Do you really need to match the glass to the wine? The short answer is yes. These are all of the wine glasses you need.
And here’s why. We think the best answer ever is from the Kitchen Professor:
A $40 bottle of wine can taste like a $5 bottle if you drink it from a red plastic cup. Meanwhile, a $10 bottle of wine can pass for one twice the price if served in the correct glass.-The Kitchen Professor
Truer words could not be written. The glass really does make that much difference.
For many years I had only two sets of wine glasses. One was a set of two very expensive champagne flutes that were a wedding gift. And the other was a set of six glasses that were sold as an all-around wine glass, although they were best-suited to Chardonnay or a California Pinot Noir. We lived in a remote area of Texas with little variety of wine in the market place, so even though we knew a well-matched glass could greatly improve the taste of wine, there wasn’t a big selection of wine to choose from, so we only noticed the difference in taste the right glass made when we were traveling through wine regions around the world and had wider access to a range of wines.
That was years ago. And of course, as they tend to do, both sets of our wine glasses eventually broke.
It took forty years to break all eight glasses, but at the rate of two a decade, it didn’t seem too bad. And over those forty years, our location and the availability of wines in the United States marketplace changed drastically.
So as palate, budget, knowledge, and the marketplace began to allow, I have added glasses that are the best sizes and shapes for my personal taste in wine. And trust me when I say this, the wine glass matters.
No, you do not need 15 sets of wine glasses for every possible wine. And no, you do not need to spend $50 or $60 or even $10 a stem for an excellent quality wine glass. But yes, having a wine glass well-suited to the wine you are drinking makes a huge difference in the experience and the taste of the wine.
So how do you decide exactly what wine glasses or how many wine glasses you need in your home?
The most important two things are to ask yourself are:
(1) What wine or wines do you prefer and usually drink?
(2) How open to experimentation with new wines are you?.
The answers to these two questions determine what glasses and how many glasses you need in your home collection
Start with the wine or wines you most drink in your home.
I’ll use myself as an example here. And obviously, there are going to be different metrics for you depending on your own personal taste and your experimentation comfort level.
I prefer a red wine in the winter and fall, and I prefer a white or rosé in the hotter months. For me, the main dish of the meal dictates the wine to a certain extent, but the season dictates it more strongly.
I am a bit French for an American in that I tend not to choose a wine to go with a main course, but rather I choose a main course to go with a specific bottle of wine. (To each her own.) So I tend to have very specific wine tastes and my meals often are planned around the wines I most like and that available where I live at a reasonable price.
In the colder months, I almost always have two or three bottles of Red Bordeaux in my wine stash and at least one bottle of Red Burgundy. You know, the real ones from France. Just my personal palate. But I also usually have a bottle or two of good California or Oregon Pinot Noir (which is from the same grape grown in the Burgundy region of France). And I may have a bottle of Napa Cabernet Sauvignon somewhere stuck in there, too. You know, just to be fair to America.
So to maximize taste of my winter wines, I need to have two different glasses–a Red Bordeaux glass and a Red Burgundy glass. (Not only Red Bordeaux, but also Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah or Shiraz are well-suited wines for the Red Bordeaux glass. And Pinot Noir is well-suited to the Red Burgundy glass.)
But, as the sunny spring warms into the long sweltering months of summer, my taste switches to white wines and French Rosé. Particularly during the hottest months of the year, I often have a bottle of some sort of bubbly on hand in the fridge as well because no opportunity to celebrate anything should ever be wasted, right? My go-to wines in the summer are White Bordeaux, Portuguese or Spanish Vinho Verde, and occasionally a White Burgundy (usually sold as Chardonnay).
So for my wine tastes, a third glass — a traditional White Bordeaux glass — is an important addition to my wine glass collection. I find the White Bordeaux glass works well for almost all white wine, rosé , and blush-tinged wines, although Chardonnay and some of the deeper-tinted French Rosé wines are better enhanced by the Red Burgundy glass. But I certainly do not need separate glasses for them, despite the hype of many of the major wine glass vendors.
And for the bubbly, well, you simply have to have a Champagne Flute if you want the best experience for your tongue.
So that’s four different glasses.
Of course, your wine tastes may be different than mine. But I’m going to show you how to match your wine glasses to your wine taste on as small a budget as possible — while enhancing your tasting pleasure as much as possible no mater what varietals you prefer. And the easiest way to do that is to show you what I use and why.
My bare-bones wine glass collection is four different styles of wine glasses. You can see them below. Each is thin, delicate crystal from a variety of well-known European glass houses. But the way I shop, my entire wine glass collection cost me around $50.
The only downside was that it took me about three years to find all of them. If I had it to do over again, I would simply buy them on Amazon. It might seem on the surface I would pay a bit more that way, but when you count the time and gas for all of the 200 times I drove to discount stores hunting for wine glasses, the Amazon would probably have been cheaper, and it certainly would have been a lot easier.
The glass on the far right is the glass I use for Red Bordeaux. Typically that will be both the largest (by volume) and the tallest glass in your wine glass collection. It works well not only for Red Bordeaux, but for Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah/Shiraz. The 2nd from the right is the Red Burgundy glass, which is equally well-suited to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The 3rd from the right is a glass designed as a White Bordeaux glass (which happens to be my all-time favorite wine in the world), but it works well for almost any white wine including grassy Vinho Verde, Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, and even some lighter Rosé or Blush Whites. And the glass on the far left is the classic flute specially designed for Champagne and other sparkling wines like Prosecco.
The Classic Red Bordeaux glass
On the far right you see the largest glass in my collection — a classic Red Bordeaux glass. You may note how wide the bowl is at the bottom of the glass and how much taller it is than the other wine glasses. It is both the widest at the bottom and the tallest of the four glasses. The shape and size are pragmatic and greatly affect the taste of the wine.
To utilize the design of the glass, is important that you pour wine to just below where the widest part of the bowl begins to flare inward. You want the surface of the wine to touch as much air as possible while still in the glass so that the wine aerates as you sip it.
The height of the glass for a good Red Bordeaux is important so you can easily swirl the wine as you hold the glass and sip it to bring as much air into it as possible. With a taller glass like this, you have more room to swirl and it is less likely to have an errant big swirl fly out of the glass in the middle of a scintillating conversation.
My Red Bordeaux glasses are 12.25 inches at the widest part of the bowl, 11 inches at the rim, and stand 8.25 inches from the table. As you can see, the bowl is about 1/3 taller than the stem, so the bowl itself is quite tall. Each glass holds about 600 ml in volume, although you never fill the glass with wine to the top of the glass or anywhere near the top — but rather only to the point the wine will have the greatest contact with the air. The bouquet of the wine is then trapped and directed to your nose as you sip.
For the best possible taste, pour a good Bordeaux into a decanter at least 30 minutes before you plan to drink it — if you have the willpower to wait. Newer Bordeaux wines may be best after an hour of decanting.
And remember the rule-of-thumb for how long to aerate wine is backwards from what many people think it is. In general, the newer the wine, the longer it needs to aerate. The older the wine, the less. And red wine, particularly large ones like a Bordeaux or a Cabernet Sauvignon need the most airing time.
You can easily use a Red Bordeaux glass for high-tannin reds you would normally consume with a meal like a Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, or even Syrah /Shiraz.
My glasses are the medium size. You can certainly find some good Red Bordeaux glasses that are larger, and also some that are smaller. In general, I would opt for larger, but for my purposes, the trade-off of storage space vs. the difference in taste between the medium Red Bordeaux and the large Red Bordeaux, I opted for the medium size. Plus, I also got a great deal on these — so if you find the larger ones at a good price, go for it.
The Classic Red Burgundy glass
The Borgogne of France, the area we English-speakers call Burgundy, primarily grows Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes. You will see some of these French wines noted as Cotes d’Or or Pays d’Or. In the Americas these wines are sold simply as Pinot Noir or Chardonnay mirroring the name of the grapes the wine is made from, whereas in the Burgundy region in France wine from Chardonnay grapes is typically sold as White Burgundy and wine from Pinot Noir grapes is most commonly sold as Red Burgundy. But the classic glass for all of them is the Red Burgundy glass.
For size comparison, you can see in the picture below. This glass. the Red Burgundy glass (2nd from the right). is the shortest of the four wine glasses in my collection. You also can see that the bowl is the wider at the top of the glass than it is for the other three glasses. This shape is important for the best taste of the wines made from the Pinot Noir grape, like the classic Red Burgundy. You can see from the shorter height of the bowl that swirling for wines best suited to the Red Burgundy glass is slightly less needed than for the heavier red grapes and when done so is usually a more gentle swirl. However, keeping your pour to just below or right at the widest part of the glass, which is 1/3 to a little less than 1/3 full is important.
Now, as I said, I use this same glass for a Red Burgundy, a White Burgundy, a Pinot Noir, as well as most types of Chardonnay.
But if Chardonnay is your favorite wine, then you might want to get a specific glass for Chardonnay. A glass made specifically for Chardonnay is essentially the same glass as the Red Burgundy glass, but it has a longer stem. The idea is that you want a Chardonnay to remain cool as you drink it, not to be warmed by the touch of your hand. So if you live in a warm climate and your go-to wine is Chardonnay, you might want to look for a glass similar in shape and size to mine but with a slightly longer stem — because that is the best glass for Chardonnay unless you are planning for your glass to double for the reds.
For my wine tastes, I find it no problem to simply hold the stem farther towards the bottom and farther away from the bowl when I am drinking a Chardonnay in hotter weather. It saves me a whole set of glasses, and I find it is the bowl that has the most impact on taste, not the stem.
My Red Burgundy glasses are about 450-470 ml in volume — smaller than the Red Bordeaux glasses, but larger than the White Bordeaux glasses. Each measures 11.75 inches at the widest part of the bowl, 9 inches at the top rim, and stands 9.25 inches tall from the table. This is a pretty typical size with less variation than for the Red Bordeaux glass.
The Classic White Bordeaux glass
Yes. There is indeed such a wine!
The upside of the 2017 unseasonable freeze in the Bordeaux region of France it that it caused the vines for this classic revival to be re-planted, so we are finding White Bordeaux in the American marketplace these days in much greater quantities. And I, for one, could not be happier.
This glass is well-suited to almost any white wine, although it is the classic design for a White Bordeaux.
My particular glass measures 10.25 inches at the widest part of the bowl, 8 inches at the rim. And it stands 8.75 inches from the table.
You can see it is similar in shape to its bigger cousin, the Red Bordeaux glass. The stem is the same, but the bowl is slightly shorter and not quite as wide either at the base of the bowl or at the top lip of the glass. Again though, you have lots of room for swirl with the tall bowl.
Here, you can see the other glasses again for an easy comparison. In the group shot, the White Bordeaux glass is the 2nd from the left. The Red Bordeaux glass is the farthest to the right.
Although this glass is specifically designed for White Bordeaux, it is a nearly perfect glass for many other white wines (other than Chardonnay or possibly some of the richer Rosé wines from the Loire or the Dordogne Valleys of France).
I find this very classic White Bordeaux glass perfectly suitable for Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Gris, and Pinot Blanc, as well as the Vinho Verde “green” wines from Portugal and Spain that I particularly love.
The Tulip Champagne Flute
I have only two of my favorite champagne glasses, the truly classic Tulip Champagne Flute (shown below in the middle of two other widely-used styles of champagne flute). I don’t remember where I found them or what the glass maker is because I’ve had them for at least 10 or 15 years.
The “old style” champagne glass — at least to Americans — is the wide-open martini-glass shape with a shallow wide bowl like the one below.
A lot of people have a set of these Martini-shaped Champagne glasses to double as dessert crystal. While this kind of shallow wide-mouth glass (above) is indeed a classic champagne glass and probably is a passable glass to drink super-budget champagne or sparkling wine if you are going to consume it fairly quickly, it is not a good glass to sip quality sparkling wines like French Champagne, Italian Proseco, or better American Champagne-style bubbly. For that you need a long, tall flute similar to this one (below) that does a better job of confining the bubbles and taste inside the glass.
The tulip shape is my personal preference. I like the way it looks, but more than the visual aesthetics, this style helps trap the bubbles, enhancing the whimsical character and the sweet tickle of a good bubbly.
Usually champagne in my home is a private toast for just two people. But over the years I have added several different styles of flutes for small parties and dinners. You can pick up a decent stem for sparkling wines for under $4.00 if you shop discount stores like Marshall’s, Tuesday Morning, or T.J. Maxx. Just be patient and keep your eyes open. The two on the ends I scored at a local discount store for $2.99 a stem.
While I am personally meticulous that all wine glasses match for a seated dinner, I don’t feel that way about champagne flutes. Given the festive nature and light-heartedness of bubbly, I have found my friends and family enjoy picking which glass they want for a special toast. It always seems to add to the element of fun.
The beauty of these sweet flutes is that you can even use them to jazz up plain or flavored sparkling waters.
So once you decide what you need, where do you buy it?
Certainly there are some premier crystal makers that make superb wine glasses. But to my budget, some of them are prohibitively expensive. And some of the most famous brands make twenty or thirty different kinds of wine glasses, one specific wine glass shape for every known variety and style of wine.
But I will totally honest here, if you pick the right shape, you do not have to buy the most expensive glass on the market. And if you pick a versatile shape, you can maximize taste of all the wine you drink without taking out a loan or adding a wing on to your home to house your crystal wine glass collection.
The first rule is Know what wines you drink most.
The the second rule is Know the characteristics of a wine glass that most enhance that (or those) particular wine(s). Now that you’ve read this article, you have a pretty good idea of what that is for the most common wines consumed in the U.S. But, of course, only you know what kind of wines you like to drink the most. And that’s where the ultimate buying decision starts.
Once you have those two rules down, then the quickest and easiest place to shop for wine glasses today is Amazon. You can always buy your wine glasses at your local wine shop, but you will pay way more than you need to for them if you do. The only real advantage of buying from your local wine shop is that you can have them for a dinner party tonight.
But how many of us are having dinner parties in 2020 unless it is just our immediate family?
I suggest you purchase your wine glasses on Amazon. With Prime delivery you usually can have them about 48 hours after the time you order them. And if, for any reason, you decide you don’t like them or they aren’t what you thought they were, you can send them back for free and try another style of glass.
One of my next posts will be a review and listing of the best wine glasses at the best prices. So be looking for that. It’s coming soon. I’ll do all the hunting and heavy lifting for you. Just be thinking about what wines you most like and how much venturing out to new varietals you think you might do between now and that post. I will make it as easy for you as possible.
I’m going to add a plug for shopping local here. Or at least I’m going to attempt to. I personally always am in favor of doing business with local vendors whenever possible — at least whenever the price is somewhere in the ballpark I can afford or is at least relatively competitive. But for many items, wine glasses one of them, there is no local vendor based in my city to purchase them from. Every single outlet where I can buy wine glasses is based not only outside of my community, but out of my state as well. For some items shopping local works really well. But for others, it simply isn’t possible.
Of course you can always head to your local discount stores and sniff around to get super-discounted deals. Discounters like Tuesday Morning, Home Goods (the household wing of T.J. Maxx), and Marshalls often have wine glasses in stock. (Just remember, they aren’t really local even though they have a storefront in your town.) You will find some of the moderately high-end crystal makers sell through these discounters. The stock is sporadic, so you need to know what you are looking for in order not to waste your money. But remember, I already have shown you some of the best shapes and measurements for the major varietals, so you can use that as a guide if you go bargain shopping.
You just have to understand that if you shop discounters for your wine glasses: (1) it may be a year or four before you find what you really need in their stock, (2) you will need to remain doggedly determined, (3) you will need to pop into the stores often, and (4) you will need to keep the sizes and measurements outlined in this article handy along with (5) a dressmaker’s tape so you have them with you in the store to measure the glasses.
DO NOT GO BY THE NAME OF THE “KIND” OF GLASS PRINTED ON THE BOX because it often will say the glass inside the box is something impossibly broad like “Red Wine” or the equivalent in five or six different languages. Although the general category (probably) will be right, don’t be mislead into thinking all shapes and sizes are the same.
GO BY THE SHAPE AND THE SIZE of the glass, not what is printed on the cardboard box.
Once I buy my new glasses, can I put them in the dishwasher?
If the glass is important enough to buy to enhance the wine, it’s important enough to wash by hand.
Thin crystal will never look the same if you run it through a dishwasher. And remember, part of the wine experience is seeing the wine. So take the time to hand wash your wine glasses — and to dry them with a towel. It really doesn’t take long. And they will last virtually forever if you treat them right. Well, forty years at least.
You don’t need super hot water for a wine glass. (It’s already had alcohol in it!) You mostly just need to wash the rim. All you need is a dot or two of dishwashing soap to run along the rim where your lips touch. Run your fingers around the lip of the glass a few times with that dot of soap, rinse, and dry with a good quality cotton kitchen towel that doesn’t have a lot of lint on it.
And there you have it. Asanté !
Ah, soon you will be living so Frenchly!