shape of wine glass

Wine Glasses Part 1: Does The Shape Of A Wine Glass Matter?

It may seem obvious that a good set of wine glasses will step up your game when it comes to serving and tasting wine, but It can be overwhelming which glasses to choose! 

Square and modern, plain and traditional, elegant with a big bowl … the choices are endless and almost every style can be found at an affordable price. However, there are several things to consider besides looks! 

Next time you’re looking for a set of wine glasses, take into account the temperature, aromatics, and carbonation of your most frequently purchased wines. Then, stock your shelves with glasses that take serving your favorite vino to the next level with the buying tips below. 

STEM LENGTH 

It’s not just for looks … 

All glass stemware is glassware, but not all glassware is stemware. That’s because of one crucial difference — the long and narrow piece of glass connecting the base to the bowl. You may wonder why some wine glasses have stems and others don’t. After all, what’s the point of this long, fragile-looking piece of glass that might even force you to hand wash vs. use the convenience of the dishwasher? Thankfully, there’s a real purpose here and it’s not just because stemware looks good … 

Nothing warms up wine faster than the transfer of heat from your hand to the glass, and stems are the best (and most attractive) solution to wine temperature control. Holding a glass by the stem keeps your hand far away from the wine. In general, white wines are served at cooler temperatures than red wines, and therefore should be the farthest away from your hand. This is why white wine glasses have a longer stem than their red counterparts, and also why stemless tumblers should be reserved for red wines that won’t be as affected by the warmth of your hand. 

If you’re one of those people that still holds the bowl even if the glass has a stem, try thinking of the stem as a useful tool, and see if your wine stays at the optimal temperature longer. Plus, you’ll prevent fingerprints on the glass and look like a total pro while enjoying your wine. 

BOWL SIZE

Whether it’s square, bulbous, or oval shape, the bowl that holds the wine is the biggest style difference between stemware sets. But before you pick one just because you like the appearance, consider a couple reasons why one bowl will work for you over another. 

You may have noticed while eating out that white wines are often served in glasses with smaller bowls and red wines are served in much larger glasses. This isn’t because the restaurant prefers red wine drinkers over patrons that pick white wine, but because they want the best tasting experience for each choice. 

The fact is, white wines have more delicate aromas and should be served in glasses that give the drinker enough proximity to the wine to enjoy it. For red wine drinkers, getting the nose as close to the wine can make the experience almost too intense! Similar to when you smell perfume straight from the bottle, higher alcohol wines poured into narrow glasses smell less pleasant and … well, more like alcohol. To get those aromas of vanilla, oak, cloves, and other jammy flavors, it’s nice to take a step back. A big bowl gives the wine drinker enough space to enjoy everything a quality wine has to offer. 

However, there’s one more important factor to consider besides if you’re serving white or red, and that’s carbonation! 

If the wine is sparkling, a flute is the way to go, and for good reason. Bubbles can only go up!  In a wider glass, the carbonation goes flat fast. The streamlined nature of the flute gives these bubbles plenty of room, so they keep your glass fizzy for longer. Plus, champagne flavors are especially delicate, and the narrow glass confines all of the aromas and flavors to a small area, making your tasting experience as impressionable as possible. 

WHICH STEMWARE SET SHOULD YOU CHOOSE? 

Are you a red wine drinker? If so, the bigger bowl is your best friend. Do you drink white wine exclusively? Go with a slightly narrow white wine glass. And if you’re cracking open cans of bubbly or popping bottles with friends every weekend (we’re jealous) — splurge on a set of flutes that will keep everyone’s glass fizzy and delicious. 

The fact is, it doesn’t matter what the wine is packaged in — both canned wine and bottled wine can benefit from the appropriate glass. For a bigger breakdown of white and red wine glasses, see Part 2 in this wine glass series. 


Erin Hooker

Erin Hooker is a writer with experience creating wine, food, and interior design content. She began contributing to Graham + Fisk’s blog in 2021.

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