To the casual wine drinker, the shape of the wine glass probably doesn’t matter much. They can get by with a single set of glasses that they pull out for reds, whites, or that new rosé, and have a perfectly enjoyable evening. But for the budding wine enthusiast, using the right wine glass can make all the difference in the world. Suddenly you’ll be able to smell and taste all those gorgeous subtleties so often described by sommeliers.
Wine Glass Basics
Wine glasses have three main parts: the bowl, the stem, and the base. Each of these may vary, but the shape and size of the bowl is the key to matching the glass to the wine. Why is this?
- Wine surface area. A wider bowl provides a greater surface area, allowing for more evaporation and interaction between wine and air.
- Aroma delivery. The shape and size of the bowl also determines how aroma vapors are trapped and how they meet your nose.
- Temperature control. It’s easier to keep wine cooler if the bowl is smaller.
- Smoothness. Wines may taste smoother from a glass with a wider mouth.
So, where do you begin in building your stemware collection? Here we present nine of our favorite wine glass sets arranged by category.
Nine of Our Favorite Wine Glasses
We recommend picking up at least one set for reds, whites, champagnes, rosés, and dessert wines. Of course the best thing is to build a deeper collection based on your favorite styles. Until you know what those are, these wine glasses will help you explore all the possibilities.
Red Wine Glasses
Red wine glasses tend to have larger bowls and wider mouths. This allows a greater surface area for the wine to interact with oxygen, which brings out fruitiness and tempers tannins.
1. Nachtmann Red Wine Glasses
This set of four red wine glasses is an excellent starter set for any wine enthusiast. They’re beautiful, affordable, and the perfect size for reds. In an age where stemless wine glasses are becoming more common, we also love the long stems.
These crystal glasses are also exquisitely crafted. Nachtmann is a division of Riedel, which makes some of our favorite stemware.
2. Riedel VINUM Bordeaux Glasses
Riedel also makes varietal-specific wine glasses which are wonderful for exploring particular styles that you love. This VINUM series is an excellent step up, offering a more nuanced tasting experience without breaking the bank. These generously-sized glasses are perfect for bolder reds, such as Cabernet Sauvignons and Merlots.
3. Riedel VINUM Syrah Glasses
For enjoying a Syrah, we recommend this set from the Riedel VINUM series. The shape highlights the tannins for a better overall balance with the fruitiness of this style. Winemakers in regions specializing in Syrahs contributed to the design of this stemware to showcase the style brilliantly.
White Wine Glasses
Smaller bowls are better for white wines since they maintain cooler temperatures and keep the surface of the wine closer to the nose. They beautifully accentuate the floral notes of white wines.
Full-bodied whites like Viogniers and Chardonnays tend to shine in white wine glasses with slightly wider bowls. These are still smaller than those of your typical red wine glass, of course.
4. Nachtmann Vivendi White Wine Glasses
Just like the set of red wine glasses from Nachtmann, they’re as beautiful as they are affordable. These, plus a lovely bottle of white wine, make a thoughtful gift for a new wine lover.
5. Riedel VINUM Sauvignon Blanc Glasses
These Riedel VINUM glasses are specifically balanced for enjoying Sauvignon Blancs and other lighter white wines. They’ll bring out the floral aromas so you can appreciate the delicate nuances with every glass.
These come in sets of two but are priced so well that once you taste the difference, you’ll likely replace your starter white wine glasses with them.
Champagne and Sparkling Wine Glasses
Champagnes and sparkling wines also taste quite different depending on the shape of the glass. Overall, these glasses have longer, slimmer bowls than glasses for reds or whites. Champagne flutes are the most recognizable variants, but the others vary in bowl shape. Tulips have wider bowls that enhance fruitier sparkling wines, for example.
6. Nachtmann Champagne Glasses
Just a few sets of these Nachtmann champagne glasses and you’ll be ready for your next celebration. Once again, Nachtmann offers an elegant and affordable option for adding to your collection. These come in sets of four, and while they are delicate, they’re remarkably sturdy for champagne glasses.
7. Riedel VINUM Champagne Glasses
If you prefer champagne glasses with a more classic, straight-edged silhouette, this set from the VINUM collection is for you. Much like the Nachtmann series, these are very sturdy. Many people cringe at the thought of putting champagne glasses in the dishwasher, but many users report safely sending these through. (We still wash all ours by hand.)
While rosés are more reminiscent of whites in appearance, they’re better in slightly wider bowls than white wine glasses traditionally have. While there are no hard and fast rules about serving them, specialty glasses for rosés can accentuate the aromas.
8. Riedel Rose Wine Glasses
This set of rosé glasses from Riedel is from their See, Smell, Taste (SST) series which also optimizes the tasting experience for different varietals. The bowl allows plenty of room for aromas to develop and add depth to every sip.
Dessert and Fortified Wine Glasses
Glasses for dessert wines and fortified wines vary as much as the wines themselves. Some are more decorative than practical, but as with all wines, the glass can make a substantial difference in what you can smell and taste. We recommend just picking up a few of these for the specialty wines you like.
9. Riedel VINUM Port Glasses
These beauties from Riedel are our favorites for drinking port, bringing out its sweetness and rich fruitiness. The small, narrow mouth helps minimize evaporation since the alcohol content is high. Although they’re small, they have an excellent weight in your hand, too.