There’s an unfortunate time in every bachelor’s life when he owns only one type of wine glass—two, if he’s eager to celebrate. Expanding your knowledge beyond “standard” red glasses and champagne flutes will transform your wine experiences both at home and in fine dining establishments. Learn what’s best for your wine—whether you should let it breathe or suffocate—and put it in the right glass.
Crystal vs. Glass
If you’re serious enough about cleanliness to wash your glassware by hand almost immediately after use, you might want to consider investing in crystal stemware. You can usually spot crystal in public by its shine, sparke, and ornate design. Glass cannot be manipulated to the thinness of crystal, which makes crystal stemware much more durable than glass, which is something to consider if you plan on making toasts or if you have a recklessly strong touch. Some crystal glassware is dishwasher safe, but if this is an important factor for you, glass is a more prudent and frugal choice.
You may recognize this as your “standard” wine glass. Preferably suited to full-bodied wines like a cabernet, merlot, malbec, and bordeaux, this glass cradles the wine in its wide bowl, allowing the nuances of aroma to cut through the singe of ethanol.
These glasses are extremely similar and can be used interchangeably. Shorter than a cabernet glass, they both offer a tapered rim, but a pinot glass will often break the curve of its massive bowl with a straight lip. The larger bowl allows the ethanol to evaporate for a smoother finish. In a pinch, you can also use this glass for a white burgundy or montrachet.
The tallest red glass in a formal setting, the shiraz is a one-trick pony in your home cupboard. Whether you know it as shiraz or syrah, this softer red responds well to the middle ground between a cabernet and pinot noir glass. The curved bowl and tapered rim will make this unique red sing, but make sure you love the wine before you get the glass.
This white wine glass has an almost boastfully wide rim in order to release the spices and fruitiness of your chardonnays. While many would peg it as a smaller cabernet glass, it shares more similarities with that of a pinot noir. Like a shiraz, this should be a specific use glass, but you can also use it for pinot noirs and burgundies.
Shorter and slimmer than your chardonnay glass, the sauvignon blanc glass is fairly versatile. The smaller bowl brings out the acidity while the straight sides create a funnel for the complexity of your white. Whether it’s a sauvignon blanc, pinot grigio, or riesling, your light white wines will rest safely in this glass.
There are three main types of champagne glasses, two of which are largely cosmetic. The popular vintage look of the coupe exposes your champagne and sparkling wines to too much air, rapidly diminishing the carbonation. The typical flute solves this too well with its long body and narrow rim. The bubbles are so well preserved in most flutes that it can be difficult to discern any flavors, which is ideal for less complex bruts.
What you need is a tulip glass. Wide tulips are excellent for most champagne and sparkling wines, especially when aged, while regular tulips allow the fruitiness of proseccos and rosés to unfurl naturally. This is why you occasionally receive a mimosa in a sauvignon blanc glass. You want enough room for your wine to breathe, but not so much that it loses its effervescence. That way, you can toast your new wine glass collection in style.