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The Shape of a Wine Glass

Does it matter?

Posting date: 1st March 2007 17:29

The shape of the glass is very important, as it concentrates the flavour and aroma (or bouquet) to emphasise the varietal's characteristic. The shape of the glass also directs the wine itself into the best area of the mouth for the varietal. In general the opening of the glass is not wider than the widest part of the bowl.

The stem of a glass is an important feature as it provides a way to hold the glass without warming the wine from body heat. It also prevents fingerprints from smearing the glass, and makes the glass easier to swirl. Broadly, wine glasses can be divided into three types: red wine glasses, white wine glasses and champagne flutes.

Red wine glasses

Glasses for red wine are characterised by their rounder, wider bowl, which gives the wine a chance to breathe. Since most reds are meant to be consumed at room temperature, the wider bowl also allows the wine to cool more quickly after hand contact has warmed it. Red wine glasses can have particular styles of their own, such as:

  • Bordeaux glass: Tall with a wide bowl, and is designed for full bodied red wines like Cabernet and Merlot. Ideal for highly tannic red wines of moderate acidity. The rim directs the wine to the centre of the tongue, creating an harmony of fruit, tannin and acidity.
  • Burgundy glass: Larger than the Bordeaux glass, it has a larger bowl to accumulate aromas of more delicate red wines such as Pinot Noir. Perfect for red wines with high acidity and moderate tannin. The rim directs the wine to the tip of the tongue, highlighting the fruit and balancing the naturally high acidity.

White wine glasses

White wine glasses are generally narrower, although not as narrow as champagne flutes, with somewhat straight or tulip-shaped sides. The narrowness of the white wine glass allows the chilled wine to retain its temperature for two reasons;

  • The reduced surface area of the glass (in comparison to red wine glasses) means less air circulating around the glass and warming the wine.
  • The smaller bowl of the glass means less contact between the hand and the glass, and so body heat does not transfer as easily to the wine.

Champagne flutes

Champagne flutes are characterised by a long stem with a tall, narrow bowl on top. The shape is designed to keep sparkling wine desirable during its consumption. The glass is designed to be held by the stem to help prevent the heat from the hand from warming the champagne. The bowl itself is designed in a manner to help retain the signature carbonation in the beverage. This is achieved by reducing the surface area at the opening of the bowl.

Champagne flutes are often used at formal engagements, such as award ceremonies and weddings.

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