How Different Glasses Affect the Taste of Wine & Champagne

Words: Robyn Samuels

Have you ever had a beer and noticed a vast difference in taste when drinking out of a glass bottle compared to a can? Well, the same applies to wine, except it’s a little more nuanced. Not only does the type of glass affect the taste, but the shape and size are also contributing factors. Here’s how different types of glasses affect the taste of wine.

Wine Glasses

Before we get into how your glass affects your drink, you should know that the part of the glass that holds the wine is the ‘bowl’, and the bottom part is called the ‘foot’ or ‘base’.

The shape of the bowl differs for white and red, with red wine glasses having a wider or curvier bowl. Why, you ask? Well, while most people would crack open a bottle and ‘pour one out’ straight after a trip to the liquor store, you’re actually meant to let the wine ‘breathe’. If you’re guilty of this, don’t worry – red wine glasses naturally have a wider bowl and rim for this exact reason.

Shape

The wider bowl/rim allows the wine to be more exposed to the air/oxygen, a process otherwise known as ‘oxidation’. Because red wines have more prominent flavours, allowing the wine to breathe softens the flavours and essentially ‘wakes up’ the aromas of the wine – the wider bowl design enables this. Besides colour being the most obvious difference between white and red wines, other sensory factors also affect the perceived taste…

Temperature

Take temperature for example – red wines are consumed at room temperature, while white wines are first chilled to accentuate the acidity and fruity aromas. White wine glasses thus have longer stems compared to red wine glasses, for better temperature control. The longer stems create a greater distance between the bowl of the glass and your hand, which gives off heat. Here’s how different types of wine glasses further affect the taste of wines…


Different Types of Red Wine Glasses

Most household cabinets house two types of wine glasses – standard red and white wine glasses – and perhaps champagne flutes. But, there are actually three types of red wine glasses: Bordeaux, medium-bodied wine glasses and Burgundy wine glasses.

Bordeaux Red Wine Glasses

Bordeaux red wine glasses are better suited for dry red wines that are high in alcohol (ethanol) and tannins – this typically includes your Merlots, Cabernets, Petit Syrah and, of course, Bordeaux wines. These wines contain more ethanol and bold, dark fruit notes, so they need more room to breathe.

The wider rim and the larger/longer bowl offer more room – this helps create a larger distance between your nose and the wine, which results in enhanced fruity aromas and a smoother mouthfeel.

Medium-bodied Glasses

This type of red wine glass is noticeably smaller than a Bordeaux glass, as the rim is more narrow. Medium-bodied wine glasses are naturally reserved for medium-bodied and full-bodied wines like Chianti, Syrah, Shiraz, Malbec and Rhône. These wines have more pronounced spices and flavours; the narrow rim design compensates for this, as the flavours are less overwhelming when they hit your palate.

Burgundy Glass

Burgundy glasses are ideal for wines with lighter tannins, this includes bright red wines that aren’t as harsh as Bordeaux wines. This type of red wine glass is the smallest of the three, and although Burgundy-style wines don’t require as much room to breathe, the larger bowl allows the flavours to collect at the bottom of the glass. The wider rim is cleverly designed to channel varying flavours to specific parts of the palate – the wine you’re drinking might have a  perceived sweeter taste because of this. If you don’t have Champagne flutes, Burgundy glasses are also acceptable to drink from, and even preferred by some.


Types of White Wine Glasses

Red wines usually have bolder flavours, whereas white wines are more subtle in comparison. The bowl and rim of white wine glasses are thus smaller, as they need less room to breathe.

Riesling Glasses

White wines such as Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc, with higher acidity and lower alcohol content, are normally consumed out of glasses with a smaller bowl and longer stem.

A smaller bowl helps concentrate aromas/acidity, while a more narrow rim directs flavours of the wine to the middle of the tongue.

Chardonnay Glasses

White wine glasses with a shorter stem and wider rim/bowl are used for full-bodied white wines like Chardonnay. The wider rim allows the rich aromas to breathe, while showcasing the complexity of buttery and fruity flavours, this is especially true for oaked Chardonnays.


Best Glass to Serve Champagne?

Sure, Champagne flutes might make for great Instagrammable content and Boomerang videos, but they aren’t always the best choice for serving Champagne.

Flutes

There’s more to Champagne than the bubbles… if you’re drinking Champagne on a ‘beer budget’ and the bubbles are what you’re after, then use flutes – they’re great for preserving the bubbles and the long stems ensure that the Champagne remains chilled. But if you’re drinking a more expensive/vintage Champagne, you’ll want a glass with a wider bowl that goes narrow at the top – this allows the aromas to breathe while keeping the bubbles fizzy.

Most Champagne aficionados would recommend serving Champagne out of a regular white wine glass, similar to the one you would serve Riesling or Sauvignon Blanc out of. If you want something similar to a flute, certain Champagne flutes are designed with narrow ‘scratches’ (unseen to the eye) around the insides of the glass; they enable the bubbles to travel up the glass and allow more notes to come through.

Coupes

Hosting a party and want a more stylish glass? Before you consider using coupes, don’t. The bubbles will fizzle out faster than a summer fling. While coupe glasses look super fancy, they have a wide top, meaning that the bubbles have ample room to escape.

Coupes are best for serving old-timey cocktails that only need a dash of MCC or Champagne to top up. These Pink French 75 cocktails are the perfect choice for this style of serving.

French 75

Now that you’re clued up on wine glasses, get to know these lesser-known wine varietals.

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