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How Many Wine Glasses Do You Really Need?

How many wine glasses you need depends on a number of factors. A serious hobbyist might have a different glass shape for several different wines – burgundy/pinot noir, cabernet/Bordeaux, chardonnay, sherry/port and champagne glasses, to name a few. Purchasing sets of this many different shapes could get expensive rather quickly. So how many does the average wine lover really need?

For a good everyday glass that can be used for red or white wine, look for an all-purpose goblet-style glass with a stem long enough so that your hand doesn’t touch the bowl unless you choose to, and with a bowl wider than the rim. The glass should be thin rather than thick, and the glass should hold a minimum of 12 ounces. Libbey and Spiegalau are just two lines that have a good all-purpose glass. Crate & Barrel and Costco also offer other brands.

Once you begin enjoying wine a little more, however, you might want to have at least two styles of glasses – one for red wines and one for white wines. The most basic difference in wine glass shape is the size of the bowl. A red wine glass – whether Bordeaux or Burgundy, will have a larger bowl than a white wine glass or a champagne flute. Size of the glass follows from that – white wine glasses are generally smaller than red wine glasses. For red wines, look for a glass that is at least 12 ounces – this will allow you to give it a good swirl. I prefer a larger glass – 16 ounces or more – because I like to swirl and smell the wine.

Swirling aerates the wine, allowing it to come into contact with oxygen, thus releasing aromas. Red wine glasses have larger bowls so you can get your nose down in there. Much of what you perceive as taste is actually smell, so this is an important component in tasting wine.

For white wine, 10 to 12 ounces will suffice. You can go smaller, but small glasses can be difficult to handle for a large-handed person. Another reason that these are smaller is because white wine is chilled – the less wine in your glass, the more likely you are to drink it before it warms.

A typical Bordeaux glass will serve you well as a red wine glass. A Chardonnay glass will serve you well as a general-purpose white wine glass. You will also want to have champagne flutes. These specially designed glasses are tall and slim, allowing those gorgeous bubbles room to fizz up.

If you expand your wine glass collection further, add a Burgundy/Pinot Noir glass to your collection. These will have bigger bowls and small rims than the Bordeaux glass. A Burgundy is a more delicate wine than a Bordeaux, so this will help concentrate the aromas.

Beyond these basics, look for a style you like, make sure the glass is thin rather than thick, and choose glasses that fit your budget. There are dozens in every price range. If you’re just starting out, a set of four white wine glasses and four red wine glasses should suffice. Add the champagne flutes next, and then add the second type of red wine glass. Adjust your collection as fits your personal taste. For instance, if you find during your wine appreciation journey that your favorite varietal is Riesling, then purchase a set of glasses designed for that. A glass designed for Riesling or other delicate white wines will have to be narrower and taller than a chardonnay glass in order to concentrate the aromas. These glasses are also usually smaller than a chardonnay glass.

Claus J. Riedel is considered the first glass designer to recognize that aromas and flavors of wine are affected by the shape of the glass. In the late 1950s and 1960s he began to produce thin, unadorned glasses that were shaped to enhance and harmonize specific varietals. Based on the idea of “form follows function,” he revolutionized stemware design.

Today, Riedel wine glasses are considered to be the finest in the world. They are available in various collections. The Sommelier collection has about a dozen shapes. This collection is likely overkill for all but the most avid collector, but the reasoning behind the differences in shape makes sense. For instance, it includes a Sauvignon Blanc glass that is taller than the Chardonnay glass to allow the aromas to collect in the upper portion, a Zinfandel glass that is slimmer than the Bordeaux and Burgundy styles, and a Sauternes glass that has a wide, sharply-angled bowl to accommodate the heavy and sweeter aromas of this dessert wine.

Your wine glass collection can be as simple or as elaborate as you choose. Consider the wines you drink most often, the styles your prefer and your budget, and go from there.

 

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