Wine glasses are specifically shaped and sized for each particular type of wine. White wine, having a much more subtle aroma and taste than a red wine, has a smaller bowl and mouth. This is to better capture the aroma for the nose, as well as minimize the exposure to oxygen, so as not to release the more subtle flavour too quickly.
In addition to the standard white wine glass, there are also Chardonnay glasses. These glasses are generally the same height as a standard white wine glass but the bowl and mouth are wider. This is to allow the wine to be better oxygenated, resulting in a bolder bouquet and flavour for the pleasure of the drinker.
Sparkling wine glasses, or Champagne Flutes as they are often referred to, are much narrower and taller than white wine glasses. This allows for further enhancement of the bouquet of the wine. Also, by minimizing the surface area at the top of the glass, the bubbles will be more concentrated and last longer.
Red wine glasses vary in shape and size for the various varietals of grapes. A Pinot Noir glass is tulip shaped containing a rather wide bowl before narrowing and then flaring wider at the mouth. The theory is that this shape of glass provides for the optimum balance of sweetness, acidity and alcohol.
Zinfandel and Bordeaux glasses are very similar in shape and size with the Bordeaux glass being slightly taller. These glasses are designed this way in order to allow the wines to breathe and enhance the flavour of the wine. Given the strong similarity between the two glasses, personally, I doubt the average wine drinker, including myself, would ever notice a difference if a Bordeaux was served in a Zin glass or vice versa.
The Cabernet glass is the tallest of all the wine glasses. It has a slightly larger bowl and mouth than the other glasses mentioned. The Cabernets, including Cabernet , Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon, as well as, Syrah or Shiraz, would benefit from being served in this style of glass. The shape and size of this glass helps moderate the higher acid content of these wines, as well as allowing for the full bodied aromas to be released.
The most unique red glass is the Burgundy glass, which is shaped like a fish bowl with a wide bowl, basically no neck and a wide mouth. The idea behind this glass is to enhance the acidity and intensity of Burgundy style wines.
For anyone opting to have a single red and white wine glass, I would recommend the standard white wine glass and the Cabernet glass.
There are two common styles of wine glasses, stem and stemless. Personally I prefer a glass with a stem so the heat from my hand is not transferred to the wine inside the glass.
There is a much argued debate over glass versus crystal. There are those who say that a crystal glass provides much better flavour. Personally, I would like to see that proven in a blind taste test. I can see where psychologically if you know you are drinking from a $100 crystal glass versus a much less expensive glass vessel the psychological aspect may provide a more rewarding experience. However, I am very sceptical and other than feeling the difference in the weight of the 2 glasses in your hand, I am not convinced the type of glass impacts the wine’s flavour as some suggest is the case. However, after saying all this I do have an assortment of crystal wine stemware in the cupboard.