How to Choose the Right Glass for Your Vintage
By Rai Cornell
Enjoying wine is an art, if you ask us. There are so many elements that go into making a great wine-drinking experience - like chilling, aerating, swirling, sniffing, and pairing.
Presentation is among the most important factors that affect how you experience each sip of that luscious liquid.
Just as temperature and food pairings affect the experience of drinking wine, so too do the glasses you serve your wine in.
Here’s what you need to know about your wine glass options and when to use each.
Why Size (and Shape) Matters
A glass is not just a glass. The glass you choose for drinking your wine is the tool that channels the elements of the wine to your nose and mouth.
Read any wine description (we’re swooning over the descriptors of this Chardonnay Alto Adige) and you’ll notice adjectives for both the taste and scent of the vintage. That’s because your experience of a wine is affected just as much by the aromas it gives off as the flavors that hit your tongue.
The glass you choose to enjoy your wine affects how you experience the aromas. This is science, not fiction. In fact, a 2015 study conducted in Japan used a two-dimensional imaging system known as a Sniffer-camera (a fitting name) to capture the movement of alcohol vapors escaping from wine.
These vapors behaved quite differently in various glasses. Among other things, the researchers found that alcohol vapors like to hang out around the outside of your glass. This means that a narrow glass like a flute will have a stronger concentration of alcohol vapors near the mouth opening whereas a wide-mouth glass like a coupe will have a lower alcohol concentration where your nose is nearest to your drink.
Let’s check out which glasses are best suited for which wine-tasting experience.
The standard is - you guessed it - your standard wine glass. Standard wine glasses are what most people think of and what most restaurants use to serve red wines. They have a medium-sized foot, a tall stem, and a wide bowl.
With a moderate opening, the standard wine glass is a great middle-of-the-road option when it comes to the concentration of alcohol vapors that will be delivered to your nose with each sip. Unlike a tall and skinny glass like the flute, a standard wine glass allows more ethanol to escape and more oxygen to interact with your wine.
Standard wine glasses are best for medium- and full-bodied red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Nebbiolo.
The coupe is uncommon in our modern world. This style of glass hit the peak of popularity in the 50s as the go-to glass for serving champagne, but has since been bumped out of the ring in favor of the flute.
But we think that’s a mistake.
The coupe has a shallow bowl and a wide mouth, making it perfect for wines that need a lot of air. While the coupe was traded in for the champagne flute because flutes are able to maintain carbonation better over time, a highly carbonated wine isn’t always a good thing.
If you prefer your sparkling wines with a little less bubbles up your nose, reach for a coupe. You’ll be able to enjoy all the great aromas of that sparkling beauty without being distracted by a bunch of buzz.
Of course, we have to give the champagne flute credit where credit is due. Sometimes keeping a tight lid on a wine is a good choice.
Flutes have a narrow mouth and a deep bowl. The bowl of most flutes is actually taller than the stem, giving the glass an elegant, elongated look.
Fluted glasses are superb for wines that should be kept from aeration as much as possible. This includes young and sparkling wines.
Many wine lovers like to use the champagne flute for serving wine-based cocktails such as mimosas and bellinis, as well.
Hock glasses get their name from the antiquated term for German white wine. Naturally, hock glasses are best suited for enjoying white wines, like this home-run 2016 Estola Verdejo.
With a tall stem, moderate bowl, and moderate mouth, hock glasses offer the perfect presentation for those perky whites. You’ll get just enough aeration while still being able to enjoy the frisky aromas wafting off the surface of your wine.
Another benefit of hock glasses is they’re easy to hold by the stem. White wine is commonly served slightly chilled. To keep your wine from warming up, it’s best to hold your glass by the stem. In a standard glass, the bowl can be quite heavy, which makes it difficult to hold by the stem. However, hock glasses are shallower than standard wine glasses which give them better balance in the hand and allow the drinker to enjoy a nice cool white wine longer.
The tulip is the often-overlooked younger sibling of the champagne flute. Tulip glasses, like flutes, are best suited for sparkling wines for their ability to retain carbonation. However, unlike flutes, the slight inward curve at the rim of the glass keeps the bubbles in your beverage from going up your nose and instead sends them bouncing right back into your glass.
Plus, as an added bonus, tulip glasses can typically hold more volume than flutes.
When it comes to sheer looks, we think the tulip glass has something special. The extra inward curve at the top and a more dramatic bowl taper makes tulip glasses an elegant and diverse choice for your stemware collection.
Also known as the stemless wine glass, tumbler glasses are among the most popular purchases for at-home wine drinkers simply due to their contemporary, minimalist style.
While many people use stemless wine glasses for cocktails and wine alike, a word of caution: the stemless glass is not a one-size-fits-all option.
Because the bowl of the stemless wine glass naturally sits snugly in the palm of your hand, your wine is prone to a rising temperature.
If you’re going for the tumbler/stemless style, stick to filling your glass with wines that are friendlier at warmer temperatures such as red wines and save the white and sparkling wines for the hocks and tulips.
Here at VINEBOX, we think there are few things as beautiful as a wine nestled in a beautiful glass. Snap some shots of your favorite wine+glass marriage and share with us on Instagram @getVINEBOX.