How many types of wine glasses do you need?
Two. That’s the answer. Here’s the explanation.
Riedel will tell you that you need separate glassware for Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah, Sangiovese, etc. It’s hogwash. Malarkey. Poppycock.
Here are some truths about wine glasses.
1. Wine does taste better out of a wine glass versus other vessels. This is because enjoying the aroma is an important part of drinking wine, and a wine glass has the right shape to both aerate the wine and allow the aroma to concentrate.
2. Wines will taste slightly different out of different wine glasses.
3. But “better” wine glasses are not only in the nose of the beholder — they’re also unpredictable because all wines are different. In other words, the Pinot Noir you just opened might actually taste better out of the Malbec glass.
Many professional tasters use just one type of glass for all wines, white and red, to try to standardize results. But at home, most of us use at least two types. The very general rule of wine glassware is that you need a wider glass for reds and a thinner glass for whites.
There is some science to this. Red wines have more natural chemical compounds from fermenting on the grape skins, and so they need more aeration. The idea behind having a smaller glass for white wines is to give smaller pours so that a chilled wine doesn’t warm up if you drink it slowly.
What about sparkling wine? Glad you asked.
Until recently most professionals served sparkling wine in long, thin flutes to conserve and display the beautiful bubbles.
The trend has changed. The problem with flutes is that they concentrate the CO2 of sparkling wine so that you can’t enjoy the aroma. Many sommeliers now serve sparkling wine in white wine glasses. That’s how I drink it at home. Appearances matter, and flutes are certainly prettier. I’m not going to tell you not to use them. But you don’t need to use them.
In fact, very little about about wine glassware is a necessity. I sometimes drink red wines out of my white wine glasses, especially reds I opened the day before that don’t need much aeration. Occasionally I drink full-bodied white wines out of my red wine glasses: this is common for white Burgundies. I worry about the wine, and I worry about the food pairing — but I don’t sweat the glassware, as long as it’s a wine glass.
I object to restaurants trying too hard to be hip by serving wine in a water glass or Mason jar: not only does that not allow the aroma to concentrate, it just doesn’t feel respectful to the wine or the customer. But if they serve red wine in a white wine glass, or vice versa, I’m fine with that. Just don’t fall for wine glass marketing hogwash: save your money for the wine.