Glassware: Does it Make a Difference Where Wine Is Concerned?

Do glasses make the wine? The answer is both yes and no. Winemakers make the wine with the intent of the wine tasting a certain way, but it’s the proper glass that allows that wine to taste exactly as the winery and vintner intended. You might even be surprised to learn exactly what wine glass characteristics affect the taste of a wine and how they affect the taste.

Here at RayLen Vineyards, a Yadkin Valley Winery in NC, we know all too well how these glasses affect wine. As an amateur wine connoisseur you will want to know how glassware affects wine too.

Stemware, NOT Stemless

A shocking trend in wine glasses in recent years cuts the stems off of wine glasses. Stemless glassware is growing in popularity, and many vintners and wineries are keeping their stemmed glassware. The reason for this is that the stem in a wineglass is where you hold the glass. Only the stem of the glass is warmed by your touch, leaving the wine to swirl in your glass at the perfect serving temperature.

If you have stemless wine glasses, either get rid of them or use them for something other than wine. Putting wine in these glasses is akin to setting your wine on a warm stove. The heat from your hands holding the bowl of the glass heats the wine and makes it taste unpleasant. The longer you hold that stemless glass of wine in your hands at a party, the worse the wine will taste. Show your wine some love and respect and don’t serve the wine in stemless glasses.

Red Wines Need a Big Glass

Red wines tend to have a lot of acidity to them. This means that you need to leave them breathe and gather more oxygen before you drink them. Serving a red wine in a skinny glass or in a wine glass with a very narrow top and small bowl prevents a red wine from “breathing.” Then you get a lot more of that backbite reds are known for, and you should be getting a smoother, silkier feel on the back palate when you drink it. Put that red wine in a big bowled glass and leave it sit for at least ten minutes before you swirl and sip.

White Wines Need Small, Cold Bowls and Narrow Tops

People tend to chill wines in a bucket of ice. Not all wines should be chilled, and in the case of a white wine, you should chill the glass instead of the wine. Refrigerate your white wine glasses before pouring the wine and serving. Additionally, white wine should be served in glasses with smaller bowls and narrower tops, but you should never serve a typical, non-sparkling white wine in a fluted glass. A white wine still needs to breathe, but not as much as a red.

Champagne or Sparkling White Wine

It is quite typical to serve champagne in a fluted glass, but anybody who has ever actually done this will notice two things about champagne in a flute. One, the fizziness in the champagne tends to cause it to overflow the glass and lose some of that elegant drink over the rim; what a waste! Two, the bubbles of champagne will almost always fizzle out quickly in a fluted glass because the oxygen can’t get to the bubbles and the bubbles can’t continue without oxygen.

Your best bet for this type of alcoholic party beverage, and one that RayLen Vineyards recommends, is a champagne wine glass. You probably didn’t even know that such a thing existed, but it does. It is narrower than the big bowls and rims of red wine glasses, but bigger and wider where it counts than white wine glasses. If you are not sure which type of glass is which, ask a vintner for a visual guide to help you buy the correct glasses for your home.


There are actually two types of glasses for rosés. If it is considered a “young” rosé, you drink it out of a flared crystal glass to add faceted light to this pink wine and help it breathe well. The flared lip allows you to taste the sweetness on the tip of your tongue where your sweet taste buds are located.

If the wine is considered an “old” rosé and has been maturing for more than a few years, you serve it in a bowled glass that tapers slightly into the stem with no visible lip. Like a red wine, this aged rosé needs to breathe, and this type of glass does the job quite well.

More Unusual Wine Glasses

It is less common for people to drink sherry or Montrachet, but there are actually specialty glasses for these particular beverages. The sherry glass is small, tulip-shaped, and offers just a few sips, as sherry is served as a dessert wine and tends to be very sweet. Montrachet glasses are short-stemmed with large bowls to give the Montrachet plenty of room to breathe and release its sweeter and more complex notes.

Many other glasses from the stemmed glassware family are rarely seen because of the specialty drinks served in them. However, it reflects class, a vast knowledge of wine, and a certain amount of sophistication when you know exactly which glass is for which alcoholic beverage. If you really love wines, then learn your glasses as you learn about wines.