There are almost as many different types of wine glasses as there are wines, and with good reason. Wine glasses are designed to help develop the bouquet of flavors and aromas of wine and to make drinking wine more enjoyable with every sip.
There are wine glasses available for all the major wine varietals including Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinot Noir. There are also wine glasses designed for non-varietal labeled wines like Champagne, which is made from Chardonnay grapes and named after the region and method in which they are made.
Depending on the characteristics of the wine, the design of the wine glass bowl is designed to allow the wine to breathe and to develop its flavors. Additionally, the shape of the glass affects how you actually drink the wine and helps direct the wine onto your palate. Wine glasses come in a myriad of materials and budgets, but if you feel a little unsure, I’ve put together a list of things you’ll want to consider before you buy glasses.
Glass or Crystal?
When you choose wine glasses, before you even consider which type or how many to get, you first have to choose between glass or crystal.
Wine Glass Budget
Wine glasses made of glass are more affordable and they are also more durable. Crystal glasses are more expensive and although they are heavier, they are somewhat fragile. Fine wine glasses can be purchased for anywhere between $15 and $40 for a set of six glasses. Crystal glasses, on the other hand, start at off at $45 for a set of four.
Wine Glass Maintenance
Simple glass wine chalices, goblets... can be put in the dishwasher, but crystal should be hand washed. Here's a note from our editor on wine glass maintenance:
Glass also has a tendency to fare better for longer when stored. Crystal glasses will develop a fine oily/cloudy film over them if stored for long periods in cabinets made of wood and other materials if not polished and rewashed routinely, about every six months. This can become tedious when you own sets of 8, 10, 12 or more and only really use four or five at a time. The rest will need maintenance. A way to counteract this is to rotate their usage. -C.J. Leger.
Crystal glasses typically reflect more light and are shinier, however, a good quality glass also makes a wonderful wine glass.
Crystal glasses are often more embellished, leaning more toward the extravagant. Some of the more modern, chic, streamlined and minimalist elegant designs for wine glasses are made of glass while crystal is more traditional. -C.J. Leger.
Storage & Quantity
You’ll want to make sure you have a storage space for your wine glasses. This is often overlooked as most consumers just assume a glass is a glass of standard size, it will fit, right? That's not correct, wine glasses come in many sizes, some taller than your average glass, especially champagne flutes. (Also read "10 Wine Bottle Sizes You Didn't Know Existed.")
Questions you'll want to ask yourself include, "Do I have storage for my glasses in my cupboards?" "Are the shelves tall enough for them?" If you don’t have storage in your cupboards, look at glass racks that you either place on top of your cupboards or attach underneath.
How many wine glasses you need depends on how often and how many people drink wine at your house. You can buy individual glasses, sets or multiple sets. Often wine glasses are sold in sets of four or six; buy as many as you think you will need, and be sure to look into identical individual glasses that match your set in case one breaks and you need a replacement.
What Style of Glass to Buy?
The style of glass that you buy, depends on what type of wine you drink. Wine glasses have three parts; the bowl, the stem and the foot. (Learn more in "The Basics of Storing and Serving Wine Temperature.")
The stem is designed for you to handle the glass for tilting when observing the color and legs of your wine. It is also designed for you to not transfer heat from your hands to the wine via the bowl. Stemmed glasses are best if you're planning on analyzing your wine and taking notes, or just for a traditional, elegant table setting. -C.J. Leger.
Wine glasses are available with or without the stem. While the stemless glasses are very pretty and can be quite functional, it is harder to hold the glass up and observe the color of the wine.
Stemless glasses are more contemporary and fare better in casual settings with friends just enjoying wine where there is no need for note-taking or formal preparations. Stemless glasses are also easier to handle in the bath when enjoying a relaxing evening. -C.J. Leger.
There are different styles of glasses for different types of wines. Wine glasses come in many different styles such as flute, tulip, coupe, tumbler and hock in addition to the standard shape. The different styles are also available in different sizes usually from 6 ounces to 12 ounces.
Red Wine Glasses
Traditionally, red wine glasses have a wide bowl at the bottom of the glass. This makes swirling the wine easier without the wine sloshing out of the glass as well as allowing the wine to aerate. Red wine glasses are available with or without a stem. (Read "How to Choose a Red Wine.")
White Wine Glasses
Typically, white wine glasses have a smaller bowl than red wine glasses in order to concentrate the delicate aromas. White wine glasses are available with or without a stem. (Read "How to Choose a White Wine.")
The tulip style glass, where the bowl of the glass is wider than the lip, is popular for trapping the delicate aromas of a white wine.
Glasses for Champagne and Sparkling Wine
The type of glass used also depends on whether the wine is a still wine or a sparkling wine. Champagne and sparkling wine glasses are available in a flute or coupe shape. (See "5 Classifications of Wine: Still, Sparkling & Fortified.")
The flute style is more popular, as the champagne or sparkling wine keeps its carbonation longer in the narrow glass. It is the iconic long, narrow glass that is used everywhere for celebrations from weddings to new year bashes.
The Coupe Glass
The coupe glass was designed in the during the time of Marie Antoinette and it has always been said that the glass was modeled after her breasts. It has a shallow wide bowl, while the flute is tall and narrow. Although the design of the coupe is not the best for champagne, it is still used as a vintage symbol of luxury. It was very popular during the 1920’s to make champagne towers, where champagne was poured into the top glass and trickled over and down to fill up all of the lower glasses.
Building your Collection
Start by buying a few glasses to go with the wines you drink most frequently and then add to your collection over time, just as you do when buying wines.
Buy glasses that are in your budget and store them safely, so they don’t get broken or used for daily drinking of milk or juice. Remember to give your wine glasses a wash and a polish before use so you can see the color of the wine and enjoy the aromas in a clean, smudge-free glass.