Clear some shelf space… this is the ultimate guide to wine glasses

Turns out wine glasses do more than just hold your favourite drop.

You’ve probably had every type of wine glass placed in front of you at some point. But, have you ever thought about the impact the glass choice has on how your wine tastes? Turns out wine glasses don’t just look pretty – each one serves a specific purpose. There’s plenty of chitchat out there about how much of an impact it actually makes and whether the regular wine drinker should care – but there are certainly cases where the shape of the glass can completely transform the taste and, if only for the fun of scientific experimentation, it’s worth exploring.

Remember, wine can be enjoyed any way you like. Even though it might be a bit harder to swirl a cabernet sauvignon in a mug, if that’s what you’re into, go for it. And if you’ve been thinking about upgrading your wine glass collection, starting a collection, or want to explore the effects of pinot noir poured into a Burgundy glass, then read on.



Red wine glassware

If you’ve ever heard people bang on about letting red wine ‘breathe’, then you may know that’s the reason red glasses are generally the widest type. Giving that tasty red more surface area and some extra space to aerate will help open up its flavours and aromas. The most traditional red wine glass is for your Bordeaux or cabernet sauvignon – these wines tend to be high in tannin, so pouring them into a large bowl with more height creates more distance between the wine and your mouth, allowing more oxygen and encouraging those tannins to soften. A shiraz glass is slightly taller with more of a tapered rim; it’s designed to focus the fruit and, again, help mellow those bold tannins. Then there’s the Burgundy glass. It’s wide with a tapered rim for plenty of aeration and concentration of the delicate aromas in the pinot noir (or similar) you pour into it.

And what of the decanter, you ask? Well, decanters are large pouring glasses used to aerate wine. Your nana probably owns one and you might be a fan, too! Their roomy bowl allows steady streams of oxygen to open up and soften robust, tannin-heavy wines (like cabernet sauvignon and shiraz), while also enhancing  their final flavours.


White wine glassware

You’ll notice that white wine glasses are smaller than red and generally have a narrower U-shape. This helps preserve the more delicate aromas and higher acidity associated with white wine, and helps guide those tasty aromas towards your nose as you sip. Clever! A chardonnay glass has the largest bowl of all the whites to balance out that varietal’s often richer, oaky notes. A typical white wine glass (your sauvignon blancs, pinot grigios or rieslings, for example) are quite narrow to ensure the light, bright flavours aren’t compromised by oxidation. When it comes to rosé, you can get technical and choose your glass based on it being a younger wine. A glass with a flared rim versus the classic U shape directs young wine to the more sensitive parts along the edges of your tongue – hello, flavour town.


Sparkling and Champagne glassware

Turns out a flute isn’t just a super-chic glass you’ve raised and yelled “cheers!” at every wedding you’ve ever attended. It’s functional, too. Did you know its slender, upright shape retains carbonation, helping to keep that bubbles, well, bubbly? It also allows for those delicate flavours typical of Champagne and sparkling to land right on the tip of your tongue when you take a sip.

Another type of glass associated with Champagne is the tulip. It has a unique curved shape (similar to that of the flower) that encourages carbonation to rise to the mouth, but the wider bowl provides more oxygen, which helps release flavours and aromas – perfect for more mature “vintage” Champagne bottles to get the most of their toasty, developed notes.

Turns out, though, you don’t have to drink from a flute or a tulip when you pop a bottle of Champagne. Drinking Champagne from a wider glass rather than a thin flute allows you to experience more of the aromatic spectrum. After all, Champagne is still a type of wine, so if you don’t have any flutes in the cupboard, reach for a white wine glass and you’ll still be able to enjoy that bubbly. In fact, many pros stay away from flutes for exactly this reason. Our suggestion? Try both and explore the difference – it’s pretty wild how much it can change the flavour and aroma.


To stem or not to stem

Again, personal preference prevails when it comes to stemmed versus stemless wine glasses. A lot of people like the idea of stemless glasses because they can be used for other types of drinks (juice, cocktails, a homemade cold brew). Stemless are also less likely to be knocked off the bench when your really expressive friend comes over.

Meanwhile, a stemmed glass has been designed with a few things in mind: firstly, the temperature of the wine is less affected if you hold it by the stem and not your hot little hands, the bowl stays clean (great news for the glass polisher in your house) and a stem lets you get a good swirl going.


Dessert wine glassware

These glasses are short, and designed so your sweet dessert wine hits all the right spots on your tongue. They generally come in two forms: a port glass and a sherry glass, and the aim is to encourage you to savour all the tasty intricacies of classic dessert wine. Port wine glasses are short enough to keep aromas strong while leaving enough room to swirl and open up flavours. A sherry glass’s narrow design directs the wine to the back of your mouth to balance out its sweetness.


Universal wine glasses

Can’t decide? Understandable. If you don’t want to build out your collection, you could always opt for universal wine glasses – you can drink both white and red out of these and they’re designed with this in mind. Really, it comes down to what you fancy, what your budget will allow and how much space you have in your cupboard – having a set for white and for red should cover you. It also never hurts to have the odd flute on hand for celebratory bubbles, or a dessert wine glass for when your sherry-loving Uncle Terry drops in.


Thank you to our friends at Dan Murphy’s and Emily Deacon for educating us in how to enjoy our finest drop!