Should You Drink Wine From a Glass or Crystal Stemware?

Should you drink wine from a glass or crystal stemware?

For many, the question persists; should you be savouring red wine from glass or from crystal stemware?

For the casual wine drinker, the wineglass might not matter as much as the beverage but ask any sommelier and he will tell you that there is an art to choosing the right stemware for every wine. Whether you’re treating your taste buds to a gorgeous Australian wine or savouring a light and floral rose, the right vessel will ensure that every sip brings forth the wine’s full flavor potential.

Anatomy of Glass and Crystal Wineglasses

While stemware comes in different shapes and sizes to make the most out of the flavor profile, aroma, texture, and body of specific of wine, each vessel generally has three basic parts: the stem, the rim, and the bowl. These three parts play a role in the sensory experience of enjoying every glass of wine.

The stem serves as the handle of the wineglass. It prevents the warmth of a person’s hands from interfering with the desired temperature of the wine. It also prevents the bowl from smudging resulting in a better visual enjoyment of your wine.

The rim is the part of the wineglass that touches your lips. It should be thin enough to avoid distracting the drinker from the texture nuances of the wine.

Finally, the bowl of a wineglass gives it shape. Bowl sizes vary to give wine either the chance to breathe properly or to collect more aroma.

Glass vs. Crystal

Stemware is typically made from either glass or crystal. Wine glasses are traditionally made from glass. However, in the 1600s, clear lead crystal stemware has made its way into Europe making the wine drinking experience more luxurious than ever.

Glass stemware is typically more affordable than their crystal counterparts. It is non-porous and inert so it will not absorb chemical aromas nor will it corrode over time. However, glass stemware typically has a lip on the rim which affects one’s enjoyment of the wine.

Crystal stemware, on the other hand, is more durable than glass thanks to its mineral content and its rim can be made thinner which facilitates a better drinking experience. It also effectively refracts light which makes for a pleasant visual experience when gazing at your wine. However, crystal is a porous material so it can only be hand-washed. 

The Best Wineglass for Your Red Wine

Red wine, with its tannin and resveratrol content, has spicy flavors that go along with it. Therefore, the goal is to mitigate the bitterness and the spice and to deliver a smoother-tasting wine with each sip you make. Moreover,  according to a study from the Tokyo Medical and Dental University, the shape of a wineglass affects the position and density of wine vapors. Wide-rimmed and rounded stemware carry the aromatic compounds of reds more efficiently.

For bolder reds like Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Alicante Bouschet or Bordeaux Blends, it is best to use large “Bordeaux” wineglasses as it delivers more aroma compounds to the nose, has a larger surface area which lets ethanol evaporate, and has a wider opening that makes the wine taste smoother.

Medium to full-bodied reds with spicy notes like Zinfandel, Malbec, Shiraz, and Petite Sirah are best enjoyed with a standard red wineglass. This type of stemware softens the spicy notes of the wine and allows the flavors to hit the tongue more progressively.

For delicate reds with subtle aromas like with Pinot Noir, Gamay, Zweigelt, St. Laurent, Schiava, Freisa, Valpolicella blends, and Nebbiolo, it is best to us “Bourgogne” wineglasses which have larger bowls that collect aroma effectively.

Now on to the important question, should you be savouring red wine in a glass or crystal stemware? It all comes down to preference. Both materials have pros and cons. However, if you want to enjoy the full body, taste, and aroma of your natural and healthy wine from The Wine Doctor with a luxurious flare, then go for crystal wineglasses with a bigger bowl.