Vol. 25 No. 12 Wine

One Glass to Rule Them All

variety specific wine glasses

As the holidays approach, many people are gathering with friends and loved ones to celebrate. There will be copious amounts of food served, and where there is food, there is wine. 

What is meant to be a conversation starter, a storyteller in a bottle can often cause stress to many. We all have seen the beautiful table settings in magazines and restaurants with different glasses for each course. But is that really necessary? Do we need to have a glass for every wine variety, or can there be one glass to rule them all? 

Let’s start with why there are glasses for different varieties. Wine is a living organism. It breathes, it ages, it dies. As with humans, certain outfits look better on us than others. We choose clothing that highlights our positives and minimizes our problem areas. The relationship is the same between a wine and a wine glass. Some glasses encourage the wine to express itself in all its glory, while others may hide some of a wine’s qualities. 

The first question you need to ask yourself is what type of wine consumer you are. If you prefer to sit down with a glass of wine for a lovely date and get to know all of its intricacies before committing to a second date, then investing in variety-specific glasses may be for you.  Variety-specific glasses are designed to expose you to all the wine has to offer. The wine has no secrets.

For example, a Cabernet Sauvignon glass has a bowl that is on the larger size to allow the lovely bouquet to develop, while its curve and distance from your nose will emphasize the fruit and downplay the tannins and alcohol. If you poured your Cabernet Sauvignon into a Viognier glass, the experience would be completely different.

Riedel Vinum Cabernet Sauvignon Glass
Volume 28.219 oz
Height 9.724 inch

Since Viognier is a much more aromatic wine, the bowl is shorter and narrower, allowing the floral notes to entice the consumer. The smaller bowl also maintains the wine’s temperature longer than a larger bowl. Cabernet is less aromatic but higher in alcohol; the narrower glass would intensify the sensation of alcohol. Furthermore, since the ideal serving temperature for a Viognier is cooler than a Cabernet Sauvignon, the smaller bowl helps maintain the temperature of the wine. This is a positive in a floral white wine but a negative in a tannic red wine, as cooler temperatures increase the tannin sensation.

Riedel Vinum Viognier Glass
Volume12.346 oz
Height 7.795 inch

If you don’t want to dissect the relationship and would rather dive in with both feet and enjoy the ride as long as it lasts, then specific glasses may not be for you. Additionally, buying variety-specific glasses is expensive and requires a lot of storage space, which may not be feasible. In these cases, it is absolutely acceptable to purchase non-variety-specific glasses.  But what should you look for?

As Goldilocks might have said if she was of legal drinking age: 

“This wine glass is too big!” she exclaimed.

So, she lifted the second glass.

“This wine glass is too small,” she said.

So, she raised the last wine glass.

“Ahhh, this glass is just right,” she said happily and drank the wine all up.

There is a category of wine glasses called “Universal” or “All Purpose,” and you can find these glasses across a spectrum of prices. Universal glasses are available in both crystal and glass. Crystal is higher quality but needs a little more TLC. Glass, on the other hand, can be placed in the dishwasher. (Just don’t jam them in there!) And don’t worry about lead in the crystal. Lead in crystal is only a concern when storing liquid over a long period. Plus, there are lead-free crystal options. So, choose what is best for you; crystal or glass. 

Richard Brendon/
Jancis Robinson Wine Glasses
Volume 16.907 oz
Height 8.8 inch 

Sadly, there is a lot of snobbery associated with wine. That’s upsetting to me, as wine is meant to open doors to conversations. There is a wine for every palate, and every palate deserves to experience it. You don’t need to be at the top of your class or have a list of post-nominals after your name to enjoy wine. What is most important is to drink what you like, in whatever glass you enjoy drinking it in. And don’t let anyone tell you differently!  


Feature photo credit: Lori Budd

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About Lori Budd

I began my career as a microbiologist, but my need for excitement led me to Adventure Ed. I taught students how to rock climb, zip line and tie those all important survival knots. Along the way, I fell in love with wine. I am consumed by the stories that unfold as each glass is poured. I am a UC Davis enology program graduate. I hold WSET L2 w/ distinction, Champagne specialist, Côte du Rhône and Somm Day Service certificates. My husband and I own Dracaena Wines in Paso Robles. I write an award winning blog, produce a top ranked podcast and am always on the lookout for my next great wine adventure. I’ll never tell you what to drink, but I’ll always share what’s in my glass.

1 comment on “One Glass to Rule Them All

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