Glass Class

"We like a variety of wines but it isn’t in our budget to buy a glass for each kind. Can you give me a few suggestions as to what kind of glasses might work for several styles?” - Jessica (Portland)

The glassware thing has gotten a little out of control. The reason for the wide variety is wine tends to express its aromatics best within specific shapes of glassware. But, at a certain point, we start splitting hairs. 

Some wines prefer to be contained tightly in small glasses while others require greater surface area for air exposure to show off their personalities. In all truth, all you really need is one type of glass at home; and to be honest — shhh, don’t tell — I often use what is clean without much reference to what I am drinking. 

Although, if your budget allows, buying the following glasses will prove more than acceptable for polite company and for the different styles of wine you enjoy.

Champagne flutes for — you guessed it — bubbles. These glasses are tall and skinny and allow the bubbles to float elegantly to the top of the glass, creating a light show of effervescence.

White wine glasses — like the ones you receive as part of the tasting fee at special events — are perfect for light, un-oaked, high-acid whites such as Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Riesling and rosés. 

Bordeaux glasses are tall with wide bowls that slightly curve. These wines work great with Cabernet, Merlot, Malbecs and blends. In other words, they work great with most big red wines. It can also be used for other classic reds like Chianti, Rioja and Rhone blends such as Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Burgundy glasses are large and characterized by a wider bowl and more exaggerated curve — Oregon Pinot Noir glasses designed by Riedel resemble a tulip with a flared lip at the top. Of course, they are perfect for Pinot, but also for oaked Chardonnays, Barolos and Barbarescos. The other great, often-overlooked use for these glasses is for full-bodied, lush or aged Champagnes, which benefit from a little oxygen to convey their delicate complexities. 

Warning to the wise: Be careful how much you pour in a Burgundy glass. If filled to the top, it can hold an entire 750-ml bottle of wine. 

In a pinch, have two glasses on hand, a small, narrow one you can use for white and sparkling wines and a large bulbous one for reds. 

Best yet, throw tradition out the window and forge your own path to perfect glassware by experimenting with different shapes and sizes. 

Good luck and happy drinking.

Cheers, Jennifer Cossey 

I look forward to receiving more of your questions. E-mail me at to submit your questions. 

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