How to Choose the Right Wine Glass

How to choose the right wine glass:

  1. Consider the bowl shape and size
    1. Light-bodied White Wine Glass
    2. Full-bodied White/Light-bodied Red Wine Glass
    3. Full-bodied Red Wine Glass
    4. Sparkling Wine and Dessert/Fortified Wine
  2. Consider the stem
  3. Consider the rim thickness


Have you ever had wine in a tumbler or plastic cup? It may not have been the best wine experience you’ve had, and there’s a reason for that. It’s not the wine, but the vessel — not every liquor cup is suited for the nuances of wine.

Knowing how to choose the right wine glass is a big part of your wine experience. These glasses can influence the way you feel the different aromas and tastes of your drink, which is why it’s important to find the right glass for you. Here, we break down the three important aspects of the wine glass, and how to find one that best suits your wine tastes.


Why does my wine glass matter?

The style of a wine glass plays a big part in how wine is presented, and how it tastes. While the wine you choose is important, the right glassware can enhance the experience, making all the difference to your appreciation of your bottle.

Wine, like all other alcohol, releases special aromas and vapors when poured. These carry aromatic compounds that contribute to the specific character and profile of the wine. How these aromatic compounds are released and received by us influences how we enjoy wine — the more we smell, the better we can appreciate the taste. This is where the term “opening up” and “letting it breathe” concerning wine come from.


Consider the bowl shape and size

While there is certainly a specific kind of glass for every type of varietal and region of wine, these shapes can be narrowed down to four main types of wine glass.

These types of wine glasses are designed to enhance different acidities, fruit expressions, tannin, alcohol content, and other attributes of wine.


Light-bodied White Wine Glass

Light-bodied white wine glasses are typically smaller bowled glasses with smaller openings. This shape is meant to preserve the light, floral aromas of white wine. They also help express the acidity in the profile and maintain cooler temperatures (which are suitable for many light, aromatic wines). Light-bodied white wine glasses also have shorter bodies, giving them closer proximity to the drinker’s nose. This allows them to deliver more aromas of white wine.

This glass is great for acidic, fruit-forward white wines — such as Sauvignon Blanc, Grenache Blanc, and Albariño. Aromatic whites, like Riesling, will also do well in this type of wine glass.


Full-bodied White/Light-bodied Red Wine Glass

Oak-aged wines, such as full-bodied whites and light-bodied reds, have strong aromas that aren’t fruit-oriented. Instead, they tend to smell like butter, biscuits, minerals, and the like. These wines will need a wider bowl and small openings to capture these complex yet more subtle aromas.

Aged wines have stronger alcohol content and more acidic flavor profiles as well, so slightly taller and wider bowls are recommended to allow more oxygen contact. Full-bodied, aromatic whites like Viognier and Rioja do well in this glass. Lighter reds like Pinot Noir, Gamay, and Nebbiolos, as well as some light rosés also do well with this shape and style of a wine glass.


Full-bodied Red Wine Glass

Red wine glasses have a lot of variety, and this category of glass style is made for mitigating the stronger tannins and flavors of a full-bodied red. This allows for a smoother wine tasting experience.

This style of glass typically has wider bowls and openings, which allows more oxygen to reach the wine. It also gives more space to swirl. Both of these effects help red wine’s bolder aromas to aerate and release its flavors. From this style, we recommend the Stölzle Stemware Experience Bordeaux, which suits rich and velvety wines like Bordeaux or Merlot.


Sparkling Wine and Dessert/Fortified Wine

Sparkling wine does best in a tall, narrow fluted bowl, such as the Stölzle Experience Champagne Flute. This preserves the carbonation that this wine is known for. With this shape, it lessens the amount of exposure the wine gets, allowing it to stay bubbly for as long as possible. The wider bottom tapering into a narrow flute still allows a healthy concentration of aromas for you to enjoy as well.

For dessert and fortified wines, we recommend specialty glasses. These are usually small, short glasses with narrow mouths. This style reduces the amount of evaporation, which is ideal for wines with high alcohol content. They allow for some space to swirl, which enhances dessert and fortified wines’ complex aromas.


Consider the stem

What about stem versus stemless glasses? This is more of a personal preference. You can enjoy wine more or less the same with either type. However, it’s important to note that stemless glasses can cause the wine’s temperature to increase faster. This is because your hand will be holding the bowl, which transfers heat.


Consider the rim thickness

The thickness of the glass’ rim also influences your wine drinking experience. Thin rims allow the wine to flow smoothly onto your tongue, which enhances lighter, aromatic wines. Thicker rims can help with drinking more slowly, which enhances acidic, deeper flavors in a wine.


Is there a universal glass I can use?

Not every wine lover can get different glasses for every varietal and region of wine they have at home — it’s expensive, and takes up a lot of cupboard space. The great thing is that there are all-around wine glasses that suit several different styles of wine.

These are medium-sized, stemmed glasses with wider bowls and slightly tapered mouths. This shape provides ample room for wine to breathe and swirl, making it good for both red and white wines. If you’re interested in this type of glass, check out the Experience Red/White Wine F220/01 glass (15 3/4 Oz), which are two great all-rounder options.


Key Takeaway

Now that you know how to choose the right wine glass, pick up a few glasses and your favorite bottle from Ralph’s Wines & Spirits. With them, you’ll get to enjoy the best part of a good bottle of wine — drinking it!

Need to stock up on wine? At Ralph’s Wines & Spirits, we carry some of the best wines from aged Chardonnays to sparkling Champagnes! Check out our wine collection here, or our wine recommendations here.