Choosing the Right Wine Glass

Wine glasses come in many shapes and sizes, but the most important attribute is the size and height of the bowl. The stem of a wine glass is not for show. It too serves a specific purpose. The taller the stem, the more the wine in the glass is intended to hit the back of the mouth first. The stem also stops the wine from being heated by the drinker’s body heat. Each wine glass has a specific purpose, depending on the type of wine it is intended to showcase.

As a commercial drinking or restaurant establishment providing fine wines, you should be prepared to carry stemware for red wine, white wine, sparkling wine, rose wine and dessert wine. If you are not quite ready to make a commitment to a full wine stemware service, all purpose wine glasses and stemless wine glasses are certainly a good start. Let’s look at each of these.

Red Wine Glasses

Red wines, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Malbec, Shiraz and Merlot, should be served in a glass with a large bowl. Many red wines are considered to be more complex than other types of wine. The large bowl allows for both air to get to the wine (breathing) and for the drinker to get their nose inside of the glass to take in the aromas of the wine – or notes.

White Wine Glasses

White wines, such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Pinot Gris should be served in wine glasses that feature a bowl that allows the wine to release its notes. The bowl on these glasses is closer to a U shape and the rim of the glass tends to flare outward slightly, to allow the wine to fall to the sides of the drinker’s mouth. White wines are typically served slightly cooler than red wines. The design of the white wine glass helps maintain a cooler temperature.

Sparkling Wine Glasses

Commonly referred to as Champagne Flutes, these wine glasses are designed to keep the bubbles in the wine. The bowl of the champagne flute is not bowl like at all. The subtle taste of sparkling wines call for a very thin rim, to ensure the glass does not interfere with the flavor of the wine. The stem of the sparkling wine glass is tall. With these wines, the drinker should always use the stem to hold the glass. Body heat from the drinker will cause sparkling wines to lose carbonation quickly. Sparkling wines include Champagne, Asti, Cava, Prosecco, Blanc de Noirs and Blanc de Blancs.

Rose Wine Glasses

Rose wines, also known as blush wine, seem so easy to drink, but the glass for the rose can be quite complicated. When serving a Pinor Noir, Sauvignon or Zinfandel Blush, a wine steward should be aware of other key elements of the wine to choose the right stemware. Most establishments will simply use a white wine glass, as white wine glasses tend to feature a flared rim to enjoy the sweetness of the fruit. That is acceptable for some blush wines. The age of the blush is a key factor for the wine steward to make that decision. Full-bodied rose wines are better experienced in a glass that is short stemmed with a round bottom.

Dessert Wine Glasses

Dessert wines, such as Port, Sherry, Ice Wine, and Muscats, are best served in smaller serving size wine glasses. The stem is generally a little taller, giving the bowl a small area as compared to a red or white wine bowl. The taller stem enables the wine to move the back of the mouth without rolling over the sweet receptors on the side, like a white wine glass.

All Purpose & Stemless Wine Glasses

Many establishments are opting for the all-purpose wine glass, which is a style all its own. The all-purpose wine glass is a combination of tall stem and slightly rounded bowl with a thin rim, with no flare. If wine is not what you serve most often, consider this as a viable choice, rather than purchasing for each wine type. Stemless wine glasses give up a little presentation, but make up in lack of breakage and contemporary style.


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