Guest Post: How your choice of wine glass can affect the taste

How your choice of wine glass can affect the taste

You would never consider drinking a fine wine from a plastic cup but many wine drinkers through either skepticism or ignorance choose the wrong glassware for their favourite wines.

It may sound unlikely but the type of glassware you serve your wine in can have a significant effect on the aroma and taste. While opinions vary to a degree most wine experts upon conducting taste tests with different glasses conclude that the size and shape of the glass can radically alter the taste of the wine.

For myself I was completely unconvinced as my peers tried in vain to explain the need to upgrade my glassware and then I went to a rather unique wine tasting. Our host brought out three wines, each coming from a different vintage they were served in a different glasses. Along with the other assembled tasters I compared and contrasted the wines discussing the subtle differences of this over that. Then the host made an announcement, we had all been drinking the same wine from three different glasses. I went home and traded in my single set of supermarket shelf ready wine glasses for separate red and white sets the same day. While I’m not advocating you go out and get a range of wine glasses for every possible wine you may drink at least opt for an everyday glass set for each.

The science of the wine glass

wine glassesWhen the wine is in the glass, it reacts with the oxygen in the air, softening the harsher tannins found in wine. It is for this same reason it is recommended that red wines be decanted and allowed to aerate before serving.

If you choose a glass with a larger diameter, you’ll give the wine more surface area, allowing for a larger ratio of oxygen to wine and increasing the rate of oxidation. Putting this simply, the flavours will be ‘smoothened out’ much far more rapidly in a larger bowl than would occur in a smaller glass.

The process of wine aeration is accelerated further by the gentle swirling of the glass, allowing the wine and oxygen to mix. Swirling the wine smoothly becomes more difficult and awkward in thinner wine glasses which is why reds typically have a larger bowl.

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Different glasses for different wines

A taller Bordeaux glass is designed for full bodied red wines such as a Syrah/Shiraz or a Cabernet Sauvignon. This glass design both concentrates the aroma and directs the wine towards the back of the mouth. The Burgundy glass, on the other hand, is designed with more delicate wines such as a Pinot Noir in mind, as the larger bowl helps the more subtle aromas to accumulate. The Burgundy glass also directs the wine to the tip of the tongue first.

For white wines the range of glassware is even more extensive but the principles remains the same. Wider glasses allow faster oxidisation which is important for an oaked Chardonnay but may be detrimental to a fresh crisp white such as a Sémillon or Sauvignon Blanc. Instead these should be served in a much thinner glass concentrating the aromas and allowing less aeration.

Similarly, sparkling wines such as Champagne should ideally be served in flutes, with an even smaller surface area ensures the wine continues sparkling in the glass for longer.

Stems Are Essential

The recent trend of stemless wine glasses may seem unique and exciting but the stem exists for a reason. It allows you to hold the glass without the warmth from your hand coming into contact with the bowl and affecting the taste of the wine.

Crystal glass – the debate

While wine experts debate the merit of crystal glasses for the average wine enthusiast they present two huge problem which make them less desirable.

Fine crystal glass is more porous than normal glass and will consequently absorb tastes and odours from the objects, surfaces and chemicals it comes into contact with. Being less dense than normal glass regular dishwasher use, and even regular hand washing can leave you glassware looking old and scratched before its time.

It should also be noted that although a lot of Crystal Glass is advertised as Lead Crystal this is not generally the case – a good thing as lead is toxic!

What Glassware Should You Buy?

I wont tell you what glassware to buy ultimately this is a personal decision depending on the type of wine you typically drink and the budget you have but start off with a set of everyday red and white. I’d generally recommend a set of  Chardonnay glasses and a set of Bordeaux glasses, as these can be pressed into service for any red or white and a set of flutes of you’re fond of your bubbly.

About The Author

John is a wine enthusiast and writer/reviewer for Wine Experts Guide who enjoys helping people explore wines whether they are simply tasty and affordable or worthy of cellaring.

Editor’s note: Do you want to be one of our next guest authors? All the guidelines for guest posting on Vino in Love can be found here.


25 comments on “Guest Post: How your choice of wine glass can affect the taste”

  1. drinkforlife Reply

    i just recently bought stemless white wine glasses.. oh well.
    very helpful guide! thanks for the in-depth analysis.
    so far the guest posts here have always been worth reading. keep it up

    • vino in love Reply

      Thank you so much! Glad to hear that you enjoy reading our guest posts.
      I have some friends who have stemless (red) wine glasses and I find it quite awkward to drink wine out of them.

      • drinkforlife Reply

        At first I didn’t like drinking out them either but my wife insisted on buying them. They look pretty awesome and after a few weeks I got used to them and now they are just fine 🙂

  2. wineking3 wineking3 Reply

    Great post! Haven’t heard about the Wine Experts Guide yet so I’ll definitely check them out. They seem to be pretty competent.
    Thanks for sharing this post with us!

    • vino in love Reply

      Thanks for stopping by 🙂
      I discovered their site only recently and so far I enjoy reading their wine reviews.

      • the drunken cyclist Reply

        I am not sure if I agree with stems being “essential”. If you are drinking a special/expensive wine? Sure, use a stem. But if it is a less prestigious wine? I really don’t think a stem is all that vital.

        • wineking3 wineking3 Reply

          I think The Drunken Cyclist makes a fair point here. I didn’t think about it that way until now.
          But wouldn’t it be weird to drink a wine out of a glass without a stem? I think I’d still prefer it the traditional way 🙂

        • vino in love Reply

          Thanks for commenting.
          All my wine glasses have stems and all the trade shows and wine tastings that I attended served wine in glasses with stems. I can’t say whether they are essential or not but I certainly prefer to drink wine out of a glass with a stem 🙂
          Do you drink wine out of stemless glasses?

          • the drunken cyclist

            Obviously, I meant to respond under drinkforlife, but I screwed that up! I do use stemless glasses on occasion, but not all that often, actually. If I had more of them I probably would….

          • Oliver

            I don’t know. I keep reading about how glasses enhance wines, and I bet it is true. But I cannot get over what Jancis Robinson once remarked: That all she needs is one good tasting glass that she uses for all wines, not many different styles…

            Regarding stem or not, I am with Jeff. For day to day wines, I often use stemless glasses. If I am tasting a wine the first time, I usually go for stems because it seems easier to handle when looking at the color etc.

  3. winetalks winetalks Reply

    Nice guest post. I found the part about crystal glasses most interesting, mainly because I didn’t know that yet 🙂

    • vino in love Reply

      It’s good to hear that you learned something from this post. I always try to pick guest posts that actually have good content and contribute to Vino in Love. So getting some feedback on this is important for me!

  4. foodwine88 Reply

    Brilliant idea to have a guest post about wine glasses! This was quite helpful. Just started following them on Twitter 🙂

  5. RiojaChianti RiojaChianti Reply

    I always serve my Australian (oaked!) Chards and South Tyrolean Sauvignon Blancs in the same type of glass. Will look into that.. Haven’t really considered to use different glasses for them.

  6. Suzanne Reply

    Wonderful guest post, so informative. I never knew that about crystal glasses before, so interesting. I did know about the different glasses for red and white wines and actually bought separate glasses, sadly all of my red glasses broke, they were so fragile all I had to do was tap them the wrong way while washing and they broke. all of them. I have a wider glass but the glass is tinted, should wine glasses always be clear? I learned so much from this and now have to put to practice. So fascinating regarding the tasting you attended and the difference in the taste of the wine with different glasses. Thank you for bringing us such a interesting and informative guest post.

    • vino in love Reply

      Thank you so much! I’m sorry to hear that your glasses broke.. Did you wash them in the dishwasher? I usually wash mine by hand because I find that to be safer.
      In my opinion, wine glasses should always be clear. All the fairs and wine tasting that I attended used clear glasses. At home I use clear wine glasses, too. Maybe John can answer your question, as well.

      • Suzanne Reply

        I wash all my wine glasses by hand, no dishwasher for my precious glasses. They were Reidel glasses and the glass was so thin if I accidentally tapped it against the sink it shattered. I have to find new ones, I suspect that John will say the same as you about tinted glass for wine, you are right, always clear at tastings and restaurants. I’ll save them to use as water goblets.

  7. Sean P. Reply

    After reading tge titlr I was sure that this was going to be an ad for a wine glass retailer. So glad that I’ve been proven wrong. Interesting, educational and easy to read.

    • vino in love Reply

      Thanks for visiting. One of the requiertments that I have for guest posts is that they are not an advertisement. I have no problem linking back to other pages but the guest post should ALWAYS be educational

  8. Marco van Puff Reply

    Amazing guest post. Learned so much from this. I knew the key differences between white and red wine glasses but I wasn’t sure why there are multiple red wine and multiple white wine glasses. I’m so happy that you decided to publish this guest post 🙂

  9. hannah-theis hannah-theis Reply

    So the author of the guest post does not suggest crystal glasses? Riedl, a famous wine glass producers, makes excellent crystal glasses. I have to disagree with what he says.

    • vino in love Reply

      If John is reading these comments then he might be able to answer your question. I like the Riedl glasses a lot, as well.

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