Anatomy of a Wine Glass

Why are wine glasses only served half full? And why do they need stems?

Wine tastes good enough to be enjoyed from any vessel, even sipped straight from the bottle with a straw. But wine is almost always served in specialized wine glasses that feature a deep bowl atop an elongated stem. Why? Because doing so makes them more pleasing to your nose. Just as darkened theatres are flattering to movies by focusing our visual attention on the bright screen, stemmed glasses with large bowls are flattering to wines by focusing our attention on their aromatics.

Most glasses or cups are designed to be practical and filled to capacity, as with stackable tumblers or sturdy coffee cups. Wine glasses are not at all practical. Instead every feature is oriented around swirling, sniffing and maintaining wine’s temperature, all to enhance wine’s scent. There are all sorts of wine glasses, some made for specific styles of wine, but one single all-purpose wine glass is really all you need.

Marnie Old

Author and sommelier Marnie Old is one of the country’s leading wine experts and serves as director of vinlightenment for Boisset Collection, one of the world’s leading family-owned fine wine firms based in Burgundy and Napa Valley. Formerly the director of wine studies for Manhattan’s esteemed French Culinary Institute, she is best known for her visually engaging books – the award-winning Wine: A Tasting Course and most recently, Passion for Wine, co-authored with Jean-Charles Boisset. Read more about Marnie Old