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The Wide World of Wine Glasses

These days, it seems as though it’s less and less common to get the beer you ordered served to you in what was the standard pint glass—instead, you’re more likely offered a tulip, a snifter, a stange, or a weizen glass.

All good things, right? What if, however, I told you that the world of wine glasses was just as expansive, yet for as common as it is to see a non-pint beer glass, it’s just as uncommon to see no other options than the standard trio of red and white glasses with champagne flutes?

The pour: this helps to open up the wine more by keeping the it aerated with the oxygen that is able to remain in the glass by its side

With the great array of wine on the market—dare I say, a larger one than that of beer?—it really only makes sense that we have more than just those three for enjoying per each wine’s particular composition. To bring out the best in each wine, let’s look at how to more properly pair a wine to its glass.

The Fundamental Factors

The shape of the glass: this helps to control how the ethanol vapors leave the glass, and thus how the aroma of the wine reaches your senses. A 2015 study out of Japan, with the help of a very specialized camera, helped to demonstrate just how fundamental this change can be based on glass shape.

The pour: while there is no official by-law number, the standard serving of wine is five ounces. When truly poured in this volume, it should not come close to filling the wine glass, or even three-quarters of it—sometimes not even half. For reasons other than not over-serving, this helps to open the wine up more, keeping the oxygen in the the glass by its side, and thus aerated.

Red Wines
The red-wine glasses, most generally, are crafted in order to account for the warmer temperature of the wine when served, for everything from ethanol control to smoothing out its body.

A shorter bowl height helps to keep the sting of ethanol away from the nose, while also allowing the aromatic compounds to release or more gently float to the nose from from the glass. Moreover, ethanol is more readily able to evaporate.

The glass’ taller shape helps to direct the aromas up closer to the nose, while preserving them on the way and bringing out floral notes where present

Zinfandel and Malbec
A skinny and small glass with a relatively longer stem, this one holds the high-tannin, high-alcohol reds the best. Along with Zinfandel and Malbec, it’s a great match for Syrah and Mourvedre, to name a few.

Pinot Noir
Pinot Noir and other lighter-bodied red wines are served in shorter glasses that are a bit wider at the mouth. These more delicate, low-tannin reds with lower alcohol content include others like Zweigelt, Schiava, and Gamay.

Cabernet Sauvignon
The Cabernet Sauvignon glass, or the glass most suited for medium- to full-bodied reds, is wide like the Pinot Noir glass, but shorter than a glass suited toward your Zinfandels and Malbecs. It’s best suited for reds with high tannins and high acidities.

The shape of the glass helps to control how the ethanol vapors leave the glass, and thus how the aroma of the wine reaches your senses

White Wines
The standard white-wine glass is most easily compared against the standard red glass, as it’s always the smaller of the two. They are, of course, held to the same pours, but the standard white holds it differently as to maximize its very different profile.

First, as white wines are typically chilled, the shape of the glass helps to preserve a cooler temperature throughout drinking. And, because it’s chilled, the aromas are not so strong nor willing to leave the glass, and thus the glass’ taller shape helps to direct the aromas up closer to the nose, while preserving them on the way and bringing out floral notes where they exist.

Chardonnay or “Montrachet”
Oak-aged, fuller-bodied white wines work best in glasses that are similar, but edge closer to the red-wine glasses in their shape and squatter stature. While still cognizant of maintaining a cooler temperature, the wider mouth helps to explore these white wines’ creamier textures.

Sparkling Wines

Flute
The flute is definitely the most common of the sparkling wine glasses, used to elegantly showcase the mesmerizing effervescence of a great glass of champagne – some even have etched inner bases to create an even more dramatic, steady fizz.

However, the ubiquitous flute has come under fire quite recently in favor of glasses that, while less aesthetic, better bring out the flavors of the wine.

Tulip
There have been several iterations of the tulip, many of which have been made by devoted individuals pushed by frustration and, like in sommelier Philippe Jamesses’ case, “embarrassment” of the poor representation of sparkling wines in flutes.

However, the ubiquitous flute has come under fire quite recently in favor of glasses that, while less aesthetic, better bring out the flavors of the wine

The tulip-like glass is more similar to a white-wine glass, with a round middle and a taper at the top from an elongated bowl out of the stem. This shape helps to aerate the sparkling wines and better deliver the aroma to the nose.

Dessert Wines

Port Wine
The port-wine glass is almost just like a miniature red-wine glass, given that these are served in two- to three-ounce pours and, while beautiful, are heavy all around. The small size not only fits more appropriately to the pour but also features a narrow mouth to reduce the rate of evaporation.

Sherry
Perhaps seen serving an aperitif or liqueur, the sherry glass is another small one tailored to the richer higher-alcohol and aroma-heavy characteristics of this fortified wine served around the three-ounce mark. The glass’ shape helps to preserve the chilled temperature at which it’s served. It can look very similar to a port glass, but at other times may have a wider mouth.

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