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In an age where there’s simply too much that divides us, isn’t it nice to know that there’s something as unifying and universal as a great bottle of wine?
It’s something that cuts across time and space, historic and economic barriers.
From the stage and screen, mythology and literature, art and music, whether you’re sipping a fine white wine or knocking back some inexpensive zinfandel, the world has an ongoing love affair with wine.
Even the most casual of wine drinkers will know what a wine glass is, loosely speaking. They are some of the most recognizable mealtime and drink-related items in the entire world—but does that mean you know what it takes to find the right wine glass for you?
Never fear! It’s easier than you think, and by the time you’re through with this guide, you’ll know all you need in order to select the perfect glass to be graced by that beautiful pinot noir you’ve been saving for a special occasion (or special someone!)
LEARNING FROM MARIE ANTOINETTE, OR: AWARENESS OF OCCASION
To begin with, it’s important to note that feeling a little overwhelmed by wine glass selection is normal, especially if you’re new to the game.
After all, wine selection itself is a notoriously and, for those who love it, wonderfully choosy business…one that comes with an air of snobbishness at times, yes, but then, for some, that’s just a bit of the fun that comes with being a wine and wine glass aficionado.
What’s important to recognize here, however, is that this need not be the case.
You don’t have to harrumph and turn your nose up at every last wine glass in order to be “taken seriously” as a “real” wine drinker, and you certainly don’t need to try and “impress” anyone with your ability to tell different champagne chutes apart.
Wine glasses can run anywhere from just a few dollars for your basic glassware to quite a few more for an expensive, finely-crafted set. Sometimes, it’s important to be selective and, yes, just a little elitist when it comes to choosing a wine or wine glasses, given their potential cost—the key is to know when, and when it’s OK to take a step back and just enjoy yourself.
It’s all a matter of recognizing the quality of the wine you’re drinking, the kind of company you’re keeping, and, in the end, recognizing which glasses and attitude the occasion calls for.
To do that, let’s consider the curious case of Marie Antoinette.
For those who don’t know, or have heard the name but are a little fuzzy in the details, Marie Antoinette was the famed Queen of France, wife of Louis XVI, and one of the most iconic figures of her time—in life and death.
She, her husband, and the court at Versailles enjoyed incredible luxury while the rest of France starved. Ever heard the phrase “Let them eat cake?” Marie Antoinette didn’t actually say that, but it’s often attributed to her, in part because of the way she and her husband Louis XVI so terribly misread the mood of the country—that is, “the occasion.”
Pro-tip: when the rest of the country is starving, showing off your incredible wealth is probably a bad idea.
The moral of the story?
In all things wine, take the company you’re planning to entertain into account. If you’re looking to throw a high-class business soiree, then going for those stylish glasses and hundred dollar bottles may be called for.
On the other hand, if you’re just entertaining some friends, then going this far might just be unnecessary but your friends might get the impression you’re pulling a Marie Antoinette of your own-that is, unnecessarily showing off, which can come across as rubbing your success in their face.
While it’s nothing to lose your head over, considering the occasion is still a good first step when looking to find the right wine glass for you.
SIZE AND SHAPE
Let’s stick with Madame Antoinette for this section, and take a quick look at the role size and shape play in wine glass selection.
While it’s a myth that wine glasses’ scale and size are modeled on the “cup size” and “proportions” of Antoinette herself, those elements are still two huge questions that need to be resolved.
If you’ve shopped for wine for any length of time, or even if you’re just now breaking into the wide world of wine, chances are you’ve taken note of all the different sizes and shapes available to you.
Slim champagne chutes, wide champagne coups, long stems, short stems—how are we to choose?
As a rule of thumb, you’re going to want longer stems for white wines, and glasses with nice, deep slopes in the cup area for red wines.
The 9.4 ounce Schott Zwiesel Tritan Crystal Glass Stemware Forte Collection White Wine Glass shown above is one of the more popular white wine glasses sold through Amazon with over 130 reviews and an average of 4 1/2 stars.
However, it’s much more complicated than that, as there are so many different styles of wine and, yes, wine glasses. Again, this area can take up an article of its own, so to give a few basic tidbits of advice:
- You want to make sure to have a good balance of form and function; a great wine glass shouldn’t just hold your wine, but do so with style
- Pick out wine glasses based on the “personality” of your wine…is your wine subtle and subdued, loud and proud, delicate and royal, etc.?
- If you pick out a set, make sure that you use that set in a self-contained fashion, that is, don’t mix different styles and sets
The manufacturers make a different wine glass for each style of wine. In my opinion, this may be a little excessive but some wines do perform better with different shapes do to their bouquet and at what temperature they are served at.
A set of 2 Riedel Wine Series Cabernet/Merlot Glass available through Amazon.
RED WINE VS. WHITE WINE
This is an absolutely essential category. Red wines and white wines are like day and night—both are beautiful, and both have their charms, but both are incredibly different.
The difference between reds and whites is long enough to warrant a blog (or book) of their own, so suffice it to say that you’re going to want to keep the kind of wine you’re planning on consuming in mind when you look to find the right wine glass for you.
One thing you’re going to want to keep in mind here is the nature of the wine. How intense is the flavor? How strong is the aroma? Is the wine chilled?
If so, then chances are you’re going to want at least a semi-sizeable stem, because you’re going to want to make sure to keep your fingers on the stem, rather than cupping the wine from beneath, as you might with a red wine, as the heat from your hand will warm that white wine right up, thus spoiling its delicate composition and taste.
CHAMPAGNE, PORT, AND SHERRY
Finally, you’re going to want to take these specialties into account. Champagne, port, and sherry are all part of the wine family, and all require their own specialized glass. We’ve already discussed champagne chutes and coups.
For port, and especially sherry, you’re going to want a shorter, slimmer glass that holds the sherry in such a way as to intensify your experience, from the aroma to the taste.
Google “sherry glass,” and chances are you’ll find what you’re looking for—and if you haven’t found it after that, just look up an old episode of Frasier, and pay attention to the kind of glass Kelsey Grammer and David Hyde Pierce use.
Stolzle Professional Port Wine Glass, Set of 6 available at Amazon.
One last tip—take advantage of the online market. Wine lovers do have a thing for preferring to inspect items in person, and with good reason.
Even so, it can’t hurt to at least take a look at the offerings available online at retailers such as Amazon where you can read hundred of real customer reviews.
Whether you’re shopping for a wine set fit for a queen or just looking to pick up an inexpensive champagne cute selecting the perfect wine glass can positively intoxicating!
First published August 16th, 2014. Last updated January 26th, 2017.
About Lynne Jaques
Lynne is a stay-at-home mother of two boys. As a former US military officer and the spouse of an active duty US military member, Lynne enjoys traveling the world (although not the moving part!) and finding new cuisine and methods of preparing food. She also has the habit of using parenthesis way too much!