As if trying to get a handle on the different grape varieties which go into wine wasn’t enough, the question of what makes the best stemware can be a daunting one. Does the shape of a wine glass matter at all? The answer might surprise you.
Does your glass matter?
In short, yes. If you’re simply looking to unwind at the end of the day with a tasty glass of vino, the vessel you use to get the wine from the bottle to tickling your taste buds doesn’t matter. This holds true if you’re an avid sangria lover or relish sipping on a mug of mulled wine come winter. But, if you’re bringing home a bottle of something special or wanting to get a fully immersive sensory experience of your wine, investing in a solid set of stems is absolutely worthwhile. Proper glassware is a must if you’re big on entertaining friends at home and want the wine you serve to make those delicious appetizers you’ve slaved over really shine.
In terms of getting the most out of your wine, the bowl is the single most important feature of a wine glass. And while stemless glasses certainly hold an aesthetic appeal, glasses with stems are better for helping your wine stay at its proper serving temperature.
White wine glasses
- Most white wines are unoaked and have lovely fruity, floral aromas which are best captured in a Riesling glass. These stems have smaller tapered bowls which help direct the wine’s aroma to your nose and keep your wine chilled. If you’re not a fan of big, buttery Chardonnays, the Riesling glass should be your go-to all-purpose white wine (and rosé!) glass.
- If rich, buttery Chardonnay or full-bodied whites are more your speed, a glass with a wider bowl will suit the creamy, lush texture of these styles. It helps to aerate the wine—ideal for picking up a wine’s finer aromas.
Red wine glasses
- Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux glasses are a good all-rounder for most red wines. They’re perfect for medium to full-bodied red wines like Syrah, Merlot and Malbec. Rather like the Riesling glass for whites, a Cabernet glass is slightly tapered to allow you the maximum experience of all the marvelous aromas present in your wine.
- Prefer the ethereal aromas of a well-made Pinot Noir? A Pinot Noir and red Burgundy glass is a must. Pinot Noir is full of subtleties and these glasses have a wide bowl to capture all the aromatic nuances.
The Bottom Line
Does this mean you need to buy a specific wine glass for every conceivable wine you might bring home? Absolutely not! Buy a set of glasses which suits your entertaining needs. For the wine connoisseur with ample cupboard space, expanding your stemware collection to include specially made glass for your favorite wines isn’t a bad idea. But for the day to day casual wine drinker, there’s no need. A good quality set of versatile wine glasses will get the job done beautifully.
Don’t have the proper glassware on hand? That’s totally okay! One of the most important things I’ve learned in my time as a sommelier is this: Wine is about enjoying the company of the people you’re sharing it with. So if you find you’re without stems for your next dinner with friends or backyard barbecue, just find your best glasses—no matter the type—and say cheers!
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