Red Wine Glass vs. White Wine Glass: What's the Difference?

Does it really matter?

Closeup of different types of wine glasses filled with different wines
Photo: Tetra Images/Getty Images

The world of wine, while wonderful, is quite confusing. Here's what you need to know about how glass shape affects wine taste, plus how to tell the difference between a red and a white wine glass.

Does Wine Glass Shape Really Affect Taste?

Yes. The shape of your glass really can affect how the wine tastes. This isn't snobbery — it's science.

A Japanese study from 2015 recorded images of ethanol vapors coming from different glasses. The researchers found that the shape affected the density and the position of the vapors.

These vapors are essential to how the wine tastes when it reaches your tongue. As you likely learned in school, your sense of taste starts with your sense of smell.

Red wine in glasses on table

So What's the Difference Between a Big Glass and a Small Glass?

Experts believe that a glass with a large bowl lets the aromas escape easier and gives the wine more aromatic complexity. A glass with a small bowl concentrates those aromas and heightens the wine's intensity.

Stemmed vs. Stemless

The shape of the bowl of the glass matters more than if the glass is stemmed or stemless. This really just depends on personal preference. (Pro tip: Stemless wine glasses are harder to knock over).

What Else Affects Taste?

If you like to pour with a heavy hand, you may not like what you're about to read: You really should stop filling your glass all the way to the top.

To fully appreciate your wine, you need to allow the aromas to collect at the top of the glass. Whether this means you drink less wine or get up for refills more often is your call—no judgment here.


Red vs. White Wine Glass

There are a lot of different wine glass shapes. Like, way too many to worry about if you're not a sommelier.

Casual wine drinkers really don't need to know the difference between a Bordeaux glass and a Viognier glass. However, learning the difference between a red and white wine glass is relatively doable:

Red Wine Glasses

Red wine glasses are generally rounded with larger bowls and wider openings. This mitigates the bitterness of tannin or spicy flavors, according to Wine Folly, and results in a smoother taste.

Full-Bodied Red

For full-bodied reds like Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, reach for a large, tall glass (often called a Bordeaux glass) with a large opening. This allows the ethanol to evaporate before it hits your nose, which makes your wine taste smoother.

Light-Bodied Red

When you're drinking a light-bodied red like Pinot Noir, reach for a Burgundy glass. These glasses are balloon-shaped with a large, round base. They are slightly shorter than the tall glass you'd use for a full-bodied red.

White Wine Glasses

White wine glasses are generally smaller than red wine glasses. This shape preserves floral aromas and helps maintain a cooler temperature.

Full-Bodied White

Full-bodied whites like Chardonnay are served in a glass with a bowl that is smaller than a red wine glass but larger than a light-bodied white wine glass. This shape is good at collecting aromas.

Light-Bodied White

Light-bodied white wine glasses are the smallest of the bunch. Their narrow shape helps maintain a cool temperature.

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