Finding the Right Wine Glass for You

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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?

Three different types and sizes of wine glasses

It’s something that cuts across time and space, historic and economic barriers.

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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.

An attractive couple stand with wine glasses - the guy is wispering a secret into the woman's ear

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.

Luigi Bormioli Prestige (Atelier) Champagne Flute Glasses, Set of 4

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.

Schott Zwiesel White Wine Glass

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.

STYLE

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.

Stolzle Revolution Power Red Wine Glasses

Stolzle Revolution Power Red Wine Glasses, Set of 6

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.

ONLINE SHOPPING

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.

Luigi Bormioli Atelier Pinot Noir Wine Glass, 20-5/8-Ounce, Set of 6

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.

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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!

14 thoughts on “Finding the Right Wine Glass for You

  1. I only have one set of wine glasses, and I use them to serve both red and white wines. I had no idea that the glass itself actually made a difference. And I really had no clue that the way you hold a wine glass can affect the flavor of the wine. Can you tell that I am a complete wine newbie? Thanks for this great article. I learned something new.

    • Nids, you are not alone. I have a large assortment of them, but I just randomly use them. Whatever I put my hands on first when I reach up into the cabinet. And to know that how I hold the glass makes a difference??? Who knew?

  2. Such great advice, awesome article, something to keep in mind when am about to buy wine glasses, not yet there, the best i do is drink from disposable cups{shy smile}…and at the moment, my wine bottle is mine alone, haven’t broadened the horizon for my guests…something am working on…{suitable wine for their different tastes and wine glasses…gladly i have a life saver @ foodal.com}

  3. I have an assortment of wine glasses. I’ve never thought much about which to use for what kind of wine. I kind of just use them randomly- its just me.. Learned something today though. Hopefully I’ll have the chance to put my new found knowledge to good use.

  4. What an informative read. I also had no idea the shape of the glass mattered so much. I only have a basic set of wine glasses and a few champagne flutes. I really like the look of the Stolzle glasses and would love to add them to my small collection.

  5. I used to have wine glasses, but they almost never got used. Same for my actual drinking glasses. I love the look of mason jars so I replaced all my drinking glassed with them and eventually I just started drinking wine out of those too. Some of my friends love it because it’s so low key and some people look down on me. It makes it very easy to tell who I should be friends with and who is never getting to drink with me!

    • I love it, Zeedame. My husband likes his Mason jar glasses too (the ones with handles). He will drink wine from a wineglass though.

      I used to collect wine glasses. I had a great variety of beautiful and unusual ones. Unfortunately, many of them were destroyed when we moved. I’ll probably never have such an extensive collection again, but I’ve begun accumulating a few.

      I knew you were supposed to hold the glass by the stem, but I never really thought about why. it makes perfect sense. Very nice article, Lynne. I enjoyed it.

      Have you tested any break resistant wine glasses?

  6. I’ve noticed the different types of wine glasses but never really thought too much about it. It makes sense that it would give off a different impression and change how it tastes to someone overall. I’m a big fan of the Atelier Champagne type of wine flutes. They look so classy compared to ones with a large round bottom. The round ones give off a cheap feel. They often serve water in them at fancy restaurants.

  7. The sad truth is I choose my wine glasses in direct relation to style & not giving too much to enhancing flavours or aromas. I don’t think about ‘opening up’ the wine or things of that nature. I admit it. It’s really a matter of: Do these cute stemless wine glasses match my dinner plates this evening?

  8. I have one set of wine glasses and have never thought about trying out any different ones. Also, I had no idea there were so many different shapes of wine glasses! I also had never heard about the way you hold your glass can change the flavor of the wine, thanks for such a great and informative article!

  9. I have only started loving and actually enjoying wine. Working as a server I had to learn all of these things with regards to the sizes of glasses and why we put red wine into larger glasses and white into a smaller glass. I like when I go out and order a glass of red wine to be handed a nice large glass because I do like to actually enjoy the glass and such but only because I was taught how to appreciate and give opinions. At home however we do drink wine but moreso just if we get a gift or something. However we haven’t invested on red and white wine glasses. For a dinner party with friends and such they should be happy to be invited and such and the glass that the wine is being served in shouldn’t be a huge deal in my opinion.

  10. I prefer a port wine glass, in fact that is all I have been buying for the last couple years. A funny story… when I started drinking wine ten years ago, I had a friend try and teach me how to hold a wine glass. I though to myself why do I need to know this..and when we started attending the more upscale restaurants I figured out why. People are serious about wine and all things thereof. It is important to know how to hold the stem correctly and sip not gulp…wow so many things to learn and it really is an art. I find myself going wine tasting at least once a month.

  11. I found this article very informative, I never knew wine glasses and had long names! But my favourite proves to be the Luigi Bormioli Atelier Pinot Noir Wine Glass

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