5 Essential Glasses Every Serious Wine Drinker Should Own, According to a Sommelier

Never let the wrong glass ruin a delicious bottle of wine again.

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November 04, 2021
By: Sarah Tracey
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Photo by: Williams Sonoma

Williams Sonoma

Shopping for wine glasses can seem daunting: so many shapes, sizes, and styles to choose from. You might be wondering, why you even need more than one set?

The truth is, the shape of a wine glass greatly affects how we perceive flavor. According to the Taste Treatment and Research Foundation, 90 percent of taste is actually smell, so the way aromatic compounds waft into your nose has a dramatic effect on your wine tasting experience. Varietal-specific glasses are engineered to either focus or diffuse the aromas in the glass, and to showcase each particular wine in its best light.

How Wine Glass Shapes Work

Different wine glass shapes also vary the way the wine hits your tongue: a glass with a narrow opening will focus liquid in a linear way straight through the center of your tongue, but a wide-mouth glass will deposit the wine across your tongue in a horizontal wave. Because the structural elements of wine — alcohol, acid, and tannins — are sensations you can feel but not taste, the way wine flows across your palate affects how you experience its texture. Specialty glassware is designed to balance the structure, aroma, and flavor to deliver the optimal drinking experience for each type of wine.

5 Essential Wine Glass Shapes — and How to Pick the Best for You

$38.99

Most wine professionals have moved away from tall, skinny flutes for sparkling wines. While flutes do an excellent job of showing off the bubbles, they aren’t wide enough to allow your nose into the glass to inhale the lovely, complex aromas of Champagne, Cava or Prosecco. Instead of flutes, look for tulip glasses: They’re tall like flutes, with a narrow base that widens in the center of the bowl before gracefully tapering at the rim to focus the aromas into your nose.

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For wines like Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, and other light and crisp whites with delicate aromas, a classic glass simply called a white wine glass will do the trick. White wine glasses have a nice long stem to better protect the chilled wine by keeping it further from your warm hands. They also have a narrower bowl with less curve to preserve cooler temperatures and show off citrus and floral aromas.

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Good news: You can use the same glass for full-bodied whites like Chardonnay and light-bodied reds like Pinot Noir. The perfect glass for both types is called a Burgundy glass. It has a bowl that’s extremely wide and round, allowing the maximum surface area of wine to interact with oxygen and the aromas to collect before it tapers towards a smaller opening at the rim.

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Bold reds like Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah belong in a glass with a large bowl, but less curve and taper than Burgundy glasses. The larger opening will allow the alcohol fumes to diffuse and cause less "burn" when you sniff the wine while still allowing plenty of oxygen to mingle with the wine and unlock those complex aromas.

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Port, Sherry, and other concentrated dessert wines are meant to be sipped in smaller volumes, so cordial glasses are petite and delicate, with a gently flared rim, perfect for holding two ounces of wine. You can also use them for after-dinner spirits like grappa, brandy, and even scotch.

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Is There a One-Size-Fits-All Option?

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Every wine lover should have a standard set of "universal" glasses at home. These are medium-sized glasses with a stem that can be used for white, red, or sparkling wines. And for the casual drinker, that’s really all you need.

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Sarah Tracey is a wine, food, and lifestyle expert based in New York City. A certified sommelier, she worked her way up from spit-bucket emptier at a local winery to Michelin-starred Wine Director in top NYC restaurants. When she’s not vineyard-hopping, Sarah blogs at The Lush Life. She regularly shares food pairing, home entertaining, and beverage expertise with Martha Stewart Living, Oprah Daily, People, Food & Wine, Forbes, Elle, Refinery 29, Life & Style Weekly, Town & Country, Cosmopolitan, PureWow, Brides, and Cheddar TV. Her idea of self-care is a solo Beyoncé dance party with a glass of rosé Champagne.

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