Ever stood before a store shelf full of wine glasses and just shook your head? Or flipped the pages of a wine gadgetry catalogue, or Googled wine glasses? Every wine seems to have its own glass!
And the prices. Go fancy, and you can easily deplete your bank account while filling a storage vault with delicate hand blown crystal, all without tasting a drop of vino.
Relax. Whether you are a wine novice or a regular imbiber, you can get by with a modest collection of stemware. Three sizes - for red, white and sparkling - are enough, but you could get by with two (one for still wines, another for sparkling) or even just one. And you don't have to spend a fortune to find glasses that will treat your wine with respect.
A wine glass is more than just a vehicle for getting wine to our lips. Its shape and size contribute to our enjoyment of the wine. It should be clear, not coloured or engraved with fancy filigree, so we can assess the wine's clarity and colour. That's why we hold the glass by the stem: Greasy fingerprints obscure the wine's colour, and the heat from our hands can warm the wine (which, of course, you are serving at the perfect temperature to release its esters). Nothing sets wine nerds' hair on fire more than a photo of some celebrity holding a wine glass by the bowl.
Enter the stemless glass. It has the advantage of being less snobby and more stable in the dishwasher. It's also harder to knock over on a crowded table. For casual drinking, this is fine, and it sends a message that you are unpretentious. For more formal dinner parties, or for higher-end wines, you may want to use traditional stemware.
The bowl of the glass should resemble a tulip - broader at the base and narrow toward the rim. The narrower rim focuses the aroma and guides the wine to your palate rather than down your shirt. Your glass should have a thin "cut rim" rather than a thicker "rolled rim" for the same reason. These are often called Bordeaux-style glasses. Burgundy glasses, traditional for more aromatic pinot noir and chardonnay wines, are wider balloon shapes.
A smaller, narrower bowl will direct acidic wines, such as a Riesling or sauvignon blanc, toward the tip of your tongue, while a bigger, wider glass will direct fleshier, tannic reds, such as cabernet sauvignon, to the middle of your palate - all in the hopes of balancing the wine and showing it at its best.
And then there's sparkling wine. We've all toasted a bride and groom with cheap fizz in a flat glass called a "coupe," and celebrated the New Year with bubbly in a flute. But if you're enjoying champagne or other sparklers with a meal, consider investing in sparkling wine glasses shaped more like a tulip than a flute. These will allow the wine to express its flavours. Or, just use a white-wine tulip glass; you may lose some of the bubbles, but you will gain the flavours and wine nerd cred for ditching the flute.
So what glass should you buy? Look for something comfortable in your hand and comfortable for your wallet. If you drink wine only occasionally, one model will do. If you're a regular imbiber, consider a red glass and a white glass, and maybe one for sparkling. I recommend stemware costing about the same as the average price you pay for a bottle of wine.