Believe it or not, the shape and size of a wine glass can actually affect the taste of a wine!
Red wine glasses can typically distinguished from white wine glasses because they have a wider, deeper bowl. When more wine is exposed to oxygen, the more the flavors are able to open up. Choose a glass with a wide bowl but narrower mouth–a shape similar to an egg. These are easy to cup in one hand, allowing the wine to warm slightly from body heat; this is okay when it comes to red wines. Wider bowls are also easier to swirl without spilling, helping expose more of the wine to the air and release crucial aromas. Fine, full-bodied wines such as Barolo benefit from wine glasses with large bowls, such as a burgundy style wine glass, which help bring out the flavors–a must for more expensive wines. Bigger, bolder red wines like Brunello may not need as large a bowl, especially if the wines are young and less complex.
White wine glasses are often smaller in capacity than red wine glasses, with a narrower design from bottom to top. Like most red wine glasses they are usually egg-shaped yet often more narrow than red wine glasses. White wines are designed to be consumed within a few years after fermentation, so the larger bowl is not as necessary as with aged red wines that have deeper complexity. The narrow openings allow for the bouquet to gather and accentuate the drinking experience, even though the bowl is typically smaller.
Sparkling white wine and champagne are served in tall, thin glasses, often called champagne flutes. Much like a pilsner glass, this allows the bubbles to be directed all the way to the top of the glass, making the carbonation last longer and improving the aroma.
Wine enthusiasts will often spend a little extra on glasses with cut and polished rims, hand-blown glass bowls and fine, long stems. These glasses are grand and perfect for fine occasions, but for everyday use they may be a bit extravagant. In addition, think about the frequency of use and how they are cared for. Washing wine glasses in the dishwasher is not the best idea with delicate stemware and thin glass. In this case, machine-made glasses and sturdier stems might be the best choice.
An all-purpose wine glass might be the glass of choice for someone looking for a single glass type that can be used often and for different varietals. Although the experience may not be as complete and memorable as it would be with the perfect wine glass, these provide function at a lower cost and with lower risk of breakage.