From flutes to goblets, stems to stemless, and a plethora of shapes and sizes in between, choosing the best wine glasses to buy can be daunting. Should you have a different glass for each wine? Should the glass be thin and delicate or thick and durable? Is there one glass that suits all varietals? With so many options available, we reached out to a sommelier and a winemaker for tips on the best glassware to use at home and for entertaining. After all, when truffle risotto is wafting from the kitchen and the Barolo is decanting, the last thing a host should be worried about is having the right glasses on hand.
Is Glass Shape Important?
The short answer, yes! “The glass shape has a profound effect on how a wine smells and tastes,” says Cathy Corison, winemaker and founding partner of Corison Winery.
Riedel is undoubtedly the industry leader when it comes to differing glass shapes for specific wines. The company, founded in Austria in 1756, is led by 10th-generation Riedel family member Georg Riedel. When he was named co-CEO in 1987, he began traveling to the U.S. to host tastings with winemakers and industry experts.
“The first time I realized the importance of glass shape was during a Georg Riedel tasting,” says Corison. “To this very day, we serve wines at home in several different glasses because each wine interacts differently with the different glasses.”
The enjoyment of wine centers around aromas, and the glassware is the vessel that optimizes their release. The bowl of a wine glass serves to collect and unlock wine aromas. Depending on the style and varietal, a larger or smaller bowl may be better suited.
Larger surface areas release more aromas, ultimately improving the wine-drinking experience. The thickness of the glass also impacts the tasting experience. The thinner the glass, the less it impedes the journey from the bowl to the mouth.
A Glass for Every Grape?
With an excess of glass shape options on the market, it begs the question, do we need a different glass for every wine style or varietal? “Absolutely not!” says Claire Coppi, SOMM TV cast member and LA-based certified sommelier. Coppi maintains that two types of glasses allow for enjoyment of nearly every wine; a Burgundy glass and a Bordeaux glass.
The Burgundy Glass
Burgundy glasses have wide bowls that taper at the top of a narrow rim. This style allows for ample swirling and introduces air into the wine. Suited to delicate varietals such as Chardonnay, Gamay, and Pinot Noir, Coppi says, “the larger, shorter bowl provides more surface area for the wine to make contact with, unlocking the layers of aromas.”
When asked if she could only have one glass in her cabinet, Coppi replied, “I would go with a solid Burgundy glass. The wines I personally enjoy drinking would all do well in this bowl-shaped glass.” The one brand she would splurge on? Zalto. Often regarded as the gold standard among wine enthusiasts and professionals is the Zalto Denk’Art Burgundy glass.
The Bordeaux Glass
The tulip-shaped Bordeaux glass has a large bowl and relatively straight sides. Coppi prefers this style of glass for “fuller, richer wines with higher structural components.” Varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Tempranillo, and Syrah benefit from the longer bowl. It allows for oxygen and tannins to dance and soften before being sipped. As Coppi explains, “the bowl funnels the wine toward the back of the mouth, mitigating potentially high levels of tannin and alcohol across the palate.”
Known for her deft touch with Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Corison prefers the Schott Zwiesel Tritan Forte red wine glass. She noted it shows off the complexity, “especially with our younger (Corison) Cabernets.”
At home, Corison gravitates toward Karen MacNeil’s Bold and Powerful glass, saying, “most reds we taste sing in it, and it tends to highlight pretty, floral aromatics.”
Flute or Coupe, The Best Wine Glasses for Champagne
If you are looking for a lively conversation starter, deciding which wine glass is best for serving Champagne always sparks debate. Flutes tend to evoke a sense of fun and festive celebration but aren’t the most practical for sipping or storing. On the other hand, coupes are nostalgic and romantic, evoking images of the roaring ’20s and old-Hollywood glamour.
Coppi emphatically answers that neither is ideal. “Champagne in a glass!” Her clarification and reasoning make perfect sense to the senses, “flutes just blast bubbles up your nose. A coupe is super sexy, but the bubbles escape quickly. A sparkling glass, especially a tulip-shaped one, allows Champagne to open and breathe while still containing the carbonation.” A couple of options to explore include the Riedel Vinum and Veritas.