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Shopping Guide: How to Choose the Right Wine Glasses for Red, White, and Sparkling Wine

The size and shape of your wine glass dictates everything from taste to how wine is delivered to your palette

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By Bon Appetit US | April 9, 2024 | Shopping

The best wine glasses will change your perception of the drink and elevate your entire wine-tasting experience, says sommelier André Hueston Mack. So before pouring your Cabernet Sauvignon into a regular water glass, ceramic mug, or any other clean drinking vessel within arm’s reach (we’ve all done it), know that doing so would mean you’re missing out on all the deliciously complex flavors your wine has to offer.

How your wine tastes has everything to do with how it’s delivered to your palate and that is based on the shape and size of the glass. While there are certain features every wine glass should have—like a rim, bowl, stem, and base—there are additional details specific to different types of wine, whether you’re drinking red, white, or sparkling.

For instance, larger rounded bowls are generally better for reds, while small narrow bowls are better for whites. Below, we dive into all those details and include some of the best wine glasses money can buy.

Burgundy Glass/Pinot Noir Glass

The most striking feature of this type of glass is its balloon shape. Its bowl is the widest and shortest of all the glasses on this list, which has one main purpose: to capture the aromatics of light-bodied red wines that have high acidity and are moderately tannic.

As you swirl, Mack says, the vapors get trapped because of its cone shape, and the flavors get directed to the center of your palate. “It feels like it's at a triangle, so it pours into one point of my mouth and then kind of spreads back to the either side of my mouth, and the sides of my tongue start to tingle,” he says. Additionally, the lip of this glass is thin—the thinner the rim, the better, because it allows the wine to pour more smoothly over your palate. Mack loves this type of glass and drinks tons of different wines out of it: “It’s a multipurpose glass in my home because we drink a lot of Burgundy and Pinot Noir.” Bonus: He also says it’s one of the best glasses for margaritas.

Bordeaux Glass/Cabernet Glass

“Cabernet and Bordeaux are very tannic, so they need a lot of headroom and breathing room,” says Mack. Allowing these wines to breathe, or aerate, softens the tannins and improves their flavor. Because Cabernet generally needs more air, the lips of this glass don’t curve in—a way to not trap aromas of the wine. Instead, the bowl is more linear and narrow with a slight curvature, as opposed to having a ballooned shape like the Burgundy glass. You'll notice this glass looks somewhat oversized, which is intentional—the extra volume helps decant and aerate the wine. “Always look at these as being somewhat of a mini-decanter,” says Mack. “The delivery is definitely a little bit faster: as soon as you tip the glass, the wine starts to cover the pallet from the front to the back.” This is an elegant-looking glass that Mack highly recommends for most people, especially those who drink a lot of reds.

Sauvignon Blanc Glass/Riesling Glass/Chardonnay Glass

While red wine glasses are generally more oversized with larger bowls because the wines need to breathe, white wine glasses tend to be smaller with narrower bowls. These shorter, slimmer bowls serve two purposes: They concentrate and preserve the wine’s acidic qualities and subtle aromas, and they bring the wine in closer contact to your nose. This is helpful because the aromatics are far more delicate in wines like Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling. That said, fuller-bodied whites like Chardonnay need more air. So in terms of shape, Chardonnay glasses are more akin to red wine glasses (though they’re still smaller in capacity). Essentially, you could drink your Chardonnay out of a larger Bordeaux-type glass and still reap all the benefits.

Port Glass

This is your glass for fortified wines and dessert wines, like Sauterne, which are generally sweeter and heavier with a higher alcohol content (fortified wines are typically between 15%–22% alcohol). Because people aren’t usually drinking these wines in copious amounts, the glasses are small—about three ounces, as opposed to a standard wine pour of five ounces. The shape is narrow and a bit fluted. “The delivery shoots more into the center of my palate, definitely where I accentuate sugar. I like how it's proportioned,” Mack says. When these glasses are pulled out at the dinner party, you’ll know you’re moving onto a different part of the meal.

Champagne Flute

Champagne flutes are super narrow—about two inches wide—to help facilitate the bubbles rising to the top. The narrow walls keep the glass full of bubbles for longer. If you were to pour the wine into a wide-mouthed glass, all the air exposure would cause the bubbles to disappear quickly. Clearly, this is a great glass for drinking Champagne. That said, if you want to really evaluate your Champagne and experience all of its tasting notes, Mack explains that you can drink it out of a regular white wine glass, which will allow you to swirl and sniff it to take in all the aromatics. Mack loves the Champagne flute, and it’s his favorite way to dress up sparkling wine: “It’s fun and celebratory, and it’s a great way to put 25-inch rims on your Moscato d'Asti.”

Coupe Glass

Consider the coupe a predecessor to the Champagne flute. The glass is thick, the bowl is short and squatty, and it doesn’t have a seamless rim. The wide mouth gives the drink more surface area to release bubbles, so it's kind of the complete opposite of a Champagne flute, Mack explains. While the wideness allows you to sniff the drink, you can’t really swirl it. That said, this is your glass for cocktails and sparkling wines that you’re drinking just for fun. One of Macks’ favorite things to pour into this glass is sparkling cider: “It’s still fun and it’s still serious.”

Stemless Glass

Mack explains that the stemless glass probably came around in the late 1990s or early 2000's to encourage people to drink wine more casually, while still incorporating some elements of a traditional wine glass. It’s no secret that stemless wine glasses often get a bad rap—one downside is that they’ll have condensation, while stemware does not. The biggest upside to these types of glasses? Because they don’t have a stem, they aren’t as dainty or fragile, but they still have a wide bowl that allows you to swirl and smell the aromatics. It’s a wonderful glass for something like a boxed rosé. “Boxed wine and stemless glasses kind of came into prominence right around the same time,” Mack says. “I feel like these two things are a match made in heaven.” You’re taking both of them to the picnic, and you’re not trying to get too serious about the wine. Stemless wine glasses get a lot of hate, but there’s a time and a place for them. “They’re bringing more people to the party, the wine party that is, and I'm grateful to that” Mack says.

Universal Glass

Meet the award-winning handblown Zalto wine glass. The bowl of the glass is designed at the specific angles of 24°, 48° and 72° to make your wine smell and taste better. This glass also famously costs about $80 (yes, each). While it’s technically a white wine glass, Mack considers it an all-purpose wine glass, as it lends a great drinking experience to all wines across the board,” he says. The bowl is moderately sized, and the glass is so thin that “touching it, you feel like you can break it with your mind,” he adds. It’s lightweight and elegant, and it elevates the drinking experience of any wine that’s poured in it. “The delivery is just so seamless and the lip is absolutely razor-thin, and I think all wine can benefit from that,” says Mack. “It’s tapered enough to trap all of those aromatics I want to capture from all wines.” If he had to choose one glass to drink every wine out of, this would be the glass. All that said, he notes that you can definitely find different versions of this type of glass that cost less.