I’m often asked, “Do wine glasses actually make a difference in wine tastings?” To their surprise, my answer is always “absolutely!” Learn the best wine tasting glasses for every occasion.
Do Wine Glasses Make a Difference When Tasting?
I often joke that I’m not a wine snob. But, I am a self-proclaimed glassware snob. So much so that I’ve even taken my own wine tasting glasses to house parties. Yep, it’s true. But, it just goes to show how much wine glasses actually matter!
In fact, as surprising as it might sound, there is actually a science behind different wine tasting glasses. And, it has everything to do with smell. The best wine tasting glass is designed to elevate your wine experience by enhancing the aromas. Various studies at UC Davis and around the world have found that the shape of the glass does affect a person’s ability to smell and identify different aromas. Simple, right?
On a related note: Have you heard of “everyday magic?” I’m a big believer in this concept. Everyday magic is the practice of replacing everyday items with their upgraded counterparts. It’s a simple way to bring more joy into our lives and make life that much better. In this case, everyday magic might look like investing in appropriate wine glasses to better your wine tasting (or drinking) experience!
Red vs White Wine Glass: What’s the Difference?
The red vs. white wine glass debate. Is there truly a notable difference between the two wine tasting glasses? As we now know, the short answer is yes. And, science backs it.
To anyone who regularly enjoys wine, the physical differences between red vs white wine glasses are obvious. However, in addition to differences in appearance, their function varies, as well.
Red wine glasses are taller, with a larger bowl, to complement the boldness of many red wines. Scientifically, larger bowls allow more oxygen to enter the wines, so that aromatic compounds can attach to the oxygen and make their way to your nose.
On the other hand, white wine glasses are often shorter, with smaller bowls. Why such a difference? Simply put, white wine does not need as much aeration as red wine– that is, exposure to oxygen. In addition, white wine glasses bare longer stems to prevent body temperature from warming the wine.
Rosé Wine Glasses
Those who prefer a crisp, chilled rosé are not immune to the influences of various wine glasses. In the case of rosé, white wine glasses are often the best solution. Similar to white wine, rosé should be served chilled. A smaller white wine glass, with a long stem, will ensure proper wine temperature while you sip. Referring back to the science of it all, a white wine glass is typically more suited to the delicate aromas of rosé wines.
Sparkling Wine Glasses
If you’re feeling festive or celebratory, sparkling wine or champagne might be an appropriate choice of drink.
While sparkling wine is typically served out of a Champagne flute, many professional winos will recommend drinking your bubbly from a standard white glass. It might sound less festive or fun, but white wine glasses are the most suitable to maximize the flavors and aromas present in sparkling wine. Also, it’s nearly impossible to swirl and sniff wine in a Champagne flute!
If you’re interested in learning more about Sparkling Wine, check out our Complete Guide to Sparkling Wine.
Wine Glasses: Stem vs. No Stem
Now that we’ve settled the red vs white wine glass debate, it’s time for another: stem or no stem? This one is quite simple, really. For serious wine enjoyment, always opt for a stem. The purpose of the stem is to keep fingerprints off the glass and prevent you from inadvertently warming the wine with your hands.
Pro tip: hold your wine glass by the stem, not the bowl!
With that said, if I’m hosting a group of friends for a casual gathering, I typically put my stemless wine glasses to use. In this type of environment, stemless glasses are often easier and more convenient (and easier to wash later!)
So, keep in mind: circumstances matter. I highly recommend owning both options, if you’re planning on doing a lot of tasting.
The Best Wine Tasting Glasses for Serious Enthusiasts & Professionals
If you’re in the market to upgrade your wine glasses for the best possible wine tasting experience (or in other words, implement some everyday magic), these are my ultimate favorite wine tasting glass options:
Zenology combines luxury with affordability. Their thin glass comes in a variety of beautiful shapes to optimize your tasting experience, while maximizing flavors. Compared to other wine tasting glasses, these glasses are more affordable than others and come with a 10-year break guarantee.
In my professional opinion, Zalto is the height of luxury. The Zalto wine tasting glass is thin with a weightless feel. Every wine enthusiast’s dream. More importantly, the Zalto design offers the perfect balance when swirling wine.
Riedel offers a wine tasting glass specific for every wine variety. They produce everyday, affordable glasses, in addition to high-end professional wine tasting glasses. Their Performance series is luxury to a T. To simplify your collection, consider purchasing a set of their white wine glass and red wine glass. Alternatively, opt for their universal wine tasting glass. If you have a favorite variety, try their grape-specific glassware!
Best Affordable & Everyday Wine Tasting Glasses
If you’re anything like me, you like to keep a set or two of affordable, durable wine glasses on hand. Or, maybe you’re a college student not wanting to break the bank. Either way, these affordable, everyday wine tasting glasses are my favorites:
Riedel from Target
These affordable, yet efficient glasses were my first wine glass purchase ever. I loved them deeply, and I still do! In my experience, the Riedel line at Target is a high-quality wine glass that optimizes flavors without breaking the bank. At $10 each, they’re an unregrettable investment. Did I mention they’re dishwasher safe? Talk about an easy clean-up!
Libbey wine glasses are a bit thicker, but they’re a perfect everyday wine tasting glass. When I have my girlfriends over and don’t want to worry about possible breakage, I bring out the Libbey wine tasting glasses. I’m especially a fan of their stemless glasses! Most Libbey glasses are also dishwasher safe. Side note: I actually use these cute hammered stemless wine glasses as my water glasses for everyday sipping. Cue: everyday magic!
Beautiful & Unique Wine Tasting Glasses
Sometimes you just need something special to sip out of! These are a handful of my favorite unique wine tasting glasses. They’re perfect for special occasions, like themed parties, weddings, or holiday events.
Aspen + Birch Modern Wine Glasses
Aspen + Birch designs beautifully modern-shaped wine glasses. I love to use these in photos for better aesthetic. And, I always receive a ton of compliments on them! This wine tasting glass is also fairly thin, maximizing the wine’s flavor, despite the unique shape. It’s also the perfect weight and balance for swirling. Aspen + Birch is a small business that I love supporting!
Astrology Wine Glasses
Calling all astrology lovers! For something truly unique, these astrology wine glasses from Greenline Goods are so fun. They offer a stemless wine tasting glass for every astrology sign. These make for a great gift idea, too! Use code PAIGE15 for 15% off your purchase.
Swarovski Crystal Wine Glasses
Swarovski crystal wine tasting glasses are every bit of elegant, chic, and elevated as they sound. These stunning wine glasses are made with Swarovski crystals inlaid from Julianna Glass. They offer every variety of wine glassware, including stem and stemless. Use code WINEWITHPAIGE for 20% off.
Commonly Asked Questions: Wine Tasting Glasses
What is the best type of glass for tasting wine?
The best type of wine tasting glass is largely dependent on the variety of wine you’re drinking. For example, taller, larger bowl glasses are ideal for red wine, while shorter, small bowl glasses are best for white wine and rosé.
Why are wine glasses shaped differently?
Wine glasses are designed differently to best elevate each variety of wine, including red, white, rosé, and sparkling. Scientifically, different shaped wine glasses help to maximize the flavors and aromas of every kind of wine.
Which wine tasting glass is best for champagne?
Despite common belief, champagne and sparkling wine is best served in a white wine glass, instead of a champagne flute. A white wine glass accentuates the flavors and aromas of champagne better than a flute.
How can I use stemless wine glasses?
Stemless wine glasses can be used to serve any kind of wine. They are a great option for casual settings. However, be careful serving chilled wine, like white or rosé, in stemless glasses, as touching the bowl of the glass can warm the temperature of the wine.
Whether you’re new to the world of wine or consider yourself to be a wine connoisseur, knowing the appropriate wine glass for every occasion and variety is a must!
There is no science behind wine glasses. In fact the first grape specific glass was created by rodenstock for sauternes. Of course he was behind multiple frauds causing Robert Parker to rewrite his books to remove all the tastings hosted by him and his fake Thomas Jefferson w8ne bottles among other things.
Tasting is very subjective. Look at the studies showing different flavor profile on the same wines when red dye is added to white wine.
Hi Steve – thanks so much for your comment! Interesting thought… so you believe in the science that says color affects our perception of taste, but not the vessel that holds it?
Personally, I find that thin glasses feel better on my tongue and allow more of the flavor to encompass my mouth. This is true with wine glasses, water glasses, coffee, you name it. I’m a big fan of thin glassware… same with small forks! I’d never eat off that weird large one. But that’s all personal anecdotes.
If you’re after true science, I’d recommend reading Yale neuroscientist Gordon Shepherd’s book “Neuroenology: How the Brain Creates the Taste of Wine”. Here he dives into how smell plays a significant role in our perception of wine, and how wineglasses shape (belbous bellies, narrow openings) highlight aromas, changing our perception of wine. He covers a lot of the science you’re looking for!
Another source – Greg Hirson was a wine chemist who wrote his thesis at the University of California at Davis on the sensory impact of wineglass shape. He studied the evolution of aroma in the glass in depth using different-shaped glasses. His thesis dives into how the diameter of the wine glass and the diameter of its opening actually intensifies the flavor components of molecules.