couple looking at wine glasses

9 February, 2022

Choosing The Right Wine Glass

There has been lots of talk about needing this type of glass to drink white wine, that type of glass to drink red wine, or a different glass to drink Chardonnay compared to one for Pinot Noir. A lot of this discussion is thanks to Claus Riedel of Reidel glassware and his introduction to the world in 1973 of the Riedel Sommelier Series. This series of glassware initially had ten different shaped glasses that Riedel said were made to enhance the flavour and taste of specific wine groups. For the sceptics, it is said the main reason Riedel did this was to try and increase wine glass sales. Well, it certainly worked as sales skyrocketed after the launch.

Since then, other wine glass makers have also joined the bandwagon, so nowadays, there is an endless stream of different shapes and sizes of wine glass that each maker boasts works best for a certain grape varietal. What we can say for certain about this is it has made it very confusing for the consumer and if you believe an article from 2004 in the Gourmet Magazine, it stated that major research centres in Europe and USA did studies on Riedel’s claims and came to the conclusion that based on science, they were nonsense. A statement from Yale University from Linda Bartoshuk says, “Your brain doesn’t care where taste is coming from in your mouth”.

While we agree with the above, it is known there is a correlation to taste both from the tongue and your sense of smell. Block your nose and then eat or drink something. The flavour is very different, so it does go to show that smell is an important part and capturing that and intensifying it can be done through the shape of your wine glass.

For white wine glasses, you want to try and stay to smaller sizes if possible, except for bigger full-bodied grape varieties such as Chardonnay, which benefits from a larger bowl and broader mouth. Stemless glasses have caught on in recent years, but we can’t say we are fans of this style for drinking white wine. Firstly, holding the glass itself means you can’t appreciate the colours coming from the wine. Also, your hand on the side of the glass will heat the wine much quicker that if you are holding a stemmed glass. The smaller sized bowls for the white wine also help preserve the floral aromas, expresses more acidity in the wine and will give you more aromas due to your nose being closer to the wine.

Red wine glasses have three basic shape styles to suit most wines. First is a taller glass with a bowl shape but open at the top, commonly called a “Bordeaux” glass. As the name suggests, this is ideal with bigger, bolder grape varieties such as Bordeaux Blends, Cabernet Franc and Rioja wines and Shiraz grape varietals. The larger surface allows the ethanol to evaporate more quickly, and the wider opening tends to make the wine taste smoother.

Next is what we call “standard” red wine glasses, perfect for medium to full body wines that tend to have extensive spice notes or higher alcohol content. Grape varieties that fall into this category are Zinfandel, Petite Syrah and Merlot. The glass tends to be shorter than Bordeaux glass and does not have a deep bowl shape at the bottom and a narrower top.

Lastly, you have a red wine glass for softer, more delicate red wines that tend to have subtle aromas. The classics in this category are Pinot Noir, Gamay and Nebbiolo from Italy, to name a few. Similar in size to a Bordeaux glass, they have a deeper, rounder bowl so the wine can be swirled more, and the top is narrower, so the nose is more focused.

If you want to target glass for a specific grape variety or you are just looking for a universal wine glass that would suit a promotion, and you are not sure what would work best, give us a call or send us an email, and we’d be happy to offer you suggestions.

The Glassware Only Team