Does the Shape of the Glass Really Matter?

As we noted in a recent blog, “The Shape of Thing to Come,” some Champagne houses are now recommending that their sparkling wines be served not in traditional flutes, but rather in white-wine glasses.

That’s the word from glass-maker Georg Riedel, who told Drinks Business: “The larger surface areas give more aromas, complexity and a creamier texture. Flutes are too narrow and don’t allow the aroma and richness of the Champagne to shine, as there isn’t enough air space.”

Is this really a trend, or merely a marketing ploy? Interestingly, Riedel continues to sell both flutes and white-wine glasses—not to mention several other shapes of glassware intended for specific types of wine.

Over the years, I’ve attended several Riedel seminars in which various types of wine are served in various types (shapes) of glasses. In my archives (otherwise known as my closet), I found the most detailed notes about a seminar that featured:

  • Sauvignon Blanc in a Sauvignon Blanc glass
  • Sauvignon Blanc in a “generic” glass
  • Chardonnay in a Chardonnay glass
  • Chardonnay in a Sauvignon Blanc glass
  • Sauvignon Blanc in a Chardonnay glass
  • Chardonnay in a “generic” glass
  • Pinot Noir in a Pinot Noir glass
  • Pinot Noir in a Chardonnay glass
  • Cabernet Sauvignon in a Bordeaux glass
  • Cabernet Sauvignon in a Pinot Noir glass
  • Pinot Noir in a Bordeaux glass
  • Cabernet Sauvignon in a “generic” glass

In most cases, I noted minor aroma and flavor differences as a specific type of wine moved from one type of glass to another. Emphasis on minor. Only in the case of Sauvignon Blanc were significant differences noted—the variety’s “grassy” aroma more pronounced in a “generic” glass, and its fruitful qualities more noticeable in a Sauvignon Blanc glass.

Not one of the classes ever motivated me to invest in multiple shapes of glassware. In fact, after close to 30 years of tasting and assessing wine, I’m convinced that a Bordeaux glass—with its large bowl and steep “sides”—works just fine for virtually all types of wine.

All types, that is, except Champagne. When the wine is sparkling, I still prefer a flute.

Posted in Wine in the Glass, Wine Tips
One comment on “Does the Shape of the Glass Really Matter?
  1. Nick says:

    My core kit of wine glasses consists of -Schott Zwiesel Tritan Pure Cabernet glasses for all red + white wines-Riedel bordeaux glasses as backups & for guests-Riedel champagne flutes only for sparkling wine -Riedel port glasses. Port + dessert wines just go well in a very small glass.In the 5 years I’ve owned the Schott Zwiesels, I’ve broken only 2 of them vs. the dozen I’ve broken of the Riedels. These SZ’s are crazy good glasses. For me the upside of the supposed subtle differences in tasting results are mitigated by -the shape of my chosen glass (the cab model of the SZ, which is a middle of the road glass good for both red and white) and-the value of simplicityI donated over 50 wine glasses from the personal collection last year to simplify things. Especially enjoyed parting with my Riedel "O" glasses. Ew. I never look back.

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