So, is there really a right glass or way to hold it in order to maximize the wine experience? Personally, I would answer both “yes” and “no” depending on the circumstances. Stay tuned to the end to find out why.
The shape of the glass and whether it is stemmed or stemless can effect the wine experience. Some would say the shape is more important, but I think they equally can influence the presentation of the wine.
You have probably learned that it is proper to hold a glass by the stem when drinking white wine and by the bowl with reds. This is because the heat transfer from your hands can warm the wine. With white wines holding by the bowl can turn a chilled or cooler served wine warm and influence its intended characteristics. Even with reds, holding by the bowl can make the wine much warmer than it is intended to be served. This is why I do not like stemless glasses.
Personally, I would much rather use a stemmed glass so I can regulate the temperature on my own. Whether drinking wine at home or in a restaurant, the temperature of the bottle when opened can vary from what may be optimal for that particular wine. By using a stemmed glass you can use your hands around the bowl to warm a white or red wine that has been stored to cold, or you can hold the glass by they stem to maintain a cooler temperature for the wine.
The shape of the glass can actually influence the aromas and tastes of the wine. Here is a diagram of various shapes and sample varieties where the shape may enhance the presentation of the wine characteristics.
White wine glasses tend to have smaller bowls than those of red wine glasses? The taller and narrower bowls reduce the amount of oxygen in the glass to help keep the wine fresh and to concentrate the lighter aromas. In addition, the long stems help maintain the cooler temperature of the wine. This includes wines such as Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, and Riesling.
Full-bodied white wines are better served in glasses with a wide bowl and a slight taper. The wide mouth and larger surface releases the aromas and enhances the creamy texture of the wine. The shape also enhances the acidity and helps provide balance. The glass is good with Chardonnay and White Rioja.
Another type used for specialty whites is the Champagne glass, also called a “flute“. This is due to its tall, slender, taper-free or less tapered design. This glass helps preserve the aromas and bubbles that you experience as soon as the wine hits your tongue. These glasses are used with Prosecco, Champagne, and other sparkling wines.
Red wine glasses have wider bowls that bring more oxygen into contact with the wine, allows the wine to ‘breathe’ more in the glass. The wider bowl helps release the complex aromas and smooth out the tannins and flavors of the wine. The slightly flared rim directs the wine toward the tip of the tongue enhancing the flavors.
The Cabernet and Bordeaux style glasses are pretty standard for all but the lightest of red wines. They have an average-length stem, a wide base, and a large bowl that tapers slightly at the top. This glass is designed to expose plenty of oxygen with the wine to bring out the fruit flavors and lessen the tannins in Bordeaux and other similar red varietals, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, and Tempranillo .
The even larger bowled Pint Noir glasses can have a rim that is turned out. This helps direct the intense wine aromas to your nose and flavors to your tongue. It has a shorter stem than other glasses, but a large bowl that is the widest of any wine glass. It is used with wines such as Pinot Noir, Barbera, Gamay, and Dolcetto.
Port glasses, not shown above, have a small, slender shape. The design of this glass helps enhance the fruit, oak, and spice flavors rather than being being overtaken by the heavy alcohol.
I’ve only touched on a few of the wide variety of wine glasses and intended designs. Most bars and restaurants have a standard style of glass that is used, mainly to maximize cost and keep serving simple. Yet there are some that actually utilize different glasses as designed.
At the beginning of this article I said the answer to whether there really a right glass or way to hold it in order to maximize the wine experience is both “yes” and “no” depending on the circumstances. The only reason I say this is because I have been to wine tastings, parties, and events before where wine was served in many different glasses and at times even plastic cups. Even though not the best delivery methods are always used, at that specific place and time, I’ll deal with it.