A primer on stemware for the height of en­ter­tain­ing sea­son


En­ter­tain­ing at home has been gain­ing pop­u­lar­ity ever since co­coon­ing—that’s stay­ing in­doors and en­gag­ing in home-based ac­tiv­i­ties—gave rise to hiv­ing, which places more value on in­ter­ac­tion and en­gage­ment, treat­ing the home no longer solely as a re­treat but as a cen­ter for ac­tiv­ity and con­nec­tion with friends and fam­ily.

Re­cently, a new term has been making the rounds: “in­spe­ri­ences,” where nor­mally out­door ex­pe­ri­ences are brought in­side the home. Home en­ter­tain­ing has now be­come an ac­tiv­ity that not only few, ex­clu­sive cir­cles could do and enjoy. Along with it is the consumption of wine in the home. Ask any host and they’re sure to say that you can never have too many drinks—wine in­cluded—when you host a party. Some might even go as far as say­ing it’s okay to run out of food but not out of drinks. Im­bib­ing wine is an easy way to en­liven con­ver­sa­tions. Its consumption is now an ev­ery­day lux­ury, and with the eas­ing of the so-called “rules” about wine pair­ing, the drink is also now less in­tim­i­dat­ing and stiff than it was pre­vi­ously be­lieved to be. At least, it should be. While many, for good rea­son, still ad­here to the red-with-red and white-with-white guide­line, many en­thu­si­asts and even some pro­fes­sion­als, vint­ners, and restau­rants en­cour­age peo­ple to ex­per­i­ment pair­ing dif­fer­ent wines with what­ever suits their tastes.

De­spite the new open­ness about wine pair­ings, one thing that re­mains un­changed is the im­por­tance of us­ing the right stemware for dif­fer­ent types of wine. Some say you only truly need two types of glasses, while oth­ers say it’s bet­ter to use a spe­cific glass for each type of drink. The glass ma­te­rial notwith­stand­ing, there are gen­er­ally four types of wine glasses: red, white, sparkling, and dessert.


Red wines have stronger fla­vors and aro­mas com­pared to white wines, and the proper stemware re­flects this. Typ­i­cally, red wine glasses have fuller, rounder bowls to al­low more air to come into con­tact with the wine. The larger open­ing also al­lows the drinker to bet­ter note the wine’s aroma.

Among the red wine glasses, there are still sev­eral types such as the Bordeaux glass, de­signed for heav­ier red wines like Caber­net and Mer­lot. This type of glass is taller, which bet­ter di­rects the wine to the back or cen­ter of the mouth.

A Bur­gundy glass, on the other hand, is bet­ter suited for lighter, full-bod­ied wines like Pinot Noir. Though shorter than Bordeaux glasses, Bur­gundy glasses have larger bowls to direct the wine to the tip of the tongue where the more del­i­cate fla­vors can be tasted.


White wines are lighter and typ­i­cally served colder than red wines, thus call­ing for taller glasses with longer stems and bowls smaller than the red va­ri­eties.

There are also sev­eral types of glasses for white wines of vary­ing ma­tu­ri­ties. Younger white wines are best served in glasses with slightly larger open­ings, as th­ese will bet­ter direct the wine to the sides of the tongue, em­pha­siz­ing its fresh, sweet taste. Straighter, taller glasses on the other hand are pre­ferred for more ma­ture whites, as they en­hance the wine’s bolder fla­vors. The Chardon­nay glass, with its name­sake wine, is a good ex­am­ple.

Sparkling and Dessert

Cham­pagne has been a sym­bol of lux­ury and cel­e­bra­tion for cen­turies. Wines from the French re­gion of Cham­pagne had orig­i­nally been of­fered in trib­ute to kings by the French aris­to­crats, un­til the so-called “méth­ode cham­p­enoise” or the tra­di­tional method of pro­duc­ing sparkling wine was in­tro­duced. Through this method, blended wine un­der­goes a sec­ond fer­men­ta­tion as it is mixed with yeast and sugar then stored. Dur­ing this process, car­bon diox­ide is formed, which is what gives Cham­pagne its “sparkle.”

Cham­pagnes, or sparkling wines, re­quire their own set of glasses. The most com­mon Cham­pagne glass, the flute is tall and slen­der so as to re­tain the drink’s car­bon­a­tion. Its shape also al­lows the bub­bles to be con­cen­trated at the tip of the tongue, while also di­rect­ing the scent of the sparkling wine faster.

Mean­while, dessert wines, as the name sug­gests, are sweet but also have higher al­co­hol con­tent. Th­ese types of wines are served in smaller glasses with nar­rower bowls, which help direct the wine to the back of the mouth so as to keep the wine’s sweet­ness from over­whelm­ing the palate.

There are a dozen other types of glasses in vary­ing shapes, forms, and sizes, each de­signed with a par­tic­u­lar drink in mind. Choos­ing the right stemware may be te­dious, but it isn’t just about making a state­ment. It’s any host’s com­mit­ment to make sure their guests are served the right taste.

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