In regards to glassware, there are only a couple of compulsory rules: first, the glass must be rounded at the bottom, and second, it needs to be tighter around the top than the middle. Generally speaking, stemware is the better choice for two reasons: first, if the wine is being served at the appropriate temperature, cupping the glass with the palm of your hand will warm the wine to an undesirable temperature quite quickly. Second, clear stemware is preferable for tasting and assessment purposes, as it facilitates the visual examination of the wine’s colour and legs.
For mature wines, tall and large glasses give wines the space to breathe and express the complexity of their bouquet. Medium-sized glasses do better for younger wines, which have vibrant fruit flavours that can be concentrated in a smaller glass. For great vintages or special wines, crystal glassware is a must, as its clarity and finesse will contribute to your appreciation. Champagne can be served in classic flutes, white wine glasses that offer more breathing room for better bottles, or even in burgundy glasses for the really well aged prestige bottlings. However, the signature champagne glass of the roaring twenties, the coup, is a stylistic choice that does very little to enhance the wine itself.
Depending on who you ask, the importance of matching a glass to the exact grape or style will vary. There are glasses out there as specific as “mature riesling” or “un-oaked chardonnay”. For those with a favorite wine type or limitless space in the cupboard, these can be good options. The wine needs for most other people will be fully satisfied with a bordeaux glass, a ballooning burgundy glass and a narrow medium sized white wine glass such as a riesling glass. A champagne flute can be added for the festive feeling, especially as some now come with a tulip shape that suits better vintage champagnes as well. If you only have space for one glass in your cabinet, for every day drinking, to tasting or the best bottles? The dishwasher safe red wine glass from Riedel’s series Overture is something of a wine industry standard, though there are other glasses with a similar size and shape that can be equally useful.
Want to make up your own mind about how many glass types you need and what the glass does for your wine? Consider attending a wine glass tasting, or try at home by serving the same wine in as many different glass shapes as you have access to. Notice the difference? Most likely you will, and it might inspire you to spend a little more on your glass collection to get optimal pleasure from your precious drops.
Whichever your choice of glass, remember to never pour it more than one third full. This prevents the glass from locking in aromas, and makes it easier to swirl and aerate the wine without splashing your neighbour.