There’s a wine for every occasion and a glass for every wine. While you can be perfectly happy pouring your favorite vintage into a simple juice glass, there is a logic behind these iconic glassware shapes. Here is an explainer on the most notable wine glasses:
This glass is an iconic symbol of celebration. And there’s actually a functional reason to serve your sparkling wine in a flute: the tall, long shape showcases the sprightly bubbles and slows down the dissipation. Of course, not all flutes are created equal. Some wine experts prefer a version with a tulip shape or larger bowl, making it easier to access the subtle aromas.
A standard white wine glass will be tall and slim with a narrow opening. This allows the wine to maintain its cooler temperature. Smaller bowls also help express acidity and bring the nose closer to the aromas, which don’t travel as well in cold wines.
Full-bodied whites, oak-aged whites, or orange skin-contact wines actually behave more like red wines and benefit from a larger bowl. The wider mouth underlines creamy textures and complex secondary aromas from the winemaking process.
When you’re sipping a big, bold wine, reach for a big, bold glass. You know the one that makes your hand feel teeny-tiny and is perfect for dramatic swirling during lulls in conversation. There’s a reason why bold reds are served in large, bowl-like glasses. More space between the nose and the wine mutes the ethanol notes. The space above the wine also collects subtle aromas and the wide shape allows for aeration and the aforementioned swirling (more aroma release, more aeration). A wide opening also makes the wine taste smoother.
When red wine is lighter and has more subtle flavors and aromas, then a glass with a slightly smaller opening is a better bet. Wine will be discharged from the glass more slowly, allowing a progression of notes to be experienced. That said, the bowl should still be nice and large to allow for the release of aromas.
These small glasses are ideal for the big wines you put in them. Most Port-style wines are higher in alcohol and serving size is typically closer to 3 oz. The narrow mouth of the glass also concentrates the punchy aromatics of these fortified wines. Similar logic applies to sweet dessert wines, which tend to be stronger and more intense than their meal-time counterparts.
A favorite of outdoor enthusiasts, parents of grasping toddlers, and the clumsy among us, this modern take on a wine glass is stylish, functional, and they’re usually dishwasher safe! That said, if you have a particularly special bottle of wine that is best enjoyed at a specific temperature, it might be worth eschewing the tumbler — your hand on the glass can raise the temp of the liquid and alter the flavor.