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The Wine Tasting Glasses Guide - What to Know Before Buying

Wine tasting glasses are essential for wine enthusiasts and professionals alike. They help improve the wine tasting experience, but to what extent?


First published March 21, 2013, and revisited Jan 26, 2021.



Wine tasting glasses play a non-negligible role in enhancing your experience when tasting a wine. 

A set may include a red wine glass, white wine glass, champagne flute, and a cognac snifter. More sophisticated drinkers will want the special glasses for Burgundy, Bordeaux, Chardonnay, or Icewine. 

Many wine lovers believe that the shape and size of the glass are essential in delivering the best tasting experience. But is it true?

This article will tell you what to look for when choosing tasting glasses you'll intend to use to improve your tasting skills. 


The 3 most important features of a good wine tasting glass

1-the shape

All experts recommend that the glass aperture be narrower than the bowl or cuppa. 

Why?

When swirling the wine in the glass, the aroma compounds and alcohol evaporate. The narrow aperture allows these compounds to concentrate and makes it easier to smell and detect these aromas.

Practically, it also avoids spilling wine on your tasting mat because the liquid can't go overboard from the glass. Of course, you can always spill some wine if you swirl too vigorously.


2-the volume

The last few decades have seen the rise of voluminous glasses containing half a liter (16 fl. oz) or more. This glassware looks beautiful on the dining table, but are they enhancing your tasting experience?

I recommend pouring ⅓ of wine in a glass when I teach wine tasting. It translates in 60 ml/2 oz in a standard glass of 180 ml/6 oz. 

I also recommend covering the glass for a minute or two before smelling it.

Why?

This ratio -⅓ of liquid for ⅔ of air- allows the aromas to reach equilibrium in the headspace above the liquid. The aromas concentrate above the liquid and get trapped in the headspace by the cover. So when you uncover the glass, you can smell the aromas more easily.

An oversized glass means pouring more wine. 

The larger headspace makes it more challenging to detect the aromatic nuances of wine if you can't serve 1/3 of wine.


3-the material

You can find wine tasting glasses made out of three types of materials: 

  • Plastic, please avoid. Plastic can have a smell if stored too long in a box.
  • Crystal (with lead or lead-free), and 
  • Glass 

While crystal is the preferred material in hospitality, glass is more practical when organizing tasting events. They don't break as easily and are dishwasher safe.


Why do researchers state that you don't need specialty wine tasting glasses?

A few sensory scientists attempted to answer the question, does the size of the wine-tasting glass matter?

While the methodology varied among studies, findings agree on the absence or weak impact of the glass size and shape on the tasting experience.


A few results.

Cliff et al. 2002 determined that the wine glass shape significantly influenced the wines' perceived total intensity and color, but not the specific aroma intensities. 

Hirson et coll 2012 found no relations between the glass shape parameters and the aroma intensity perceived by trained wine sensory tasters. 

In a thorough comparative study, Fisher and colleagues (1999) found no evidence that the glass shape is essential to evaluate white and red wines. Thus, recommending a special glass for red or white wine seems unnecessary. 

However, they recommend tasting both types of wine in glasses with

  • large cuppa heights, 
  • small opening diameters,  
  • a big ratio between maximum cuppa diameter and opening diameter, and
  • a small ratio between the opening diameter and cuppa volume. 

Narrow glass shapes seemed more efficient in detecting faults.


What's the wine-tasting glass that sensory experts

recommend?

ISO wine tasting glass
The wine tasting glass preferred by wine sensory experts

The key is to use consistent glass shapes and volumes in a comparative wine tasting. This advice is critical when you taste at a winery to select wines to purchase or write reviews.

Most sensory wine experts recommend the ISO/INAO glass. This glass is widely available and affordable. 

The photo shows the shape and dimensions.

I used black ISO glasses when I wanted to mask the color of the wines. It's easier to use black glasses than blindfolding tasters and more fun for them.

I also use aluminum foil to cover the glasses to assess the aroma in the best conditions.




Take these five steps to choose your wine tasting glasses

  1. Please keep it simple and choose one shape and size for all types of wine.
  2. Select the material of your preference, lead-free crystal or glass.
  3. Choose a reasonable glass capacity, in which you can pour ⅓ of wine and still make at least five other servings if you have company.
  4. Choose a narrow opening versus the cuppa diameter, but ensure your nose isn't restricted when smelling from the glass opening. We aren't equal in the size of our noses.
  5. Enjoy the process. As stated in #1, please keep it simple.

References
  1. Influence of Wine Glass Shape on Perceived Aroma and Colour Intensity in Wines. Margaret Anne Cliff, April 2001, Journal of Wine Research 12(1): 39-46 https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09571260120069741
  2. Equilibration Time and Glass Shape Effects on Chemical and Sensory Properties of Wine. Gregory D. Hirson, Hildegarde Heymann, Susan E. Ebeler. December 2012, American Journal Enology Viticulture 63: 515-521; https://www.ajevonline.org/content/63/4/515
  3. Impact of wine glasses for sensory evaluation. Ulrich Fischer and B. Loewe-Stanienda. January 1999, Journal International des Sciences de la Vigne et du Vin 33:71-80. 




Categories: Best practices, Tasting education


Isabelle Lesschaeve

Principal, Blog author, and Wine Tasting Coach

Internationally renowned wine sensory scientist, Isabelle demystifies wine tasting and helps serious wine lovers sharpen their tasting skills and tasting notes in a supportive community.

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