Wine Glasses for Drinking and Tasting
Wine glasses come in many varieties, and good wine glasses can be found online or at a local store.
The shape and materials of construction for wine glasses have changed over time. For thousands of years, wine was drunk from whatever worked: leather, bone, ceramic, or metal. By the middle of the nineteenth century, wine glasses — goblets as they were some times called — had reached a sort of plateau. (However, today, there are break resistant glasses available online.)
Riedel and His Glass Revolution
Things in the wine glass world really started to change for the better in the 1920s when the Riedel (rhymes with needle) family began to offer wine glasses made from clear glass with cut edges. These glasses won many design awards and were an immediate hit. (Look at Riedel glasses online.)
Then in the 1950s, Claus Riedel began experimenting with the influence of the shape of a glass on the taste and appreciation of the wine. Claus would assemble panels from among the most well-known makers of a particular wine or alcohol. He would have the assembled group taste their wine/liquor in a series of glasses and ask the panel to rate the glasses and select the style that made their beverage taste the best.
This was the birth of the modern wine glass. If you look at Riedel’s Vinum glasses, you will see that most wine glasses look quite similar to those manufactured and sold by Riedel originally. (However, the newly popular stemless glass is made by Riedel — the “O” series.)
The Four General Types of Wine Glasses
For all practical purposes, there are four general types of wine glasses: (1) Champagne and sparkling wine, (2) white wine, (3) Pinot Noir, and (4) other reds. Let’s talk about each type.
(1) Champagne & Sparkling Wine Glasses
There are two basic styles, a flute and the style of champagne glass that is used with Cold Duck in champagne fountains.
For drinking, the flute is far superior. The flute shape keeps the sparkling wine cold longer, and the reduced surface area around the rim keeps the wine bubbly longer. Besides, the bubbles look better rising up through the length of the flute.
(2) White Wine Glasses
The bowls for all white wine glass are all essentially the same. The volume ranges from a little less than 12 ounces to just over 13 ounces and all the bowls are slightly tulip shaped.
A volume of about 12 ounces means that you can add 3 to 4 ounces of wine and fill only 1/3 of the volume of the glass. The empty space provides a space for the vapors to collect and be concentrated by the slight tulip shape for you to smell when you drink the wine. Pouring 3 to 4 ounces means that there are about 7 “pours” in a bottle. Also, keeping the wine in the bottle rather than the glass keeps it colder.
(3) Pinot Noir Glasses and (4) Other Red Wine Glasses
There are two general types of red wine glasses based on function: glasses for Pinot Noir and glasses for all other red wines.
Pinot Noir glasses have an exaggerated tulip shape, sometimes called a balloon. The other red wine glasses are taller and have a more slender tulip shape. (It is a Laurel and Hardy thing.) The exaggerated tulip shape of the Pinot Noir glasses concentrate the aromas coming off the “pool” of Pinot contained in the wide part of the bowl. The delicate Pinot aromas need the extra surface area and space that most of the other red wines do not require.
Glass Composition and Break-Resistant Glasses
Shape is only one of three things to consider when selecting wine glasses. The other two important things to consider are the cost of the glass and the type of “glass” used to make the glass. The price is an obvious consideration, but the type of glass may not be. Not all glass is created equal. The best glass for a wine glass is crystal. Traditionally crystal was made by adding lead oxide to the molten glass. The resulting mixture was easier to cut and sparkled more than regular glass.
However, modern wine glasses are made without the addition of lead. Studies have shown that significant quantities of lead are leached from the crystal into the beverage stored in them.
There are now other, better options. For example, Schott Zwiesel, a European wine glass manufacturer offers a line of glasses that are break resistant. The Forte glass series are about $8 each, retail and are also “dishwasher safe”. These are important considerations, because most wines glasses are broken when they are being cleaned or put away.
Lower Price and Discount Glasses
A few words about price — be frugal, not cheap. Well-made wine glasses made from the type of glass that you want cost a minimum of $8 to $10 each, retail.
But that does not mean that you have to pay that much. Wine glasses are frequently available at a discount by the case from your local wine dealer or from bulk discounters on the internet. However, when you look for replacement glasses, they may not be available.
Which Glass to Get If You Only Want One Type
If you can only purchase one style of glasses to get started, we suggest that you use a large white wine glass, at least 13 ounces or a small red wine glass, about 18 ounces. These glasses will work for general tasting, happy hour, or dinner. As time, money, or space permit, you can add other types.