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What is a Wine Glass?

By Lou Paun
Updated Jan 24, 2024
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Any glass used for drinking wine could be called a wine glass, but the term is more properly used for glasses used only for wine and designed to both emphasize the quality of the wine and enhance the drinker’s pleasure. Every wine glass has a bowl, a stem, and a foot.

The shape of the bowl of the wine glass influences the scent of the wine, concentrating the aroma to increase the drinker’s enjoyment by enhancing the flavor of the wine. The senses of smell and taste are very closely related, and perception of one changes perception of the other. In general, the opening of a wine glass will be smaller than the widest part of the bowl.

The stem of the wine glass is important because it helps to preserve the ideal temperature of the wine as it is being drunk. When a wine glass is held by the stem, warm fingers never touch the bowl, so the wine remains at its ideal serving temperature as it is drunk. This is important, because the temperature of a wine changes its flavor. Stemless wine glasses are not favored by connoisseurs.

At a formal dinner, where a different wine is served with each course, the table will be set with many wine glasses in a variety of styles. There are four basic styles of wine glass, used for serving red wine, white wine, sparkling wine, and fortified or aromatic wine.

Red wine is served in a wine glass that has a wide, rounded bowl, giving the wine plenty of room to “breathe” and develop its full aroma and flavor. Burgundy glasses have the widest bowls and are used for subtle wines like Pinot Noir. Bordeaux glasses are a little smaller and taller, and are suited for full-bodied red wine.

White wine is served in a narrower glass with straight sides. The shape helps the chilled wine maintain its temperature. Sparkling wines are served in a champagne flute or a champagne coupe, although the flute is more popular today. The coupe, a saucer-shaped stemmed glass, was first seen around 1660 in England. The flute is a stemmed wine glass with a very narrow, elongated bowl. This shape helps to retain the bubbles in sparkling wines.

Sherry and port, as well as liqueurs and aperitifs, are served in a small tulip-shaped wine glass. The narrow, tapering bowl increases the intensity of the wine’s aroma.

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