White Wine Glasses: What Makes Them Good Versus Bad?

While getting ready for a recent holiday celebration, I discovered that I had far fewer wine glasses in my cabinet than I had thought (I am known for my klutzy tendencies).  With several wine enthusiasts coming to my home for dinner, I needed to start shopping for replacement glasses.  What I found was a bewildering array of shapes, sizes and prices, not to mention colors and patterns.  Shopping for stemware can definitely be overwhelming.

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If, like me, you must occasionally purchase wine glasses for yourself or as gifts, knowing something about them will help you find stemware that is truly appropriate for the occasion.  Let's begin with some wine glass basics.

Wine Glass Essentials


For more than 25 years, The California Wine Club founders Bruce and Pam Boring have explored all corners of California’s wine country to find award-winning, handcrafted wine to share with the world. Each month, the club features a different small family winery and hand selects two of their best wines for members.

Wine glasses come in an amazing variety of sizes, colors and patterns, but serious wine tasters know that the best color for wine glasses is no color at all.  Looking at wine through a clear bowl (the part of the wine glass that contains the wine) allows you to see the nuances of color that make each wine unique.  Colors, etched patterns and even crystal facets can distort your view of the wine's color.


The shape of your wine glass also affects your wine tasting experience.  Wine glass manufacturers offer many types of differently-shaped wine glasses.  Wine glasses are typically named after the type of wine for which they are best suited; for example, you can buy chardonnay glasses, sauvignon blanc glasses and champagne glasses.  Each glass has a bowl shaped to accentuate the wine's aromas and guide the wine toward specific taste bud areas on your tongue.

Each type of wine glass also has a specific rim diameter.  This measurement is very important; rim diameter helps to determine how each wine's aromas are concentrated inside the glass.  Rim diameter also helps control the flow of wine into your mouth.

Professor Claus Josef Riedel, of the famous glassmaking family, spent years developing wine glasses that would best enhance the assets of the wines they held.  Riedel's eponymous glassmaking company was the first to create stemware in different shapes and sizes to match the types of wine being served.  The success and popularity of Riedel stemware is part of modern wine tasting history.[1]

The International Standards Organization (ISO) has developed standards for wine tasting glasses[2].  There are four sizes of ISO glasses – 120 milliliters, 210 milliliters, 300 milliliters and 410 milliliters – all with short stems and "egg-shaped" bowls.

While many wine drinkers enjoy using stemless wine glasses, professional wine tasters typically use stemmed glasses.  The stem allows you to hold the glass comfortably, swirl the wine in the bowl and observe the color of the wine.  Holding the glass by its stem can also help to maintain the wine's temperature while you taste it.