(Photo: Tetra Images via Getty Images)
If you’ve made even the slightest effort to shop for wine glasses recently, you know the options are seemingly endless and the whole ordeal can be a bit confusing. There’s stemware and stemless; glasses shaped specifically for red, white or sparkling wine; and even more derivations beyond that. Truthfully, we wouldn’t be surprised if you abandoned your search with no wine glasses in hand, but lots of questions you didn’t even know you had.
With so many different types of wine glasses available, settling on just one can be seriously overwhelming. It also leaves many people wondering: Does the type of wine glass you use even matter?
To find out, we reached out to a few people who work in the wine world and would know best. It turns out there are many different opinions floating around about glassware, even among wine experts.
Here’s what you need to know.
Does it matter what type of wine glass you use?
The answer to this question depends a lot on what kind of wine drinker you are. If you’re a serious wine drinker who’s interested in deciphering nuances of flavor, then the type of wine glass absolutely matters, said Kara Flaherty, a certified sommelier and the beverage director at restaurant group Take Root Hospitality. But more casual and novice wine drinkers don’t need to stress about wine glasses.
Erica Taylor, a sommelier, wine marketer and educator, said that glassware helps people fully experience the wine they’re drinking. This includes noticing the wine’s flavors and aromas, and the way it hits your palate.
If you’re drinking wine for the alcohol content alone, you could chug it right out of the bottle, she said. However, if you’re after that full experience, you’ll want to put a bit of thought into your glassware choices.
Paul Lysek, service manager at Safta in Denver, Colorado, is of the belief that drinking wine is about enjoyment and fun, and it doesn’t really matter what type of wine glass you use.
“The most important element is loving what’s in the bottle — glassware is only a vehicle for that,” Lysek said. “If drinking wine out of a coffee mug makes you happy or if you love collecting top-tier, hand-blown glassware, there is never a wrong way to enjoy your favorite bottle of vino.”
What type of wine glass should you use?
Each type of wine glass has subtle differences designed to draw out the flavors and aromas of different styles of wine. Let’s start simple with the main differences between red wine glasses and white wine glasses.
“White wine glasses have a smaller bowl meant to preserve the aromatics, highlight acidity and keep the wine cooler,” Taylor said. “Red wine glasses have larger bowls to allow more air [to come] in contact with the wine to highlight the aromas and mitigate perception of higher alcohol.”
Beyond red versus white wine glasses, here are a few of the most common types of wine glasses you might come across, with some tips for when to use them.
Also known as a universal wine glass, all-purpose wine glasses will get the job done no matter what type of wine you’re drinking. If you’re looking to go minimal with just one type of wine glass that works for everything, this is a solid choice. These are great for white wines, Flaherty said, but you can use them for red wine, too.
A Burgundy glass is shaped like a big, round fish bowl at the bottom. (Photo: Jay's photo via Getty Images)
“These are the ones that kind of look like big fish bowls on the bottom,” Flaherty said. They have a wider and larger bowl than Bordeaux wine glasses and then taper up towards the rim of the glass, which allows the wine drinker to notice more delicate and fine flavors. These work well for lighter red wines, like Gamay and pinot noir.
Bordeaux glasses are a large and tall style of red wine glass, with minimal tapering toward the rim. The shape of the glass helps you experience the wine’s flavor and aromas. These are a good choice for drinking full-bodied red wines, like cabernet sauvignon and merlot.
Champagne flutes — you know, the ones you use to make a toast at a wedding — are slender and tall. Champagne glasses are celebratory and can be used for any type of sparkling wine. The narrow and elongated shape helps keep your wine nice and bubbly.
But there’s a caveat: The shape of the glass makes it hard to smell the wine, which can actually disguise the flavor a bit. “Think about how if you plug your nose and you eat something, you can’t really taste it,” Flaherty said. “That’s kind of what you’re doing when you use a flute.”
For optimal bubbles and aromatics, Taylor recommends a tulip-shaped champagne glass. If you’re considering a coupe glass, you may want to rethink that ― a coupe isn’t ideal for drinking sparkling wine.
“A coupe glass may look sexy, but it causes too much of the wine to be in contact with the air causing the aromas to run away and the bubbles fall flatter sooner,” she said.
Is it OK to use a stemless wine glass?
This is another matter of preference. If you are drawn to stemless glasses, go for it. If you prefer a stem, that works, too. For casual wine drinkers, stemless wine glasses are totally fine, but some experts are in favor of wine glasses with a stem.
Holding the glass by the bowl can cause your wine to warm up more quickly, “which changes the aromatics and experience,” Taylor said. “If you hold a white wine by the bowl it will warm up and then you might feel the need to add ice, which dilutes the flavors and aromas.”
Stemless glassware is a good option for anyone who tends to knock over their glassware. (Photo: Sabine Scheckel via Getty Images)
If you only want to buy one type of wine glass, what should you get?
Taylor recommended that you think about the type of wine you drink most, and buy wine glasses based on that. “If you are a person who mostly drinks big bold reds at home, buy that kind of glass,” she said. “If you love crisp whites and rosés but rarely drink a big bold cab, go for what [fits] your drinking preferences.”
You can also go with an all-purpose or universal glass. “If you’re going to buy one type, all-purpose would be the one to get,” Flaherty said.
Is there anything wrong with drinking wine out of a mug or tumbler?
A lot of this really comes down to personal preference, so if that’s what you prefer, go for it. “If you feel safe and more comfortable drinking your wine out of a coffee mug, do it,” Flaherty said. “It’s not going to destroy the wine, by any means.”
Wine glasses can elevate the flavors and aromas of your wine, which can be helpful if you’re a wine connoisseur or trying to learn more about wine. But if you’re just trying to enjoy a glass of wine without diving deep into all of its nuances, reach for whatever type of drinking vessel you like best.
“At the end of the day, however you enjoy wine is the right way to enjoy wine,” Taylor said.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.