Does Wine Glass Shape Matter?

Does wine glass shape matter by winebox kenya

Wine lovers will be aware that in recent years a huge range of wine glass shapes have become readily available to buy. But if you drink chardonnay out of a riesling glass, will you notice any difference? The question is, does the shape of your wine glass really matter?

The answer, as with many things in life, is yes and no.

Basic wine glass shapes

Gone are the days of one glass for red wine, one for white and one for champagne it seems. (To be honest, I can remember when it was “wine glass” and “champagne glass”.) Now you can purchase, if you so desire, a different shape of wine glass for almost any type of wine. Is this just a marketing-driven fad, or is there some science behind this diversity?

Firstly, let’s consider the champagne glass. Although it does vary between manufacturers, this is usually a “flute”, tall and narrow, more or less like a column. The very good reason for serving sparkling wines such as champagne in a tall glass with a narrow opening is to preserve the fizz; this is achieved by reducing the surface area of the wine. A larger surface area allows the bubbles to dissipate more quickly into the air.

In contrast, red wines benefit from a larger surface area in order to “breathe” (more contact with oxygen encourages tannins to soften). The shape of a red wine glass is therefore larger, with a wider bowl. White wines in general do not need this breathing space and so white wine glasses tend to be smaller or taller than red wine glasses, both of which shapes result in a smaller surface area of wine.

Varietal wine glass shapes

Now let’s consider the character of different varieties of wine. We talk about wines in terms of their boldness, acidity, flavours and aromas, to name a few. How does the shape of a wine glass influence how we enjoy these attributes of wine? Some of the world’s best wine glass manufacturers have researched how people experience wine from different shaped glasses.

Take pinot noir, for example. Pinot noir is generally lighter than other red wines, with lower alcohol and tannins, higher acidity and more delicate flavours. A pinot noir glass is designed to concentrate the delicate flavours as well as give the wine breathing room; it is wide bodied with a narrower rim, which collects and keeps the aromas in the glass for longer.

Contrast this with shiraz/syrah, which is typically bold and full-bodied, with higher tannins, medium acidity and higher alcohol content. A shiraz glass is taller with a slightly tapered opening; this design aims to aerate the wine and deliver it to the middle of your mouth, helping to soften the tannins and spicy/peppery notes while pushing the fruit forward.

So you can see how research has guided manufacturers towards particular wine glass shapes for some varietals. Are there any other considerations to be aware of when selecting wine glasses?

Stems, colour and thickness of glass

It has become quite fashionable to serve wine in stemless glasses. For most occasions, this probably won’t have much impact on your enjoyment of the wine, and certainly stemless wine glasses are less susceptible to breakage. However, if you are serious about wine tasting and appreciation, the stem allows you to swirl the wine to release its aromas while appreciating its colour and without raising its temperature from the heat of your hands. And also, you don’t get finger marks on the bowl of the glass.

Most wine glasses are manufactured with colourless glass so that the colour of the wine can be appreciated. So although coloured wine glasses can look very pretty on a table setting, bear this in mind if you’re intending to serve red, rose or more intensely coloured white wines; sometimes the colour of the wine and the glass combined can look murky and unappealing.

Thickness of glass also has an impact on your appreciation of wine, particularly the thickness of the rim, or mouth, of the glass. The thinner the glass, the easier and smoother the sips. If you go to a winery for a tasting you’ll find your wine served to you in this type of high quality wine glass. Of course thin glass does come with a downside: it’s delicate and more prone to breakage.

So does wine glass shape matter?

For most people, it’s the wine that matters, not whether it’s in a particular shape glass. Whatever glass you drink from, only fill it one-third to one-half full; this allows you to swirl without spilling, and the glass has room to hold the aromas.

However, there are good and valid reasons for the various different wine glass shapes; paired with the right type of wine they are designed to enhance our enjoyment of it. You can check out our range of glassware here. After all, investing in a set of varietal wine glasses may help increase your appreciation of your favourite wine, and that’s something we can all get behind.