How to Choose Wine Glasses How to Choose Wine Glasses - Personal Wine Gifts and News

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Wine Education

How to Choose Wine Glasses

Light shining through a group of six wine glasses

When it comes to wine glasses, not all are created equal.

Wine glasses come in all shapes and sizes. Each was created with a specific type of wine in mind. It can be overwhelming.

How do you know which one is right for which wine? Read on to learn about the meaning behind the designs so you know which ones will bring out the best flavor in your wine.

Anatomy of the wine glass

While all wine glasses are different, there are four parts to each one.

1. Rim

It should be thin and cut: a thin rim allows you to drink it easily and cut directs the wine to the middle part of your tongue.

2. Bowl

It should be smooth and have a different shape depending on the type of wine it’s holding.

3. Stem (if it has one)

The stem should be generous enough to allow you to easily hold your glass by it. This is especially important for chilled wines, so that the temperature of the wine will not be affected by your hand holding the glass.

4. Base

It should be big enough to support the glass so you can easily set it down on a table.

What’s aerating and why is it important when picking a glass?

“Aeration” means giving your wine a chance to “breathe” by exposing it to air before serving it. While there are no glasses that offer aeration (it’s usually done by pouring the wine through an aerator attached to a wine bottle once it’s uncorked), the shape of the glass you choose can mean the difference between too much exposure to air or not enough.

Evaporation and oxidation are the two processes that occur when wine is aerated. Evaporation allows some of the alcohol smell to dissipate into the air so that you can smell the wine itself when sniffing before you taste.

Oxidation is the process of allowing air in so that a chemical reaction can take place between the oxygen and the alcohol, allowing flavors to develop. The right amount of oxidation makes a great wine even better, but too much can ruin it.

Not all wines need to be aerated. White wines and fruity wines, including light red ones, taste best when they are first uncorked. Earthy red wines stored in oak barrels benefit most from being aerated properly anywhere from 30-60 minutes before drinking. If you don’t have an aerator, you can expose the wine to air more fully by pouring back and forth between two glasses. But then make sure you put your aerated wine in the right glass to let it continue to aerate as it’s sipped.

Red wine glasses

Generally speaking, these glasses are distinctive because of their size, but there are also 4 other features you should consider when selecting one.

1. Wide rim

Glasses made for red wine typically have a wider rim. This allows you to put your nose just inside the glass so that you can deeply inhale the aroma, something that’s really important for red wine drinkers.

2. Big bowl

The larger sized bowl isn’t just to give you more in a glass (although that’s also a great reason), but rather to allow the wine to aerate properly as the person drinking it sips. More air equals softer tannins and a more flavorful taste and smell to your wine.

3. Shorter stems

Because most red wines are served warm and not chilled, you can feel more comfortable holding the wine glass by the bowl and not the stem. Therefore, the stem on red wine glasses are often shorter than other glasses.

4. Height of the glass

Some different types of red need a specially sized bowl to get the best drinking experience. The bordeaux glass (used for Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot) is designed to direct the wine right to the back of the mouth, which allows the drinker to experience the full flavor of the wine. The burgundy glass (used for Pinot Noir) sends the wine to the tip of the drinker’s tongue, allowing the more delicate flavors to be enjoyed before consuming it.

White wine glasses

Here are 4 distinctive features of a glass made for white wine.

1. Smaller rim

The shape of white wine glasses tends to be more U-shaped, which does two things: keeps the drink cool while releasing the beautiful scents of the wine.

2. Medium-sized bowl

The bowl of a white glass is a little smaller than that of a red. This is because it:

  • helps keep the wine cooler
  • smells better (because your nose is closer to the wine)
  • allows acidity to be expressed
  • it preserves certain aromas, like the floral scents.

3. Longer stem

Because many white wines needs to be served chilled, a longer stem is a very important feature of a white wine glass. It allows the drinker to hold the glass on the stem instead of the bowl, which means that the heat from your hand will not affect the temperature of the wine in the glass.

4. Different heights based on age

If your white wine is older, the glass should be straighter and taller in order to direct the wine to different areas of your mouth (back and sides) that will be able to savor the flavors more. If your white wine is younger, the glass should have a slightly bigger rim, which will send the wine to specific parts of your tongue (the sides and the tip) so you can savor the sweetness.

Dessert wine glasses

There are two types of dessert wine glasses.

1. Port wine glass

This one is a cross between a flute and a red wine glass. It’s tall like both of those are, but it’s wider than the flute and narrower than the red wine glass. It’s designed to help you sip in a smaller amount so that you focus on the flavors rather than the alcohol.

2. Dessert wine glass

These have a narrower opening and base, but a wider middle. It allows the drink to breathe and the acidity of the wine to come through so that the sweetness in the wine doesn’t overpower the taste.


If you’ve been to a wedding, you’ve seen a flute glass. They are designed for sparkling wines, and their tall and narrow shape keeps the bubbles in and the wine from going flat. These elegant glasses should have etched bases to allow more bubbles to form, as bubbles can’t attach to a smooth surface – and sparkling wine isn’t nearly as awesome without all the bubbles.


The purpose of the stem is to allow people to hold the glass by something other than the bowl, which is where the wine is. As we’ve said, the temperature of your fingers and hand permeate through the glass and can change the temperature of wine, thereby changing its taste.

If you are serving a chilled wine, consider sticking with a stemmed glass in order to keep the temp unaffected by your touch. If you are serving a wine at room-temperature, feel free to use a stemless glass.


A balloon glass is shaped very much like its namesake. It’s really round and has a wide opening from which to drink. It’s stemmed, and meant for specifically for red wines that need to breathe because its purposeful design allows for maximum aeration while you drink it. What’s “aeration,” you ask?

Customize your wine glass with an engraving

Trying to match the right wine with the right glass can seem overwhelming, but if you follow our tips, it’s actually pretty easy. Browse our selection of customizable wines to find the perfect wine glasses for the wine lover in your life!

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