Wondering why there’s a difference between wine glasses in the first place? See Part 1 of our Wine Glass series.
You’re out at dinner and the wine arrives (cheers!) — but why is your friend’s glass of red wine so big, while your glass of white wine seems small?
Serving wine in a glass tailored to the body of the wine (alcohol level), aromatics, and sweetness, will enhance your wine drinking experience whether you’re out at dinner or pouring wine at home. And if you have an at-home bar, you'll want to dazzle guests with your intricate glass collection that's fitting for your taste. In fact, it doesn’t even matter if the wine comes from a can, bottle, or a box; a good wine glass will bring out the best of any wine!
There are many different types of wine glasses, but here we’ve laid out the most common red and white wine stemware.
RED WINE GLASSES
There may be plenty of styles to choose from, but there are only three main types of red wine glasses: Bordeaux, medium-bodied glasses, and Burgundy glasses.
Bordeaux glasses (also known as full-bodied glasses) work well with high-alcohol wines that have big, bold flavors and tannic qualities. That’s because the bowl is large, but taller than a Burgundy glass. This gives your nose enough distance from the strong aromas so you can appreciate the smell without inhaling any astringent alcohol qualities. Serve Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, or Merlot in a Bordeaux glass.
Medium-bodied glasses are pretty much an all-purpose wine glass. They are designed for medium-bodied reds, but are often used for all red wines in hotels, at casual restaurants, and in airport bars. A medium-bodied wine glass is useful because it gives the wine just enough air to get the aromas circulating, yet doesn’t have as wide of a bowl as a Bordeaux or Burgundy glass. Enjoy a Cabernet Franc, Barbera, Sangiovese, or Zinfandel from a medium-bodied glass.
Burgundy glasses (also known as light-bodied glasses) are surprisingly large for a glass tailored to light-bodied wines. To the untrained eye, these glasses may even resemble the Bordeaux variety, especially when looking at two sets that are also separate styles. However, there are a couple of differences that make sipping a Pinot Noir or Gamay especially satisfactory out of a Burgundy glass. For starters, the bowl is slightly wider and stouter, so the wine has less distance to travel to your mouth. Secondly, it allows the wine to really open up, so even the most subtle aromas can be enjoyed. This glass works best with red wines under 12.5% ABV.
WHITE WINE GLASSES
White wines are traditionally smaller than red wine glasses because of their floral, fruity, and delicate tasting notes. However, that doesn’t mean all white wine glasses are alike.
Chardonnay glasses are U-shaped and the largest of the white wine varieties. In some cases, these glasses can even resemble a Burgundy style in bowl shape. But unlike a Burgundy glass, stemware designed for Chardonnay and heavier, high-alcohol white wines will have a rim that doesn’t close inward. This openness aerates the wine and creates a sweeter, smoother tasting experience.
Standard white wine glasses work for most light-bodied white wines such as Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Vinho Verde, and many others. The bowl is smaller than a red wine glass or a Chardonnay glass, and more oval shaped to keep the wine chilled. With less surface area and a longer stem, a white wine can stay at a cooler temperature for longer.
Sparkling wine flutes are perfectly shaped for bubbles. Whether you have a sparkling rosé, Champagne, Prosecco, or other sparkling white wine, the narrow shape of a flute keeps the wine fizzy (and cold) for longer. The flute is also a fun glass to display, and makes every occasion feel special.
Stemless wine glasses (also known as tumblers) certainly have their appeal. They take up less space, are easy to wash in the dishwasher, and seem perfect for a more casual get together. However, we recommend reserving these low profile glasses for red wines where the heat from your hand won’t matter as much when it transfers to the wine.
Or forego the glass completely! After all, canned wine comes in its own perfectly portioned serving container, and is great for patios, tailgates, outdoor adventures, and everything in between.
Erin Hooker is a writer with experience creating wine, food, and interior design content. She began contributing to Graham + Fisk’s blog in 2021.