Go to any fancy restaurant or formal wine dinner, and the sheer amount of wine glass types can be overwhelming. In fine wine service where several different wines are served, it’s quite common to have several different glass types, too. White wine and red wine are served in different glasses. Some whites are served in different glasses than others. It’s the same for reds. Then there’s Port glasses and Champagne flutes and everything else besides.
Sounds like a lot, right? This is all well and good for sommeliers and the restaurant trade, but what about you and I, the average wine lover? Should we care? Do we really need to keep all these different glass types at home?
Why are there so many different wine glass types?
Wine tasting and enjoying wine are sensory experiences. We see, smell and taste wine, which is where lots of the pleasure comes from. Having a good quality wine glass is key to seeing, smelling and tasting the wine inside properly. However, there’s not one single type of wine, so there’s no single glass type that will suit every situation!
For example, Red Bordeaux and sweet Sauternes are dramatically different styles of wine. They’ve got vastly different colours, aromas and flavours. To truly express both at their best, they should be served in different glass types that best accentuate the wine’s individual characteristics.
For just about every wine, there’s a corresponding wine glass. Top restaurants need to keep a stock of weird and wonderful glassware as a matter of course. They can’t afford not to. When discerning customers order a classic vintage Bordeaux like Château Mouton Rothschild, they’ll expect – and demand – a quality Bordeaux glass. Nothing else will suffice.
Restaurants are one thing. What about just relaxing at home?
How many wine glass types do you need at home?
For the casual wine lover, there’s not so much pressure to stock a wide range of glass types. In the privacy of your own home, you can serve wine just about any way you see fit, and nobody can tell you otherwise. If you really want to get the most out of your wine, though, you might want to keep more than one glass type in the cupboard.
For most of us, wine glass storage space is limited. If you can only keep one type of wine glass, make it something versatile. The Bordeaux style wine glass, or any glass with a large bowl, stem, clear glass and tapered lip is a decent catch-all for most wine styles. It won’t be perfect, but it’ll do.
If you have the storage space or the desire, there are some pretty interesting specialty glasses that you might want to consider, too…
3 wine glass types for the adventurous wine lover
1. Sauternes wine glass
Remember that Sauternes we talked about above? Sure, you could serve a little drop in a big Bordeaux glass, but you’ll enjoy it ten times more from a purpose-made Sauternes glass. These glasses are designed to highlight the wine’s acidity, so the sweetness doesn’t overwhelm!
2. Burgundy wine glass
Burgundy can easily rival Bordeaux in terms of quality (and price), though the wines couldn’t be more different. Red Burgundy wine comes from the Pinot Noir grape, is decidedly lighter in body than Bordeaux, and has a totally different range of aromas and flavours. This is also a good bet with the Gamay-based wines of Beaujolais, from the same region.
The perfect glass:
The perfect wine:
3. Cognac glass
Not a wine as such, but wine lovers will find a lot to like in Cognac. Arguably the finest Brandy in the world, Cognac is made from distilled wine grapes, so it has many of the aromatic nuances and complexity you’d expect from a quality wine. It’s a spirit, though, and at 40% alcohol, it would be overpowering in a standard wine glass. Cognac glasses encapsulate the aromatic character while tempering the alcohol burn – a great combination!
The last word on glass types
We’ve given you some guidelines, and hints about some interesting glass types to try. Remember, as with all things in wine, don’t worry too much about what others think. As long as you’re happy, do whatever feels right – Coca-Cola in a Cognac glass, Mouton Rothschild in a teacup, whatever!
You might also like our guide on buying wine glasses in bulk.