Size matters: choose the right glassware

Choosing the right wine glass is a tricky business, but an important one.

We all know the old ‘small glass for white wine, large glass for red wine’ rule, but if you want to get really geeky about it you need to consider a few different factors.

Georg Riedel, the 10th generation owner of the infamous family glassmaking business, explains, “The glass is a tool made to deal with the multiple flavour contributors in wine – like fruit, neutrality and acidity – and balance them.” An optimal design will bring out a wine’s fruit characteristics while maintaining its acidity.

The basics:

There are three key components to assess when looking to get the best experience from a glass of wine: the size of the glass, the shape of the glass, and the diameter of the rim. The size controls how much air is in contact with the wine, the shape determines how the liquid flows to the opening, and the rim's diameter influences how fast the wine flows, and then how it lands on the palate.

Studies have shown that while these factors can greatly enhance the experience of drinking a certain wine, some glasses can also have an adverse effect on the experience – over accentuating bitterness or acidity, or certain aromas. For example, enhancing oak flavours too severely could make a wine seem overwhelming, while an excess of pyrazine aromas like green pepper and asparagus could be equally unpleasant.

Almost as vital as size and shape is ensuring that your glassware is clean, most importantly from detergent or dishwasher salt.

The glassware

Red wines and richer, oaked whites

Red wines are typically served in larger, bowled glasses.


The large glass allows a larger surface area of the wine to come into contact with air when swirled, developing the aromas and flavours. This larger surface area also allows for a little ethanol evaporation, allowing the more favourable aromas such as fruit and oak to come through.

White wine and rosé

Light white wines and rosés are typically served in smaller, bowled glasses. This size of glass is also a good choice for lighter, low-alcohol red wines with more subtle aromas.


The small size and bowl shape allows the fresh, fruity and delicate floral aromas to gather, directing it towards the top of the glass without it dissipating too quickly. The smaller glass size also helps retain the cooler temperature for longer.

Still stuck on which glass to use? Check out our quick how-to video:

Fortified wine

Fortified wines are best served in smaller glasses.


As these wines are higher in ABV than the average wine, there is certainly a practical element to the serve being small!

The smaller glass also helps diminish the feeling of alcohol thus ensuring that the delicious fruit characteristics of the wine are emphasized. Don’t go too small though or there will be no room for swirling and nosing!

Sparkling wine

Sparkling wines are served in a few different glasses, the most common of them being the flute.


A flute is the optimum shape for maintaining bubbles for longer as they have to travel through more liquid before reaching the surface, bringing aroma with them. However, flutes are not so great for swirling and detecting the subtle aromas of sparkling wine.

Many top Champagne houses are now promoting the drinking of their more complex Champagnes in white wine glasses to enhance the aromatics of the wine.

We all love to look like we’ve just stepped out of a Great Gatsby party, but the coupe glass is actually the least effective glass to pick for Champagne and sparkling wine. So which is the best glass for your bubbles? This quick how-to video shows you how to choose your sparkling wine glass.

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