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What Kind Of Wine Glass To Use and When To Decant

There’s nothing more disappointing than having to put a good wine into a bad glass. There’s nothing wrong with drinking wine out of a tumbler (“it’s how the Italians do it!”) but for premium wine there should be a decent sort of glass. These tend to be a round bowl on a stem with a high lip, with enough volume for 150ml of wine and at least the same again of empty space.

The Science

The purpose of a wine glass is to provide a space for the wine to oxygenate and release aromas, but also for these to be trapped to a certain extent so that they can be appreciated. There are all sorts of scientific considerations to how these aroma compounds react with the air and get trapped at different concentrations. The different sizes and shapes of wine glasses relate to the volatility of these molecules. Different grape varieties interact in different ways, so the shape of a glass can noticeably affect the smell and taste of the wine.

Different Types of Wine Glass

There are a number of companies around the world making premium glasses for drinking wine, that usually fall into one of the following three categories:

  • all purpose wine glass, to be used for everything
  • red and white specific glasses
  • variety specific, with a different type for each grape

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The Best Glasses

For most of us, its not feasible to have different wine glasses for each grape variety we might have. If you find that you only really drink two varieties, for example Cabernet and Shiraz, then maybe it’s a good idea to buy those specific glasses as you will get the most benefit.

If you happen to be pretty omnivorous, it’s a bit more difficult. You can get some red glasses and some white glasses, but these don’t necessarily suit all kinds of red and white wines. The ‘all-purpose’ glass has a similar problem where it tends to favour the big reds and isn’t as effective for everything else.

Here’s our advice for the three wine glasses you should have:

  1. Sparkling/aromatic white – flutes hold the bubbles and coupes are great for champagne fountains, but the best glass for enjoying sparkling wine is usually the same narrowish, smaller-bowled glass you would drink Riesling from.
  2. Burgundy glass – this wide-bowled, globular glass is great for full-bodied whites like Chardonnay, and the supreme vessel for Pinot Noir, Nebbiolo and other light-bodied varieties
  3. Big Red glass – the large-bowled, tulip shape that suits bigger reds like Merlot, Cabernet and Shiraz is also the type that most companies promote as their ‘all-purpose’ glass.

burgundy glassThe Burgundy glass – great for light reds and bigger whites

sparkling redSparkling/Aromatic glass and something for those big reds 

When Should I Decant?

There are two main reasons to decant a wine:

  1. To aerate the wine so that it opens up and the flavours are revealed
  2. To separate the wine from any solids that have formed with age

If you’ve got a big red that isn’t really showing a lot of character upon opening, it might pay to decant to get it really opening up. This is true for Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, and Nebbiolo like Barolo. A good rule of thumb is that if your red is over ten years old then pouring the liquid carefully into a decanter will leave the sediment behind in the bottle.

riedel decanterThere are some wacky decanters on the market but a water jug does the job

Which Decanter?

There are lots of beautiful decanters on the market, but the truth is you only really need a carafe or water jug, as long as it’s clean and dry. There’s really no right or wrong, the idea is the same as with a wine glass but on a bigger scale. Feel free to pour a test with a small amount and compare.

Check out some other How-To articles, like How to Host a Fun and Simple Blind Tasting or some Pinot Noir and Food Pairing.

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Kieran Clarkin

Kieran Clarkin

Digital Marketing and Tour Host at Wine Compass
Kieran is a WSET Diploma student, Chin Chin sommelier and host for Wine Compass. He loves chatting about wine, hosting tastings and getting people interested in wine generally. He's big into Victorian wine, the Loire Valley and the very under-rated wines of Greece.
Kieran Clarkin

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Prestige Decanters

Hi Kieran Clarkin,
You shared the outstanding information about the wine decanters,But if you want to pouring (decanting) the contents from one vessel (typically a bottle) into another vessel by using wine aerator because these oxygenate the wine as it passes through the narrow tube drawing in air through a clever, then you must read all the procedure carefully are mentioned in the above information which provide you the best way of cleaning and transfer of material easily without wastage of material and time .
Thanks .

drinking glass manufacturers

Thanks for the outstanding info.
Again thanks for the worthy stuff.


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