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Wine glasses


In the most general terms, there are three kinds of wine glasses: red wine glasses, white wine glasses, and sparkling wine glasses. Of course, in practice it is not so simple, and glassware companies have dedicated over a century to the science of glassware.


Size is always a consideration when buying a wine glass, and it is a matter of preference. In general, a glass should not be filled to above a third of its capacity; therefore, a 300ml glass would hold a 100ml pour. This is because wine needs air space within the glass for its aromas to develop, and it is difficult to swirl a glass of wine when it is too full.


Red-wine glasses


Red-wine glasses are usually larger than white wine glasses, as red wine needs more air space to aerate properly, and for its aromas to fully develop in the glass. There is no consensus as to the ideal capacity of a red wine glass: they range from 200ml total capacity (which allows, in practice, for a 70ml pour) to just over 1000ml (in the case of Riedel's Sommeliers Burgundy Grand Cru glass).


Companies like Riedel make a different shape of wine glass for each grape varietal in common use. While this is not strictly necessary, it is generally considered a truth that varietals like Pinot Noir – particularly from the Old World – need more air space than Cabernet Sauvignon. Many glasses designed for Burgundian wines, or Pinot Noir in general, therefore resemble a large bowl, while glasses made with Bordeaux varietals in mind tend to be more egg-shaped.


White-wine glasses


White-wine glasses tend to be smaller than their red wine counterparts, and this for one simple reason: too large a glass causes the wine to warm up too quickly, and white wine is usually served slightly chilled.


As with red-wine glasses, there are two general categories. The first is the most common: the egg-shaped glass, in many cases identical to its red-wine counterpart, capacity aside. This style of glass is suitable for any style of white wine. The second is more specific in its use, being more open in design, similar to the bowl-like Pinot Noir glasses. This latter style is a common vessel for oaked white wines, like many New World Chardonnay wines.


White-wine glasses are also suitable for serving sweet wines of any colour.


Sparkling wine glasses


Perhaps the most popular style of sparkling wine glass, at least in Hollywood, the Champagne coupe is also the least useful glass for tasting. Its wholly-open design allows all the aromas to dissipate, and an excessive amount of surface area causes the bubbles to come out too quickly, resulting in a flat wine after a very short period of time. This style of glass can only be recommended for theatrical purposes.


Amongst the practical glass styles for sparkling wine, there are three categories. The first is the flute, which is almost cylindrical in form. This contains the carbonation so that the bubbles are released at a controlled speed, and its narrower opening concentrates the aromas.


The second style is the tulip, whose bottom two-thirds looks like a V, gently tapering in the top third. Designed to be filled to its widest point, it allows the wine to aerate slightly, while simultaneously allowing the aromas to develop and to be concentrated.


The last style is simply a white wine glass. This is recommended for vintage sparkling wines, which tend to be more complex and need the most space to aerate and develop – a higher priority is given to the aromas than to the bubbles.