To truly appreciate a good wine, one must experience it in full; the flavor, aroma, texture, and color are indicative of a wine's age, origin, grape variety, and other distinguishing characteristics. Wine glasses are designed and specifically shaped to best capture each wine's subtle complexities.
A wine glass typically consists of three parts: the foot, the stem, and the bowl. It may be made from glass, leaded crystal, or lead-free crystal. Glass is less expensive and usually more durable, though many prefer crystal's weight and light refracting sparkle. Lead crystal is also more porous than glass, which allows for better aeration as the wine is swirled in the glass. Proper wine glasses should be smooth and clear enough to highlight the color and texture of the wine.
The most important piece of a wine glass is its bowl. The bowl is specially shaped to cater to one's olfactory sense as well as to direct the wine to specific areas on the tongue. A red wine glass has a wide, round bowl and a somewhat short stem. The rounded bowl increases oxidation, altering the wine's aroma and taste. Further varietal stemware includes bordeaux glasses, used for wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon , which are slightly taller and feature broader bowls to direct the wine to the back of the tongue, and burgundy glasses, which have an even larger bowl to better capture aromas of wines like Pinot Noir. White wine glasses vary in shape and size but generally have more U-shaped bowls and longer stems than reds. While red wine is served at room temperature, white wine is best chilled; white wine glasses should be held only by the stem to prevent body heat from affecting the wine through the bowl. The smaller mouths of the bowls keep the contents cooler and reduce aeration to preserve the wine's crisp flavors. Flutes have long stems and tall, narrow bowls and are used to serve champagne or sparkling wines. The design helps retain carbonation and adds to the visual appeal, as the classic bubbles have further to rise in a taller bowl. Dessert wine glasses are considerably smaller in volume, largely due to the higher alcohol content found in dessert wines and liqueurs.
Wine glasses should be hand washed and stored evenly spaced and hanging upside down to best prevent chips and cracks. Lead crystal should be kept away from strong odor sources, like coffeemakers and spice cabinets, as it can absorb the odors and thus negatively affect the wine. A great wine commands a proper vessel in order to delight all of the senses, and allow for the full experience of the grape.