Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, but you can call me Vinny. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the fine points of etiquette to the science of winemaking. And don't worry, I'm no wine snob—you can also ask me those "dumb questions" you're too embarrased to ask your wine geek friends! I hope you find my answers educational, empowering and even amusing. And don't forget to check out my most asked questions and my full archives for all my Q&A classics.
Dear Dr. Vinny,
I know that a nice Riedel wineglass is more appealing than a coffee mug, but there are so many "wine specific" glasses now. Some glasses designated for the same types of wine aren't even the same shape, so how can manufacturers, let alone wine critics, justify recommending a specific glass for a specific wine?
—Tom O., Folsom, Calif.
The types and number of wineglasses a person has will vary, based on their budget, what they like to drink and how much cupboard space they have, among other factors. I know that if I had a bigger kitchen I’d have a more varied collection, but for now all I have room for is an all-purpose set, a bubbly set, and a couple of specialized varietal-specific glasses for red wine.
But I know plenty of folks that prefer their bubbly in wineglasses designed for white wine, or those who might find my all-purpose glass too big for their taste. And while wineglasses for reds are generally bigger and fuller than those for whites, that’s not to say that some wine geeks don't have a particular preference for what kind of glass they use that goes against tradition. And who among us hasn’t sipped wine from a coffee mug?
Wineglass companies like Riedel have taken the science of wineglass design to the extreme, working with winemakers to come up with varietal-specific sets of glasses. I’ve been lucky enough to sit through some tastings when the same wine is poured side by side in different shaped-glasses, and it’s true that the height of a wineglass and size of a bowl can certainly change how the wine is perceived.
As far as different-shaped glasses for the same grape, I asked Riedel CEO and president Maximilian Riedel why there are so many different wineglass shapes for Pinot Noirs:
“You’re correct to note that there are several shapes for Pinot Noir glasses on the market: Riedel itself distinguishes between New World and Old World. These two glasses differ slightly, but meaningfully, in shape due to a difference in styles, namely that New World wines tend to be higher in alcohol, and the glass shape, developed in several workshops with New World producers (specifically Oregon producers), ensures the proper balance of this wine style. The shape showcases Pinot Noir’s fresh, compact fruit, highlighting the irresistible sweetness while integrating the acidity into the flavor profile and deemphasizing alcohol.”
Riedel also points out that technology—including the technology for wineglasses—is constantly evolving. While the differences might seem subtle to you, their goal is to become more precise. Whether or not these glasses fit into your budget (or your cupboards), if you ever have a chance to try the same wine in two different glasses, you should give it a shot and see what you think.