variations in the thickness of the glass and rim, figuring out the issue of size requires some wine knowledge.

The difference in sizes and shapes of the seven different types of stemware in use today, including Port, Sherry, red wine, white wine, Champagne and two specialised red wine glasses, the Burgundy and the Bordeaux, determine what kind of wine they are most suitable for.

Different glasses are shaped to enhance different aspects of  wines.
Different glasses are shaped to enhance different aspects of wines.

Wide or narrow bowls?

Wide bowls are ideal for red wines as they expose more wine to air and more aroma reaches your nose. This is in contrast with narrower bowls that are more suitable for white wines. To allow the “science” to work, a wine glass should never be filled to capacity or it will taste tight and closed-off.

Thick rim of thin rim wine glass?

The thickness of a wineglass’ rim impacts how the wine flows onto your tongue, which affects how you taste the wine. A thinly cut rim with no roll allows smooth flow of wine onto your tongue. On the other hand, a thicker rim with more roll inhibits flow onto your tongue. This accentuates the acidity and harshness of the wine.

Stemmed or stemless wine glass?

Stemless wine glasses have in recent years enjoyed increased popularity. They are welcomed by sommeliers as a useful addition to the glassware industry. They are less likely to break, easy to store and fit better into the dishwasher. The versatility of these glasses make them suitable for red wine as well as other beverages like water and soft drinks.

Although it is mostly a matter of personal preference, stemless glasses are less ideal for white wine and rosé. This is because they can increase the wine’s temperature. Holding the bowl, instead of the stem, warms up the glass which then warms up the wine.

Red wine glasses – the bold and the beautiful

Red wines need bigger, wider bowls to allow bold aromas to emerge.
Red wines need bigger, wider bowls to allow bold aromas to emerge.

When serving red wine it is all about creating a large surface area of wine in the glass. This is so the wine can breathe and the aromas and fragrances become more explosive.

If you are not too fussy, the standard, all-round red wine glass will do. However, to really get the best out of your full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon or fruit-forward Pinot Noir, you need to bring out the special red wine glasses.

A red wine glass has a bigger, wider bowl to allow bold aromas to come to the fore.
A red wine glass has a bigger, wider bowl to allow bold aromas to come to the fore.

Burgundy glass’ surface area is wider, shorter, and more dramatically tempered than the Bordeaux wine glass. This captures the aromatics of your lighter, fruitier reds like Pinot Noir when swirling better. In addition to that, the relatively narrow rim focuses them on the nose while drinking.

Full-bodied, rich, aromatic reds like Cabernet Sauvignon are best served in the Bordeaux wine glass. Bordeaux glasses are known for their smaller surface area in relation to the circumference of the rim. This shape softens the experience of the acidic compounds, especially tannins that are more common in full-bodied red wines.

White wine glasses – keep it cool

Red and white wine glasses are shaped differently to highlight different aspects of each wine.
Red and white wine glasses are shaped differently to highlight different aspects of each wine.

Because white wine and rosé are less aromatic than reds, it tastes best at cooler temperatures. Thus, a medium-sized wine glass with a U-shaped bowl is recommended. The rounder shape of a white wine glass’ bowl is designed to maintain the wine’s cooler temperature.

If a full, rich and complex Chardonnay is your go-to, then the standard red wine glass will do as it best compliments the stronger aromatics of fuller-bodied, richer white wines.

Champagne flutes – preserve the fizz

Champagne flutes are narrow to preserve the bubbles for longer.
Champagne flutes are narrow to preserve the bubbles for longer.

The tall and elegant Champagne flute is designed to maintain the fizz. This while allowing just enough surface area for you to detect the wine’s notes on the nose. Try drinking Champagne or sparkling wine from any other glass. You’ll quickly notice it tastes like a different wine – warmer and a lot less fizzy.

Sweet wine glasses – less is more

A port glass is a specialty wine glass and is specifically designed with a smaller size and narrow opening to reduce evaporation of this high-alcohol wine.
A port glass is a specialty wine glass and is specifically designed with a smaller size and narrow opening to reduce evaporation of this high-alcohol wine.

Sweet, dessert wines such as Sauternes and sweet Muscats are served in small glasses. The same goes for fortified wines such as port and sherry. This is because they have a much higher ABV of around 18-20% and so you need less.

A full breath of the alcohol-rich, super-sweet aromas of these alcohol-rich wines are inclined to overwhelm the palate. This can make the wine difficult to taste.

Sherry glasses are small and narrow so that the drinker can better taste the subtle fruits and minerals of sherry, without the senses being overwhelmed.

Port is consumed slowly and in small amounts. It is served in a small glass for this reason. The shape of a port wine glass is, however, still big enough to swirl and capture the aromatics that affect the taste of the wine.

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