Have you ever noticed during your wine travels that different wine glasses are used for different types of wines? Have you ever asked yourself why this is done? There are many reasons why and I’m going to explain them to you now.
There are many types of wine glasses and they each have a slightly different shape depending upon the varietal of wine poured into them. All wine glasses are shaped in a way that will help direct the wine to the part of your mouth where its flavor and aroma will be most appreciated and enjoyed by the taster.
The bowl of the wine glass is designed to be tapered upward with a slightly narrower opening at the top than the bottom. The reason for this is that the shape helps to capture and distribute the wine’s aroma toward your mouth and nose.
There are three things a person will do when tasting a wine. First, they look at the wine for its color and opacity. Next they smell the wine because our sense of smell is critical in properly analyzing the glass of wine. And finally, you taste the wine. Was it sweet, sour or bitter? How was the wine’s acidity? Was it well balanced?
Our focus here is on how the shape of the glass helps the taster to enjoy the “nose” of the wine (aka: the smell) and its taste. The nose of the wine gives a good impression of your wine’s aroma. As you place your nose down into the glass and inhale through your nose it provides certain impressions of the wine such as: do you smell oak, berries, flowers, vanilla or citrus? Furthermore, the wine’s nose is an excellent indicator of its quality and other unique characteristics.
As with most wine glasses, the bowl must be large enough to swirl your wine because swirling your wine really does serve a very important purpose: it opens it up to more air allowing its aromas to be released.
A red wine glass bowl will be fuller and rounder with a larger opening to allow you to dip your nose into the glass to partake of its aroma. The flavors of red wine demand a glass with a larger surface area so the wine comes into contact with as much air as possible for the sake of allowing the tannin molecules to attach to one another thus mellowing the wine.
For red wines, you may want both a Burgundy and a Bordeaux glass. A Bordeaux glass is taller, yet the bowl is not quite as large. It’s designed for full bodied, heavier red wines such as Cabernets and Merlots. The height of the glass allows the wine to proceed directly to the back of the mouth to maximize its flavor.
A Burgundy glass is for lighter, full bodied wines such as Pinot Noir which is my personal favorite. It’s not as tall, but the bowl is larger than that of a Bordeaux glass and it directs the wine to the tip of the tongue allowing you to taste its more delicate flavors.
A white wine glass bowl will have a more “U” shaped design and will be more upright allowing the aromas to be released while also maintaining a cooler temperature. For white wine you may also want to use two types of wine glasses. One could be used for younger, crisp whites while the other can be used more for more mature, fuller whites. The wine glass for younger whites has a slightly larger opening directing the wine to the tip and sides of the tongue to taste its sweetness. The glass for more mature whites will be straighter and taller to dispense the wine to the back and sides of the tongue to taste its bolder flavors.
A sparkling wine glass, or “flute,” on the other hand will be upright and much narrower to retain the carbonation and capture more of the flavor.
And finally, a dessert wine glass should be smaller to direct the wine to the back of the mouth so the sweetness doesn’t overwhelm the palate. Dessert wines generally have a higher alcohol content and the smaller glass will be perfect for a smaller serving.
So, now you know why there are so many different types of wine glasses and the reasons behind them. The next time you are out tasting wine, impress your friends by explaining why you are enjoying a particular wine in that certain wine glass. Go forth and taste wine with knowledge!
Written by tour guide Chris Largent