The anatomy of a wine glass
The main component of the wine glass is the bowl, which is where we pour the wine. The bowl can come in many different shapes and sizes, each of which is often made with a different wine varietal in mind. To the bottom of the bowl, there is often a stem. The stem lifts the glass from the table’s surface and helps us hold the wine glass.
Some of the most expensive wine glasses are hand-blown, and the makers give the bowls weird shapes, like “wings” or “ridges” to help showcase the aromas of a wine. Read on for more information about the different wine glass bowls and stems.
Why are wine glasses important?
Wine glasses help us assess wine color
It is not by accident that nearly all wine glasses are clear. Color is often the first thing we appreciate about a wine, especially with red wines. For example, the difference of color between our Willamette Valley Pinot Noir and Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon is clearly different, with the first being a light red, and the latter being almost opaque and purple.
Color can not only help us identify the different varietals, but can also help us identify potential faults, especially with white wine. Most often, white wine color is clear and bright, sometimes with brown or orange hues. However, if a white wine is opaque or cloudy, and shows high levels of deposits, it may be because of a quality-related issue. Note, however, that a few wines are bottled unfiltered, so the cloudiness can be intentional. Dough wines are filtered for purity and to eliminate cloudiness.
Wine glasses help preserve the wine temperature.
You might have noticed that wine is almost always served at a temperature lower than that of our body’s (~98.6º Fahrenheit). The white, rosé, and sparkling wines, especially, are often served at temperatures well under 50º F. Wine glasses are designed to keep the wine temperature as close to the serving temperature as possible while we enjoy it. When our hands touch the wine through the glass, the temperature often increases, so wine glasses are armed with stems and high bowls to combat the natural furnace of your hand. When we hold the wine glass from the stem or the top of the bowl, we avoid contact with the wine, so it stays at optimal temperature for longer.
Wine glasses are designed to make the wine smell better.
Smelling the wine bouquet is one of the most enjoyable parts of wine drinking, in my opinion. You might have noticed that trying to smell through the bottleneck (I know I’ve tried!) doesn’t quite give you adequate hints of smell. When you pour the wine into the glass, however, all of the intended aromas suddenly appear.
More wine aromas can transfer from the wine to the air if the contact of wine-air is higher. The bowls of the wine glasses are designed so that the wine spreads at the bottom, maximizing this surface. What’s more, the bowl narrows towards the top, concentrating the aromas right onto our nose. Brilliant, yeah? The high bowl also allows us to swirl the wine (hopefully without spilling any) which aids in further increasing the wine-air contact to bring out even more aromas.
Is wine glass material important?
The two most common materials of wine glasses are glass and crystal. You can also find plastic wine glasses, which are perfect for pool parties, but we won’t go into further detail about those in this article. The biggest difference between normal glass and crystal is the final thickness of the wine glass and its durability. Crystal is a much stronger material, so manufacturers are able to create very thin and elegant glasses, which also don’t break easily! Modern crystal is even dishwasher safe! Of course, crystal is much more expensive than simple glass, but crystal wine glasses often showcase a better build balance, allowing you to swirl the wine more easily. Best part, they are often lighter in weight so that the weight does not distract you from enjoying your wine.
What are the main types of wine glasses and when should each be used?
Red wine glasses
Red wines are usually enjoyed together with rich meals, so the aim of wine glasses made for red wine is to amplify the aromas. The large bowl of the red wine glass can also help lower the alcohol perception of the wine and exemplify the winemaker’s creative objective. You’ll often see that red wine glasses are the largest of all wine glasses.
Additionally, red wine improves when it comes in contact with oxygen from the atmosphere. Its tannins become more mellow and enjoyable after a few minutes in a glass with a large bowl. So, the large bowl of the red wine glass serves a double purpose, aiding both the aromas and the taste of the wine. Since red wines are so diverse, there are even sub-categories in red wine glasses depending on the variety, like Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon wine glasses.
White and rosé wine glasses
White and rosé wines are more sensitive to oxygen, so the glasses typically have a smaller bowl in order to protect them. Also, by not spreading the wine over a large surface, the wine’s temperature is kept more stable than in the red wine glass. The elegant, often restrained aromas of the white and rosé wine, manage to reach our noses through the long neck of the bowl, which concentrates them as much as possible.
Just like with red wine glasses, white wine glasses also have sub-categories depending on the grape variety. The most popular are Chardonnay and Riesling wine glasses. Interestingly, the Riesling wine glasses are considered some of the most versatile wine glass designs.
Sparkling wine glasses
Sparkling wine glasses are a heated conversation topic among wine lovers. Many know the coupe, which resembles a margarita glass, however, this is not often used anymore, as the bubbles are lost quickly due to the large surface. In order to protect the bubbles, the flute was implemented for sparkling wines. The flute is a tall and thin glass. For me, watching the bubbles travel from the bottom of the bowl, all the way to the top is an experience on its own! The issue with the flute is that the small neck of the bowl does not always allow the taster to experience all of the aromas the sparkling wine has to offer.
Nowadays, with sparkling wines like our Sparkling Brut Rosé being consumed not only for celebration but also on everyday occasions, the aim is to enjoy them as much as possible. Modern sparkling wine glasses are a fusion of the flute and the white wine glass. They are long enough to allow the bubbles to lazily find their way on the top and wide enough so that we can enjoy all the aromas they have to offer.
Universal wine glasses
If you don’t wish to invest in many different wine glasses, or perhaps your cupboards are full, many wine companies have come up with the “universal wine glass.” These glasses are a compromise between all three styles—tall enough to accentuate white wine aromas but wide enough to allow oxygen to reach the red wines.
Do wine glass stems matter?
Stems in wine glasses serve many purposes. First of all, they are the most natural way to hold the wine glass, without warming up the wine. Of course, we can hold the glass from the top of the bowl to avoid warming it up, but that can lead to unappealing fingerprints on the glass. Ultimately a matter of preference, in my opinion.
Generally speaking, stems allow the wine drinker to easily swirl the wine and experience its aromas. Glasses with longer stems make this small action easier than those with shorter stems. However, the long-stemmed glasses can be more difficult to handle and store, since sometimes they don’t fit in cupboards or dishwashers.
Wine glasses are inextricably linked to the wine-enjoying experience. Looking at the color of the wine or its bubbles through the glass is itself part of the experience of wine appreciation. Wine glasses also help with maintaining a steady wine temperature and can increase the aromas of the wine that reach our nose, making the wine smell more dynamic. Wine geeks have long understood that the wine glass can make or break the drinking experience. All in all, there are no rules when drinking wine. You do not necessarily need special wine glasses to enjoy a wine but we can’t say that they are useless in elevating your wine experience. After all, reaching the end of this article means you love wine as much as we do!