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How to choose the right wine glass?

Updated: May 20, 2020

Different shaped wine glasses lined up side-by-side.

Amazingly, you could use a different size and shape of wine glass for each type of wine. Is it necessary? No. Luckily you don’t have to go down that path if you choose not to.

There are a few paths you can take for your wine glass selection:

  1. No fuss – one glass for all approach

  2. Slightly sophisticated – one glass for red and one for white

  3. High maintenance – several red shapes and several whites shapes for each type of wine you enjoy

  4. Easy handling – stemless wine glasses

Follow these tips and insights to choose the right wine glass, given your particular situation.

Anatomy of a Wine Glass

Let’s quickly identify the anatomy of a glass to make sure there isn’t any confusion with terminology.

Wine glass with diagram of Wine Glass Anatomy. The very top edge is the rim. The bowl goes from the rim to the stem. The stem is the tubular glass that is meant for holding the wine glass with your hands. The foot is the flat disc that the wine glass stands on when placed on a table.

The bowl and rim become wider or narrower depending on the wine it should hold. These variations are designed to bring out the best aromas and tastes of each type of wine.

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1. No Fuss – Universal Wine Glass

The universal wine glass is a legitimate option, if you don’t have much storage space or you don’t want to invest a lot of money in wine glasses.

As the name implies, universal wine glasses work well for both white and red wine. The best wine glasses will have a thin, cut rim not a rolled rim. The thin rim is less distracting as you taste your wine.

Select a Universal Wine Glass. Images showing a thin cut rim and a rolled rim.

2. Slightly Sophisticated – One for Red and One for White

If you enjoy both red and white wine on a regular basis and you have the storage space, why not have one size on hand for each.

The red wine glass will have a larger bowl to allow more surface area of the wine to come in contact with the air. This helps the wine to open up.

White wine glasses will have a narrower bowl because white wine doesn’t need much oxygenation to open up. You will also find the white wine glass has a narrower rim to direct the aromas up and out of the glass to enhance the entire tasting experience.

1 white & 1 red wine glass. Universal red glass is the shape of the Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon glasses. Universal white glass is the shape of the Chardonnay glasses.

Consider the number of guests you usually have over and what type of wine you usually serve to decide how many glasses you’ll need. These beautifully shaped Spieglau Universal Red and White Wine Glasses from are a great solution and at a reasonable price too.

3. High Maintenance – Several Shapes for Red and White

If you are really into wine and have the space, you could have several shapes for red and white wine on hand. Consider the types of wine you drink the most and look for those particular wine glasses.

I admit we have gone down this route and have glasses shaped for Pinot Noir which have an extra wide bowl and narrow rim. We also have glasses shaped for Cabernet Sauvignon that have a wide bowl and wide rim. That doesn’t mean we only drink those two types of red wine. We will use the Pinot Noir glasses for the lighter reds and the Cabernet glasses for the heavier reds. So, while being high maintenance it can also be versatile.

3 Red Wine glass shapes designed for Pinot Noir (extra large bowl with narrow rim) Merlot & Cabernet Sauvignon (wide bowl with narrow rim) & Syrah/Shiraz (narrow & tall bowl with medium rim opening).

  • Lighter reds work well with the Pinot Noir glass shape.

  • Reds with more tannin work well with the Merlot/Cab shape.

  • Full-bodied, fruit-forward wines work well with the Syrah shape.

For the white wines, we use one shape for the lighter whites like Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc that have a small bowl and narrow rim. The heavier whites like Chardonnay work well in a glass with a small bowl and wide rim.

2 white wine glasses. The wine glass for Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc is taller with a narrower bowl than the Chardonnay wine glass.

  • Light-bodied whites work well with the Riesling / Sauvignon Blanc glass shape.

  • Full-bodied whites work well with the Chardonnay glass shape.

4. Easy Handling – Stemless

Wine glasses have stems because that is where you are meant to hold the wine. It keeps the wine from warming up too much. Remember the post about wine serving temperature? This is an important factor when enjoying wine.

So, remember when you hold a stemmed wine glass, don’t hold the bowl of the glass. While this is an easier way to hold a glass, our hands warm up the wine too quickly.

Stemless wine glasses are more of a convenience. They don’t take up as much room and they are easier to wash while minimizing the hazard of breakage.

The stemless glasses are also more stable to handle while using them. However, the wine will warm up more quickly as the glass is handled. Consider filling the glass with less wine each time and place the glass on the table when not drinking from it. This could help minimize that warm up factor.

Stemless red wine glass that is taller with a larger bowl next to a stemless white wine glass that is shorter with a smaller bowl.

True confession, we have switched to stemless and have several shapes in the Stemless Riedel Wine Glasses. So, what does that make our wine glass profile – high maintenance, but think we are low maintenance perhaps? Our stemless wine glasses appall some of our hardcore wine friends and they tease us about it. Luckily, we still have a few stemmed glasses that we bring out when they visit.


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