Wine Glasses 101

Wine Glasses 101


A few months ago, we planned to host our first grown-up wine tasting party, aka we were serving cheese from the expensive section of grocery store, none of the plates and utensils were disposable and we invited our friends who drink wine more than just casually (check out more on that here: XXXXXX).

I went to Target and stood staring at boxes of wine glasses; there were so many options. We wanted the event to look and feel legitimate, but I wasn’t looking to take a second mortgage out on the house for glassware, so here’s the BIG question: How many wine glasses do you really need?

Here is the condensed academic reason for having different glasses for each varietal:

The Reds:

Cabernet: The glass is tall, with a wide bowl and narrower mouth meant to intensify the experience. The large bowl allows the wine to breathe, while the narrower mouth captures the aromas.

Burgundy: The glass is wide from start to finish. This is meant to allow the drinker to smell the more delicate aromas and to allow the tip of the tongue to experience the wine first.

Bordeaux: The glass is super tall and relatively narrow. Great for full-bodied wines (like Merlots and Cabs). Apparently, the height of the glass helps get the wine to spread more quickly through the mouth, which is great for experiencing big or young wines.

Zinfandel: A little shorter and with a wider mouth than Bordeaux glasses. This allows the drinker to experience the full flavor and aromas of the wine.

Pinot Noir
: The widest bowl of any wine glass, allowing the wine to really breathe. The rim is slightly turned out, which gives the wine flavors and aroma direct access to the drinker’s nose and full mouth.

Rosé: These glasses have a long stem, which keeps the heat from your hand from warming up the wine. The best rosé glasses have a flared rim, which gets the often younger wine right to your sweet-sensitive taste buds.

The Whites:

Chardonnay: This glass is U-shaped and has a relatively wide mouth, which allows this commonly young wine to hit the tip and sides of the tongue, so the user can experience the slight sweetness.

Sparkling: Narrow and upright, this glass is distinctive. The narrow body promotes the wine to stay sparkling, where as a wider glass would allow the carbonation to go flat faster.

Sweet/Dessert: These are the relatively itty-bitty glasses for serving small servings of ultra-sweet/higher alcohol content wines. The narrow mouth sends the wine to the back of the mouth so the sweetness isn’t overwhelming.

Back to the BIG question at hand: How many wine glasses do you really need (or want, for that matter)?


The take-away:

  • Thinner rims allow the wine to flow into the mouth better and heighten the experience. They feel more expensive (and are). They are obviously more fragile as well. We are not delicate people. We gesticulate when we tell stories and we rarely remember to set the glass down first. These glasses are not for our house.
  • U-shaped glasses that are slightly smaller are generally for white wines.
  • Crystal glasses look fancy (the minerals refract the light beautifully), but don’t change the flavor, so if Grandma didn’t will you some, don’t spend the extra money. Glass is great.
  • If you are doing a tasting, you can always have guests rinse their glasses before pouring the next wine, to save on the number of glasses needed.
  • If you regularly drink one varietal, go ahead and splurge on glasses for that varietal. But if you drink lots of varietals, there is a better way… Invest in 2 basic sets:
    • A generic red wine glass: we like the balloon glasses. They have a large bowl that allows for excellent swirling opportunities and gives reds the space they need to breathe. They are also immensely Instagram-able and make the drinker feel super fancy. Look for long stems and a solid base.
    • A generic white wine glass: a classic u-shaped glass with long stems will do the trick. The slightly narrower rim allow the drinker to get more of the delicate aromas of whites. You can use these for rosés as well.
    • Optional: A set of sparkling/ Champagne flutes. Look for a long stem so your hand doesn’t heat up your drink.
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