How to Buy Wine Glasses

When you start to get serious about wine, you realize that the glass you drink your wine from can really influence the experience. How many of us have been served perfectly good sparkling wine at a party only to have the taste or the bubbles ruined by the cheap Dixie cup it is served in? Besides the inferiority of cardboard cups, certain wines will perform better when drunk from certain shapes or styles of glass. Just like a sonnet wouldn’t quite be a sonnet without the end-rhymes and meter, a beautiful Pinot Noir is not the same served in a drinking cup.

Types Of Wine Glasses

There are many different types of wine glass, but they fit into three basic categories. Champagne and sparkling wines are traditionally served in flutes (long slender glasses) which serve to maintain the effervescence and particular “bouquet” of sparkling wine. Red wines are served in glasses with large “bowls” so that they may be swirled in order to bring out the aromas of the wine, and to expose the wine to greater amounts of oxygen. White wine, on the other hand, should be served in a normal sized wine glass, and doesn’t require the large bowl that red wine requires, as it doesnt need the exposure to oxygen. Some wine snobs feel that all wines, besides sparkling, benefit from swirling, but in my opinion swirling a white wine is a waste of time. The bottom line is — most wine drinkers don’t need more than three styles of wine glass: flutes, large bowl glasses for reds, and standard size glasses for whites.

Rules For Choosing Wine Glass Style or Brand


When choosing a particular brand or style of glass, I have three rules I go by.

  1. Make sure the glasses are of sufficient size.

    Not too big, not too small. The range of glasses should be appropriate to the wine type (see above for the difference between flutes, red wine glasses, and white wine glasses) but not large or small. I have seen many “boutique” style glasses that are so small it would require them to be filled to the absolute brim in order to get a full glass, and this simply will not do.

  2. Make sure the material the glasses are made of is appropriate.

    Ideally, your glass will be clear and unadorned. I am usually uncomfortable drinking any type of wine from a colored glass. It makes me wonder what the server is trying to hide? Is there cork or mold in the wine? Is the wine inferior and oily? Avoid colored glasses. Some people say that crystal, or even cut crystal, is ideal for wine, but I say whatever floats your boat — as long as they are clear — is fine. After all, you’re the one drinking out of them most of the time.

  3. Consider the shape of the glass.

    The glass should have a steam. I have seen trendy restaurants lately featuring stemless glasses for wine, and this is fine if you want to spend half your life cleaning fingerprints off the glass. Besides, I find that a glass clutched in my hand causes the wine to reach an unpleasant temperature. Remember, body heat transfers easily through glass or crystal. A stem is a must have for wine glasses. Another shape consideration is the taper at the top of the glass. This taper, while pleasing to the eye, also assist in enjoying the bouqet of a wine. Wine, especially red wine, is meant to be enjoyed in the nose as well as in the mouth. When swirling your wine, the aromas release in a tapered glass will be concentrated toward the nose, increasing your appreciation. Remember that the shape of a glass may be just as important as the size and the color.

The next time you’re at your favorite restaurant, notice the glasses they use to serve wine. Obviously you enjoy the glasses at this restaurant, or it wouldn’t be your favorite. You would do well to imitate the style of glasses they use, because restaurants consider all of the above suggestions when purchasing wine glasses, and this takes the guesswork out of the purchase.

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