A guide to different types of wine glasses

By BBC Maestro

There can be a lot of rules when it comes to wine. From appropriate pairings and correct ways to store it, to serving it in the correct glass, there’s plenty to learn.

Whether you’re hosting a dinner party, a wine tasting evening, or simply hoping to expand your glass cabinet offering, this article will help you understand a key part of serving wine – which glasses exist, and which ones to use for serving different types of wine.


The basics

Most wine glasses are made up of three key components – the base, the stem, and the bowl. Some wine glasses use crystal glass which can be fine cut to create thinner and more elegant glasses. Some people prefer using crystal glass as they feel it elevates the drinking experience. It’s up to you which type of glass you’d prefer to use.

  • The base is required to ensure the glass stays upright and stable. It may also be referred to as the ‘foot’ of the glass.
  • The stem is a vital part, as it allows you to hold it. The length of the stem varies depending on what type of wine the glass is designed for. You’ll notice this in prosecco or champagne glasses. Stemless wine glasses have also become trendy in recent years.
  • The bowl is the most important part, as it holds the wine. Generally, the bowl should be wider at the bottom than at the top. This allows the user to swirl the wine and release its aromas and gives the wine space to breathe. The rim of the bowl, also known as the ‘lip’, is noted as quite important by many wine connoisseurs because it guides the mouth and nose to capture the wine’s aromas. The width of the rim also dictates how the wine is directed in the mouth. This varies with different glasses.

We want to swirl the wine before we smell it because the nose is so much more sensitive than the palate.

Jancis Robinson, British wine critic, journalist and wine writer.
A collection of wine glasses and bottles of wine on a shelf

Choosing different wine glasses

Nowadays you’ll find there are recommended glasses available for almost every type of wine, from a refreshing Sauvignon Blanc to a well-rounded Rioja or a spicy Malbec. You can choose to use the specific glass for the specific type of wine, or you can simply stick to these basic four:

1. White wine glasses

A white wine glass resembles a traditional wine glass. It has a base, a stem and a bowl that tapers at the top.

White wine is all about aroma and tends to be packed with floral, citrus, or fruity tones. The tapering of a white wine glass captures these aromas and helps direct the nose to the right place, so it can absorb these and maximise the tasting experience.

For white wine, you want a glass that allows you to swirl the wine enough so you can release the aromatic tones without spilling it. White wine glasses tend to have a smaller bowl than the large bowl recommended for red wine glasses.

2. Red wine glasses

Red wine tends to need more aeration than white wine, as it releases its aromas once it’s swirled. Aeration is the process of exposing the wine to oxygen and the reaction between the air and the wine brings out its fullest flavours.

So, it’s good to have a glass with a larger bowl than traditional wine glasses. This gives the wine plenty of space to be swirled and for air to get to it so that it can fully express its flavour.

When you’re tasting, look out for sweetness, acidity, alcohol, tannin, possibly bitterness, possibly salinity, a little bit of saltiness, see whether they’re all in balance, and notice how long the impact of the wine lasts.

Jancis Robinson, British wine critic, journalist and wine writer

Glasses used for red wine often have a wider opening at the top to allow more air into the glass too. You can use a normal wine glass, such as a white wine glass, to consume red wine if you need to. But in this instance, it’s wise to let the wine breathe in a decanter for a while before you pour it.

3. Sparkling wine glasses

For sparkling wine, a Champagne flute is a popular choice. A flute has a base, a long stem, and a long and narrow bowl that gives the glass its slender appearance.

The narrow bowl helps preserve the bubbles or ‘beads’ found within sparkling wines like Champagne or prosecco, that give it its fizz. Like a white wine glass, the bowl tapers at the top, capturing some of the delightful aromas for you to enjoy.

4. Dessert wine glasses

Dessert wine is much sweeter than other wines and as a result, it’s intended to be consumed in much smaller quantities. Most dessert wine glasses are therefore smaller in size than other wine glasses.

How to hold a wine glass

When holding a traditional wine glass, you want to hold the stem rather than the bowl. If you hold the bowl of the glass there is a risk that the wine increases in temperature, which can interfere with its taste, and the overall drinking experience. Use your thumb and index finger to pinch the stem of the glass and sip.

Just like wine trends (vegan wine, anyone?) wine glass trends also come and go. For example, stemless glasses have become a popular alternative to traditional wine glasses. These mimic the bowl found on a traditional wine glass and, because they have no stem, minimise the risks of toppling glasses and spillages. Although these might not be the first choice of a wine aficionado, they offer a trendy alternative for those who are not as particular when it comes to consuming wine.

If you’re unsure of what your preferred wine glass may be, you could purchase a wine glass set or simply stick with a universal wine glass. There are plenty of options out there for you to experiment with.

Keen to learn more? Join British wine critic, journalist, and wine writer Jancis Robinson, as she takes you on a journey through the vineyards of Burgundy straight to the glass, in her course, An Understanding Of Wine. This course includes a lesson on selecting the best glass for your wine too, so you can be sure to always drink from a glass that best enhances your wine’s flavours.

Learn more about wine

New to wine? Think you know it all already? Discover something new with Jancis. From how to choose the perfect bottle to understanding how climate change impacts your favourite vino, there’s something new for everybody.

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