Why are there SO many wine glasses? [Dear god, I don’t know. It’s exhausting.] What’s the right one? [All depends on what you like to drink!] Am I failing at wine if I pick the wrong one? [No!]
As badass winemaker Charles Smith has famously said: “It’s wine. Just drink it.” We’re on board with that – but if you’re interested in knowing more, I’ve put together some basics to help you navigate the barware aisle at Bed Bath & Beyond with a little more confidence.
First, consider the size and shape
The wider the bowl, the more air hits the wine. For heavier, tannic reds – Barolo, Bordeaux, Napa Cabernet – this aeration softens astringent tannins and wakes up the wine’s inherent aromas and flavors. If you dig those wines, look for glasses called “Bordeaux” or “balloon” – they tend to have the largest bowl diameter.
Glasses with a wide base that gently taper in toward the rim are usually called Burgundy glasses. They’re designed to aerate the wine as well as usher delicate, perfumed aromas right to your nose. Naturally, fine Burgundy (red or white!), cool-climate Pinot Noir from Washington, or Cru Beaujolais would taste delicious in this kind of glass.
Modern wisdom introduced the tall, slender flute as the glass of choice for Champagne and other sparkling wines. The narrow, tube-like shape of the glass is perfect for extending the life of the precious bubbles in your glass (and complex aromas from a vintage sparkler are directed straight to your nose as you sip – an extra bonus). The glamorous coupe – a dated icon that’s been reborn thanks to the vintage trend (and that Leonardo DiCaprio/Gatsby meme I can’t ever seem to escape) is more “saucer with a stem” than glass. For a time, the shape was rumored to be modeled after Marie Antoinette’s – ahem – best assets. But they fell out of fashion with bubbly enthusiasts because the wide, shallow shape lets fizz fall flat fast – not great if you’re a slow sipper. But they are still fabulous looking, especially if you’re going for a retro, Frank Sinatra vibe.
What about stemless?
Stemless glasses are everywhere. So modern! So minimalistic! … So full of smudges! While they’re certainly sleek looking, bear in mind that the only way to really hold the glass is with your hands wrapped around the bowl – which could warm up a well-chilled white and dull all those yummy flavors. Double-walled styles help keep your hot little hands in check, but there’s still the issue of fingerprints to consider …
Some wine glasses are thick and sturdy – others are paper-thin crystal. Which is better?
Research has shown that a thin-lipped glass spreads more wine across your palate as you sip, ensuring your taste buds get immediate access to the good stuff. Thicker glassware is actually more of a palate barrier, and can even impede the tasting process.
Ask yourself these things before you invest $$$
Are you an aspiring wine pro who’s interested in studying how specific wines develop in the glass? Do you envision yourself holding more serious, educational wine tastings at your home? Then invest in a set of crystal, varietally specific glasses (clear, uncolored, and uncut). With care, they’ll last forever and will help introduce you to a whole new level of wine understanding.
Are you just someone who enjoys a great wine ? Don’t feel restrained (or confused) by all the choices out there. Pick a simple style (like the Burgundy glass described above) and it will serve you well with nearly every wine you pour into it.
And never be afraid to have fun with your wine, either. Novelty glasses in a rainbow of colors, textures, and shapes have their place in your home as well. (Yes, dammit – I drink my reds from a mason jar from time to time. Sorry not sorry.)