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How Many Wine Glasses Do I Need?

One common myth about wine is that you need special wine glasses for each different kind of wine. It is not, however, a wine myth that a lot of people adhere to — probably because so few people can afford to have different wine glasses for each kind of wine. Unfortunately, this seems to create a backlash in which people decide that if they aren’t going to have different glasses for each wine, then any old glass is good enough for drinking wine. A little wine glass moderation is needed here.

Wine Glass Shape is Most Important

It’s true that there are wine glasses which have been designed to bring out the best qualities of particular wines, but it’s not necessary to have all those wine glasses for all the wines you drink. Much more important is to have wine glasses that are generally the right shape for the wines you drink. This is why it’s important to not become discouraged over not having specialized wine glasses for all different sorts of wines and not give up on having decent wine glasses at all.

The basic shape for a proper wine glass is tulip-shaped: the wine glass should have a broad bowl that narrows at the top. The broad bowl allows air to mix with the wine, releasing the wine’s aromas which are actually the basis for much of what you taste. The narrow lip concentrates the aromas for your nose and delivers the wine itself to the right place in your mouth. The wine glass stem allows you to hold the glass without heating up the wine with your hand.

As a general rule, red wines should be drunk from glasses with a larger bowl and white wines should be drunk from glasses with a smaller bowl. Sparkling wines, of course, should be drunk from flutes. This means you can reliably get the most from your wines with a simple collection of just three types of wine glasses: larger red wine glasses with broad bowls, smaller white wine glasses with narrower bowls, and a set of champagne flutes. If you want to expand a little bit beyond that you can consider two types of red wine glasses because some reds benefit more from really large bowls, but it’s not absolutely necessary and you won’t have to spend a fortune on glassware before you can take your first sip of wine.

Do Specialized Wine Glasses Have Any Advantages?

Although it isn’t necessary to have lots of specialized wine glasses for different wines, this doesn’t mean that specialized wine glasses are useless. Those specialized wine glasses are not made to just part wine drinkers from their money (though it does have that effect) but because different wines have different characteristics which can be emphasized or de-emphasized based on how the wine glass is designed.

Wine glasses will larger bowls will aerate the wine more then glasses with narrow bowls; this will improve some wines but harm others. Wine glasses with a smaller diameter rim will deliver the wine to a different part of the tongue than glasses with a larger diameter rim; once again, this will improve some wines but harm others. The same is also true depending on whether the rim of the wine glass has a straight or curled edge. Thus the same wine glass can make a Pinot Noir taste even better but a Chardonnay taste awful.

If money is no object for you, then you may end up getting a lot of different specialized wine glasses and if you use them properly you will get a lot of benefit out of them. For the rest of us, though, the large cost simply isn’t worth the relatively small benefits — a good set of general red, white, and sparkling wine glasses will provide what we need.

The one exception to this principle is if there is a particular wine which you already enjoy above all others. If you’re the sort of person who always gravitates to Pinot Noir or who strives to become an expert on Rieslings, and thus buy and drink far more of one particular wine than all others, then it would behoove you to look at specialized wine glasses for that favorite wine. You’ll come to understand the complex nature of your favorite wine much better if you use glasses designed to present that wine in the best possible light.


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