In our discussion of white wine glasses, we talked about wine glass essentials, including shape, size, color, materials and manufacture.  Of course, all of this information also applies to red wine glasses.  Your choices range from inexpensive, machine-made wine glasses to mouth-blown glasses made from the finest lead crystal.  Some red wine glasses have stems, while others are stemless.

Popular Red Wine Glasses

You will find several different types of red wine glasses on the market.  As with white wine glasses, the differences in shape are designed to enhance the best characteristics of each wine, minimize any flaws in the wine and allow the wine to flow to the part of the tongue that can best experience the specific taste of that wine.

The aroma of a red wine is especially important, so red wine glasses have broad bowls that allow you to swirl the wine enough to improve oxidation and release its aromas.

The two most popular red wine glasses are the Bordeaux glass and the Burgundy glass.  Bordeaux red wine glasses are tall with a fairly long stem and a bowl that is wide at the bottom but narrower at the lip.  The bowl is designed to channel wine toward the center of your tongue.

Burgundy red wine glasses are broader than Bordeaux glasses and have a large bow and shorter stem.  They can hold anywhere from 14 to over 35 ounces of wine.  The glass sends the wine to the tip of your tongue.

Of course, there are many red wines on the market, and glassmakers have created special glasses for some of the most popular.  For example, pinot noir glasses may have a flared lip, while tempranillo glasses are shaped like nearly-closed tulip blossoms.  If you'd rather not fill all of your cupboards with wine glasses, you can certainly get by with one or two types of red wine glasses for home use

If you are unsure which type of red wine glass is best for you, take a moment to think about the red wines you drink most often.  A Burgundy glass might be your shape of choice if high-acidity, full-bodied wines please you.  If, instead, you prefer red wines with more fruit, or if you experiment with many varietals, you might wish to try a Bordeaux wine glass. However, if you enjoy port or other dessert wines, you may wish to purchase glasses appropriate for the dessert wines you like best.

Port Wine Glasses

Port wine glasses are smaller than traditional red wine glasses.  Port wine glasses have narrow bowls and typically hold five or six ounces.  Pour enough port into your glass to fill it halfway for the best tasting experience.

Cleaning Your Wine Glasses

There are several ways to clean your wine glasses after using them.  Riedel recommends rinsing your wine glasses clean with warm water, turning them upside down to drain on a clean towel and allowing them to air dry.

You can, if you wish, use a tiny amount of detergent to help get greasy spots off your wine glasses.  However, you should rinse the glasses extremely thoroughly so that no traces of detergent remain.  Detergent residue will interact with wine and affect its taste.

Some wine glasses can be washed in the dishwasher.  Again, you will want to make sure that no dishwasher detergent is left on the glasses.  Do not use the drying cycle on your dishwasher if you are washing wine glasses.[1]

Some experts suggest that washing soda (Arm and Hammer, for example) is helpful in cleaning wine glasses.  According to household tips guru Heloise, washing soda should be treated carefully; wear gloves if you use it to wash your wine glasses.

Whichever way you choose to wash your wine glasses, you can polish them using the Riedel method.  Simply invert the clean glass over steaming water and allow a fog to form on the glass.  Then, use a clean, soft polishing cloth to shine the glass.  Begin by polishing the base and then move up to the bowl.  Hold the glass by the bottom of the bowl while polishing; you could snap the stem if you try to polish the bowl while holding the base.[2]

The Bottom Line

Red wine glasses are available in many shapes and price ranges.  While you don't have to purchase every style of red wine glass on the market, choosing a well-made glass with a large, wide bowl will enhance your red wine tasting experience.


[1] "Washing Wine Glasses." Wine Website, April 18, 2010. <>

[2] "Cleaning Guide." 2010. Riedel Glas Austria Website.  April 17, 2010. <>

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