Wine Glasses: Same Same, but Different

Wine Glasses: Same Same, but Different

January 17, 2018

We all know that you can duck down to the shops and grab some wine glasses from almost anywhere, and we all also know that you can get them for only a few dollars a pop, or spend a relatively huge amount of money on a fancy crystal set. But how do you know which glassware is good to buy, without going totally overboard?

Likewise, most people are also generally aware that there are different types for different wines - bigger glasses for red, a little smaller for white, and the old champagne ‘flute’ for the sparkling varieties. But… why? And how important is it that your glass is the ‘right’ glass for the wine you’re drinking?

Red wine glasses

Red wines are generally best served in larger glasses. The bowls of these glasses will also be much rounder, with a bigger opening around the rim - made this way on purpose, to allow you to dip your nose into the glass and soak in the aroma. Ever see a wine expert give a red a huge sniff? This style of glass is not just for people into the theatrics of being a wine lover, but is actually quite important because the complex flavours of red wine develop when in contact with more air, meaning a larger surface area is beneficial.

There are also - if you want to get very particular - specific types of red wine glasses. Depending on what you like to drink, it may be worth purchasing Bordeaux glasses (taller, with a smaller bowl, designed for heavier red wines) or perhaps Burgundy glasses (for lighter reds such as Pinot Noir, with a larger than usual bowl) - but unless you have a huge amount of space to store them, or happen to only like a specific type of wine, we think the best bang for buck is a red wine glass slightly on the larger side, but widely appropriate for a range of reds.

White wine glasses

A smaller glass, those which are intended for white wine tend to also be more U-shaped and slightly skinnier than that of a red wine glass. This is to allow the aromas to be released, but keeps the wine at a cooler temperature.

Again, there are specific styles for types of wine, from the younger white style with a slightly larger opening, to the more aged white glasses being straighter and taller - but again, it’s probably worth going the middle ground and choosing something that can work for almost all whites. It is worth mentioning, however, that the variation in white wine glasses tends to be less stark than those of the red varieties, so it’s a little more forgiving if you do choose something designed for a different style than what you’re sipping.

Flutes, and glasses for other wines

A sparkling wine glass, commonly called a champagne flute, is tall and skinny in comparison to other glasses. The reason for this is simple: the less surface area at the top, the fewer bubbles will escape, which means you retain more carbonation. In essence, it’ll stay sparklier, longer! The shape also helps capture the flavour - although again, this is not as important as with bolder flavoured wines such as reds.

You can also get glasses for Rosé, if you love it as much as we do, it might be worthwhile getting some! These glasses usually have a shorter bowl, and a slight taper or flare around the top rim. As these wines are fermented in a similar way to white wines, most people opt for an all-purpose white wine glass, which is probably the best idea if you’re only an occasional Rosé drinker.

Lastly, a dessert or fortified wine glass tends to be very small. Dessert wines are typically higher in alcohol, making the more petite glass ideal for a smaller serving.

So, crystal… or plain old glass?

Here’s something you might not know: all crystal is glass, but not all glass is crystal. Generally, the lead content is what determines a crystal glass. Right now you’re probably freaking out about lead leaching into your drink, and well, you’d be right! Today’s crystal is ‘unleaded’, and uses a range of other metals including zinc and titanium oxide, to the same effect. A glass of wine without the side of lead poisoning, please.

Why would you choose crystal, though? These glasses have some great properties - like better controlling the wine’s temperature, and improving or ‘accentuating’ the aroma and flavours of what’s in the glass. You would have to be fairly serious about your vino in order to notice a huge difference though, and another consideration is that crystal tends to be much more fragile, as well as quite a bit more expensive, so possibly not for regular use for the majority of us.

We reckon stick with glass for everyday use, and have a crystal set stashed away for either that great bottle of pricier wine you’ve been holding onto, or for when the in-laws come over and you’re out to impress.


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