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Pairing Your Wine with the Perfect Glass

by  Greg B. C. Shaw on April 13, 2014
Pairing Your Wine with the Perfect Glass

Your next important wine purchase might be the glasses you're drinking it in. The proper wine glass is designed to play off of several senses and enhance the look, smell and taste of the wine. A wine glass even enhances the sense of touch as it should feel a certain way in your hand. Outside of the immediate senses, a wine glass adds to the atmosphere of wine drinking and makes any sip of wine special. Beefing up your wine glass collection will add power and elegance to any gathering where wine is served. 

There are four basic styles to round out your wine stemware sets. Purchasing all of these at once can be expensive, but with incremental upgrades you will eventually have the proper glasses for red (two types), white and sparkling wine.

In general, it is worth investing in glasses that are well-made and large enough to hold the wine properly. This does not mean they have to cost a fortune, but going for the smallest, cheapest glasses will not do the wine justice. A good glass is necessary for quality wine, and a good glass will even make budget wine seem better.  

Aroma and bouquet are a vital part of wine and a wine glass should have a bowl large enough so that the wine will fill only approximately a third of the glass. This allows the wine aromas to fill the bowl and with each sip your nose is doing more tasting than your mouth. Besides adding to the enjoyment of the wine, glasses this size look elegant, making a pleasing visual appearance. Small glasses filled to the rim with wine do not allow for the aromas to collect and you and your guests will lose out on the most important aspects of tasting the wine.  

The glasses you're looking for will be about ten inches in height with bowl sizes holding between 20 and 30 ounces. Glass this size take up a good amount of storage space and if you plan to use a dishwasher to clean them, invest in quality glass stemware rather than crystal.

The first glass set to purchase is for red Bordeaux. These are the most versatile wine glasses and a quality set will allow you to serve almost any wine, although they are best for cabernet and merlot. You can also use these for most other red wines, including tempranillo, zinfandel, sangiovese and syrah.

Follow that with a set of flutes for sparkling wine which are preferable to the Champagne coup glasses. Flutes concentrate the bubbles of sparkling wine which are a major part of the wine's visual and tactile appeal.

As you expand, you will also want a set of Chablis/chardonnay glasses (similar to the red Bordeaux glass, but the bowl is not as wide). These will work for all of your white wines. Finally, a set of red Burgundy glasses (distinctive for the very wide bowl) are for pinot noir. You can also use this glass for barbera, nebbiolo, dolcetto and rosé wines.  

A set of four glasses can cost anywhere from $50 to $500. Riedel is the most well-known name in wine stemware and their Vinum series sells for about $30 a glass ($60 for a box of two glasses). Visit the Riedel website to get a visual of each of the basic glass types, even if you're not ready to spend the $125 per glass for their Sommelier series. The Wine Enthusiast website also carries many brands of wine stemware and the website offers a 15% discount on your first purchase.

If you have wine-related questions, please send them to Greg Shaw at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.and the subject line: Cuisine Noir - The Pairing Weekly.

Greg B. C. Shaw

Greg B. C. Shaw

Dr. Greg Shaw is an assistant professor with the Department of Recreation, Parks and Tourism Administration at California State University, Sacramento, and the co-author of a book chapter, Tourism in A Bottle: The California Winescape. full bio

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