If you’re like most people in this world, you enjoy your wine with whatever glass is on hand: the unbreakable tumblers at your friend’s house, the standard wine glass from your local restaurant, or just straight from the bottle (that counts as a glass right?). Fortunately, for the majority of your Napa wine tastings or Sonoma wine tastings, you don’t need to be overly concerned with the shape and style of your glass as these establishments will typically have good glasses for universal use. However, you will see differences between tasting rooms in glassware as such is an expression of the personality of your tasting room as much as the perception of the wine.
Breaking it Down: Wine Glasses
First thing’s first-there’s no need to get hung up on the idea of “I need a special Sauvignon Blanc glass for this one taste of Sauvignon Blanc” while enjoying wine country. That being said, nearly all of the wine glasses used will have a decently long stem, tall sides, a deep bowl and taper somewhat toward the top. This allows the aroma of the wine to concentrate towards the top of the glass and thus closer to your nose. Varietal-specific glasses are shaped to allow the wine to hit/coat your tongue in a certain way to give you the best experience of said wine/wine style. Many Napa wine tastings and Sonoma wine tastings will use crystal glasses as they can be made thinner while still retaining strength and will allow the wine to flow onto your tongue more directly than other thicker glass stemware allows.
A great deal of your Sonoma wine tastings and Napa wine tasting will use a red wine glass that would fall into the “Bordeaux” (for Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and many red varietals) style glass with tall sides and a wide bowl atop a decently long stem. This will probably be the most familiar to you.
The “Burgundy” style of glass (mainly for Pinot Noir) will usually be even wider than the typical glass you will see. This is to focus the wine on the tip of the tongue rather than the center like a Bordeaux glass would and thereby highlight the aspects of Pinot Noir differently than other glasses.
Most white wine glasses will typically be narrower but still have a good-sized bowl and high sides. Some of the most noticeably different glasses are sparkling wine glasses (flutes-which appear as the name implies) and dessert wine glasses, which are shorter and typically are significantly smaller than other glasses.
Regardless, your Napa wine tasting or Sonoma wine tasting will have their preferences as to how to showcase their wines by balancing guest perception and pragmatism in the tasting room. You will have a fantastic time regardless, so notice the subtle differences when using different glasses but never forget wine is about variety and fun!