Balloon wine glasses are a type of wine glass, usually used to drink red wines, that are characterized by an almost spherical shape that is much more rounded than other types of wine glass. The shape of the glass itself is what determines whether a glass is a balloon wine glass or not. Some people mistakenly believe that the presence or absence of a stem affects the classification of a glass as a balloon wine glass.
Red and white wines are traditionally served in different types of glasses. A wine glass consists of three sections: the bowl, the stem, and the foot. Red wine glasses typically have bowls that are more rounded in shape than white wine glasses, allowing more air to come in contact with the wine. The complex aromas and flavors of red wines benefit from contact with the air, and the rounded bowl collects aromas so they may be enjoyed by the drinker. Balloon wine glasses have very wide, rounded bowls to maximize this effect.
Within the group of glasses used for red wines, a variety of shapes exist. Glasses for wines with a fuller body, like those for Cabernet Sauvignon, tend to have a slightly taller, less rounded shape than other red wine glasses, although they are still more rounded than white wine glasses. Burgundy glasses are intended for more delicate red wines, like burgundy and pinot noir. They have a broader, more rounded shape than other red wine glasses to allow for more of the aromas of these wines to collect within the glass. Balloon wine glasses are similar in shape to burgundy glasses and are suited to the same types of more delicate red wines.
In 2011, stemless wine glasses, often called wine tumblers are a popular trend in wine glasses. This latter term is somewhat misleading as stemless wine glasses in no way resemble the type of glass most often called a tumbler, which is a tall, nearly cylindrical glass with slightly tapering sides that is used for certain cocktails and soft drinks. Stemless balloon wine glasses have become popular because their shape encourages the drinker to hold them in the palm of their hand, slightly warming the wine and releasing more of its aromas and flavors.