It takes thought and care to select the wines that will stock your cellar, bar or kitchen counter. And while great wine can be enjoyed out of almost any random vessel, investing a bit of time to research and shop for proper wine glasses is a worthwhile endeavor and one that’s sure to elevate your sipping experiences.
“Using a glass made for a specific varietal is important if you want to truly experience all the complexities and intricacies that each type of grape offers,” says Marshall Tilden III, DWS, CSW, and head of Wine Enthusiast Academy, Wine Enthusiast’s WSET education program. “Varietal-specific glasses are designed to accentuate the fruit character and structural components of each particular wine and allow it to open and reach the right sensors on your tongue for full enjoyment.”
Of course, it’s a personal choice, but having a wide assortment of stemware goes beyond following protocol. Glasses can match your mood or occasion and help set the tone when you enjoy a bottle of wine.
Before diving into the myriad glass options for your red, white and sparkling wines, let’s take a look at the different parts of a wine glass and how they influence your tasting experience.
Parts of a Wine Glass
At the uppermost part of the bowl, we find the rim. The thickness, shape and size of a glass’s rim will affect how quickly and smoothly wine flows out of the bowl. It also affects which part of your mouth the wine will make contact with first. This matters because different parts of the tongue tend to pick up on specific attributes of wine.
Atop the stem, the bowl, also referred to as the “cuppa”, permits swirling, which allows wine to open up, enhancing its subtle nuances. With white wines, a smaller bowl maintains vibrancy and freshness. For big, bold reds, a large bowl mitigates high tannin and alcohol content, allowing complex flavors and characteristics to shine.
Connecting the base to the bowl, the stem is a thin piece of glass that helps keep the warmth, oils and scents from your hand away from the wine to properly enjoy its aromas and flavors. It also prevents unsightly fingerprints on a wine glass’s bowl and facilitates swirling. The length and thickness of a stem will vary from glass to glass, depending on which varietal it’s designed for.
Also referred to as the foot, the base gives a glass its stability, keeping it upright. Bases come in various shapes and sizes, depending on the overall design and aesthetic of the glass. Stemless wine glasses are not constructed with a base, per se—their bowls generally rest directly on flat surfaces, keeping their contents upright.
Types of Wine Glasses
Undoubtedly, varietal-specific glassware highlights the unique traits that each grape varietal offers, which is why it’s important to use the right glass for the varietal you’re drinking. We’ve compiled some basic guidelines to help you get started, plus recommendations from our expert-curated selection.
Red Wine Glasses
There are two main types of red wine glasses—Burgundy and Bordeaux. An easy way to spot them? The bowls are larger than those of white wine glasses and there’s a reason why. In 2015, The Royal Society of Chemistry Journal, Analyst, published the results of a study conducted by scientists in Japan that found the shape and thickness of a glass influence the aromas, tastes, and textures in wine. While the science proves it, somms and discerning red wine drinkers can attest to the difference the right wine glass makes. The wide bowls on red wine glasses are ideal for swirling, aerating, and smoothing out rough edges, much like a decanter. This allows those beautiful fruity, floral and minerally aromas and flavors to soften, creating a balanced, pleasurable wine tasting experience.
Bordeaux glasses are designed to enhance full-bodied red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Bordeaux blends. A perfect match for complex, sumptuous, tannic wines that are often higher in alcohol, Bordeaux wine glasses have taller bowls and tapered rims, which round out flavor intensity and increase alcohol evaporation, highlighting the complex spice and fruit flavors that winemakers conjure.
Pirouette Cabernet Sauvignon Wine Glasses
Whether you’re shopping for the perfect gift for the red wine lover on your list, or stepping things up for your home, the Wine Enthusiast Pirouette Cabernet Sauvignon Limited Edition 740mL XL Wine Glass will fit the bill. Inspired by the form of a ballerina, this double-blown glass offers a graceful tasting experience with delicate, yet durable craftsmanship. The extra-large bowl makes a stunning presentation and enhances the flavors and aromas of full-bodied red wines. Perfect for Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel, Malbec, Bordeaux, and Petit Syrah, shoppers love that these glasses are break-resistant and dishwasher safe, making them ideal for any occasion.
Pinot Noir Wine Glasses
Pinot Noir/Burgundy glasses are perfect for light-bodied reds (think Gamay, Barbaresco), but it may surprise you to learn that they’re also fabulous for sipping rosé and oaky Chardonnay. A Burgundy glass’s extremely wide bowl and slightly tapered rim temper and soften acidity and tannins. This allows for plenty of aeration so that Pinot Noir’s sophistication and delicate floral aromas can shine through. No doubt, investing in proper Pinot Noir glasses will enhance your enjoyment of the nuanced flavors for which this aromatic varietal is revered.
Somm Pinot Noir Wine Glasses
The unique bowl shape of our luxurious Somm Pinot Noir Handblown Wine Glass features a modern, meticulous design that allows you to swirl and taste wine like a true master sommelier. The exquisitely flared design requires a 21-step process and 15 master glassblowers to create a one-of-a-kind wine tasting experience which delivers fresher, more defined notes to the palate. Anna Christina Cabrales, Tasting Director for Wine Enthusiast magazine, and reviewer for Burgundy and Rhone says the Zenology SOMM Pinot Noir Handblown glass is her go-to. “Not only are they sturdy and dishwasher safe, but they’re also elegant in structure and lightweight with a perfect thin rim.”
Fusion Air Handblown Pinot Noir Wine Glasses
Exceptionally lightweight and dishwasher safe, our Fusion Air wine glasses are a cult classic among wine drinkers. Individually handblown, the broad bowls allow delicate aromas to accumulate and the design guides wine to the tip of your tongue. These remarkable glasses are constructed with a slim stem and a thin lip that make it easy to swirl, sip and savor your favorite Pinotage, Primitivo, or Pinot Noir. One customer commented that these glasses are “super lightweight, beautiful glasses that enhance the wine drinking experience.”
White Wine Glasses
With their short bowls and long stems, these glasses are ideal for capturing the vibrant acidity in refreshing white wines. Smaller than red wine glasses, the walls tend to be less curved with a much narrower opening—ideal for keeping the likes of Clairette Blanche, Sauvignon Blanc, and Riesling properly chilled. White wines don’t require as much space to breathe as reds, and these glasses help to quickly and efficiently deliver subtle aromatics by bringing the wine closer to your nose. Keep in mind that there are specific white wine glasses that are designed to enhance full-bodied white wines and those that work best with high-acid wines.
Chardonnay Wine Glasses
White varietals like Viognier and Chardonnay need to be served at an appropriate temperature (50–55°F), in order to highlight the wine’s freshness, multi-layered aromas and personality. The u-shaped bowl and long stem on a Chardonnay glass allow this varietal’s notes to shine and keep the warmth of your hand away from the bowl. We recommend the Chardonnay wine glass for lightly oaked and stainless- steel-fermented Chardonnays, as well as for full-bodied whites like Chenin Blanc, Trebbiano, and Sémillon. For oaky Chardonnays, choose a Pinot Noir wine glass to enhance their flavor profile.
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Fusion Infinity Break-Resistant Chardonnay Wine Glasses
Our Fusion Infinity Chardonnay Wine Glasses have an upscale look and feel that elevates everyday dining. Their sleek and resilient design is made by fusing brilliant lead-free crystal with super-strong magnesium to form break-resistant, lightweight, graceful wine glasses. Shaped to highlight the unique characteristics of Chardonnay, they are dishwasher-safe and never cloud or dull, delivering an effortless fine wine experience. Customers have noted that these glasses “look and feel elegant” and are “great for your white wines and spritzes”.
Dessert and Port Wine Glasses
Whether you’re enjoying Eiswein, Madeira, Sauternes, or any digestif, having the correct stemware on hand will surely enhance your après-dinner experience. Dessert wine glasses are available in many shapes and sizes, but they tend to be much smaller than standard wine glasses, as these high-alcohol wines are most commonly served in two-ounce pours. Closing things out with dessert and port wine-specific glasses not only augments the aromas and flavors of dessert wines, it lends an elegant, festive touch to any gathering.
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Zalto Sweet Wine Glasses
Delivering a balance between power and sweetness, the Zalto Sweet Wine Glass allows great dessert wines to shine. Kurt Zalto’s elegant, handcrafted design accentuates the acidity in sweet wines, enhancing your enjoyment. We recommend these for Ausbruch, Auslese, Barsac, Beerenauslese, Eiswein, Madeira, Piccolit, Port, Recioto di Soave, Sauternes, Sherry, Tokay, Trockenbeerenauslese, Single Malt Whiskey, and Vins Liquoreaux. Customers have noted that these glasses enhance the aromas and flavors of Sauternes, with one shopper sharing: “This has enhanced my ability to pick up on the nose better, and I can enjoy all the flavors from nose to palate to finish.”
Universal Wine Glasses
While it’s best to use varietal-specific stemware, most sommeliers will concur: when in doubt, go with the universal wine glass. Vince Anter of the wine show V is for Vino says when it comes to people just getting started, he always recommends they purchase universal wine glasses. “They get people into the mindset of purchasing nicer glassware without overwhelming them with too many options,” he says. “They also do a good job of balancing aromas and flavors for most types of wines.”
With medium-sized bowls, stems, and bases, these versatile glasses are especially great for those who are low on storage and cabinet space. Regardless of the varietal or occasion, they’re perfect for serving red, white, and sparkling libations.
Fleur Handblown Universal Wine Glasses
The unique Fleur Handblown Universal Wine Glass elevates every aspect of your wine experience with fine form and unusual flair. Its wide bowl releases the full taste and aromas of your favorite wines, from Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc to Cava and Champagne. It also features a dramatic dimpled bottom that furthers aeration and displays your pour with a unique fountain-like look. Meticulously crafted with petal-thin walls and a long hand-pulled stem, Fleur delivers wine to your lips with a comfortably lightweight feel and fashionable look that’s perfect for any drinking occasion, from well-deserved wine downs to casual dinner parties and special soirees. One customer, Linda D., said in their review: “Very beautiful and unusual. The shape of the glass brings out the aroma of the wine. Great purchase!”
Champagne Flute Glasses
Long, thin, refined, and leggy, the traditional Champagne flute is generally a visual signal that it’s time to celebrate. With a small surface area, streamlined straight lines, and sturdy base, these glasses help preserve the rising bubbles in Champagne, Sekt, Cava, and other sparkling wines. Since the 1700s, this design has helped keep bubbles at the base of the glass, allowing imbibers to continuously sip their favorite fizzy beverage. Beyond New Year’s Eve, sipping sparkling wine any day of the year from the iconic Champagne flute amplifies the refinement and mystery that vintners seek to imbue, vintage after vintage.
Zenology SOMM Handblown Champagne Flute
Our Zenology SOMM Champagne Flute is finely tuned to preserve and enhance sparkling wine’s effervescent flavor. Meticulously handmade from 100% crystal glass with a slim tulip-shaped bowl and flared rim, the SOMM Champagne glass elevates your tasting experience with a luxuriously lightweight feel and perfectly delivered sips. Whether you enjoy Sunday brunch Mimosas, sparkling wine with dinner, or a bottle of bubbly on special occasions, this unique champagne flute is sure to make every drink a special event. Shoppers exclaim: “great buy”, “beautiful, light, and elegant,” and “I love looking at my glass with each sip!”
Stemless Wine Glasses
A great option for everyday use and casual gatherings, stemless wine glasses have a universal bowl and also come in handy for households with young children and active pets who might otherwise cause the early demise of traditional stemware. Perfect for picnics, camping and impromptu backyard imbibing, these glasses also take up less space in your cupboard. With less chance of breakage, they’re a trustworthy go-to for enjoying your vino on the fly. Setting them down from time to time, or choosing a double-walled stemless wine glass will help keep your hand’s warmth from affecting the taste of wine.
Riedel Stemless O Wine Glasses
The Riedel Stemless O Wine Glasses are casual yet elegant, and appropriate for fine wine enjoyment as well as casual sipping. Made from lead-free crystal, these wine tumblers are shaped to fit into a dishwasher and fine-tuned to enhance the pleasure of your favorite wine varietals. Customers rave: “These stemless wine glasses are perfect, usable daily, and not as subject to breakage as those with stems,” and “ when clinked together, they give a nice ring.”
Double-Wall Wine Glasses
Our Double-Wall Wine Glass Set serves wine and mixed drinks with a decidedly modern look. The convex outer wall creates a cool optical effect and provides thermal insulation to maintain your rosé, red and white wines’ temperatures all year-round. Handblown from durable, lightweight glass, this striking set is perfect for casual and formal entertaining indoors and out. Many shoppers have noted that these are just the right size and enjoyable to drink from.
Add Variety to Your Wine Glass Collection
Beyond enhancing the wines you’ll taste, having an assortment of stemware at your disposal will ensure that you’re ready to host your wine-loving friends and family at the drop of a hat. Building your very own customized set of wine glasses is a surefire way to elevate your wine tasting experience on any given day. From flutes and coupes for toasting milestones to Chardonnay and Burgundy glasses for sampling that new 98-point bottle, Wine Enthusiast can help stock those shelves, so you’ll always be prepared to raise a glass!
Anna Maria Giambanco DiPietro is a writer based in Santa Barbara County, California. With her WSET 2 with distinction certificate in tow, she writes for Edible Santa Barbara, Beyondish, Coco Eco, the American Wine Society Journal, and additional publications focusing on the wine and food scene. You’ll likely find her tucked away among the vines planning her next pairing.