Wine Glasses – Choosing your Stemware Correctly


You can enhance each sip of wine by using the right glassware. This goes far beyond using different stemware for reds, whites, and of course champagne. The reason for this is that even thought the shapes are sometimes subtly different, how the wine is deposited in your mouth, can alter the taste dramatically. True wine aficionados will have the proper stemware for each different type of wine they serve.

My husband and I had of course heard of this, but until we actually experienced it for ourselves, we did not believe that there would be that much difference. We were both sitting, relaxing, and enjoying a favourite red, from what we thought were identical red wine glasses. I mistakenly picked up his and took a sip. All of a sudden, it was as if a switch had been turned on and I could taste, not only the main flavour of the wine, but the flavour of apricots was in my mouth as well! Back and forth we traded glasses, comparing and marvelling how such a subtle difference in shape of bowl could cause a either a dulling, or awakening of the wine we were drinking.

Of course, we immediately went out to a local winery in search of the appropriate stemware. Here we were faced with too many options. We were asked what we preferred to drink (wine, of course) and to be specific (red wine), still more specific. After helping us narrow it down, they advised us on a more “multipurpose” glass that would work for the heavier reds we tend to prefer.

I write this not to discourage, but to let you know that if you are not using better stemware of the correct type, you should investigate what’s out there and start your collection. Here are some tips on what to look for (ideally – a well informed sales person):

  1. Choose a wine glass that is made from clear, crystal, half-crystal or high quality superior glass. Stemware produced from these materials is can be made to be extremely thin, with 1 millimeter being ideal for a wine glass. It should have a long stem, keeping the hand properly placed, and therefore, not affecting the temperature of the wine in your glass.
  2. A red wine glass is designed with a larger bowl and wider mouth than others. This is to allow more air to circulate—allowing a full-bodied wine to breathe. The size of the glass should be large enough so that a serving (approximately 4-6 ounces) only fills the bottom half of the glass. This allows for easier swirling, which helps the red wine breathe. The aromas of red wine are also extremely important – a good swirl, sniff, and sip in quick succession will give you the best taste. The larger bowl allows for all of this to comfortably happen. A full-bodied red, like a Cabernet Sauvignon is best served at about 64° F—while a Pinot Noir, a light bodied red, could be served at 54° F.
  3. Two of the most common red wine glasses are “Bordeaux” and “Burgundy.” A bordeaux glass has the wide bowl, but is a bit taller than the burgundy. A tall glass will move the wine to the back of the palete, where it’s best to taste the more full-bodied reds, and the shorter burgundy glass will deposite the wine to the front of the palete, best for a lighter-bodied red.
  4. White wine should be served in a small and narrow tulip-shaped glass, but not as narrow as a champagne flute. The narrowness of the glass allows for less surface area within, helping to retain the cooler temperature at which the white wine is usually served (43° to 52° F). By holding the glass at the stem you will be able to help the wine maintain its ideal serving temperature. A 3 to 5 ounce pour is nice for a white wine
  5. Champagne and Prosecco are best served in narrow, fluted, and tall stemware. The shape helps the wine maintain its fizziness and the long stem will keep your hand from warming up the wine. The usual pour for a champagne flute is approximately 6 – 7 ounces and the ideal serving temperature is 45° F.
  6. Ice Wine is served in a shorter stemware with a very small bowl, similar to a sherry glass. This potent beverage should be sipped slowly and usually only small quantities are consumed.


Sandy King

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Copyright 2008 Sandy King


4 responses to “Wine Glasses – Choosing your Stemware Correctly

  1. what is/are the difference(s) between crystal, half-crystal and high quality superior glass?

  2. More on types of crystal and glass:
    The meaning of crystal versus glass varies according to the country. The word “crystal” means, in most of the world, the presence of lead. According to European Union rules, glass products containing less than 4% lead are defined as glass. Products containing more than 30% lead are defined as “highly leaded crystal”. In the USA, glass is defined as “crystal” when it contains only 1% lead. In the Czech Republic, home of the most renowned crystal manufacturers, the term “crystal” is used only for the most exquisite, high quality goods containing more than 24% lead oxide.
    You must use extra care when cleaning your crystal. Harsh detergents, excessive heat (using your automatic dishwasher) excessive cold, rapid temperature changes and abrasives must be avoided. If you use a dishwasher, your crystal will get an unattractive “cloudy” surface and might even crack. It is recommend that you wash your crystal by hand in warm water with a small amount of mild detergent, rinse, then dry with a soft lint-free cloth.
    The higher the lead content, the more pourous the crystal is as well. To avoid lead absorption, do not store liquids in your crystal for any length of time. Due to its pourous nature, crystal can also absorb odours and flavours.
    Glassware also comes in different qualities. Look for a seam on the stem of the glassware you are considering, if it’s present, this is pressed, or moulded glass. Ideally, the thinner the better, and mouth-blown, is superior.

  3. I can’t agree more with you. Wine experience is greatly enhanced by the kind of stemware being used. It can upgrade or degrade the wine. And its not only the wine that we enjoy, but aroma of wine is equally important. You should try Sihouette glasses, their shape is unique and they are made from blown glass. I am sure your wine experience will be enhanced. Check their website: .

  4. Thanks for your comment and the website link Anna.

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