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I understand that one of the important aspects of a wine glass is that it has smaller opening at the top, which is going to help concentrate the aromas.

But why are glasses for red wine generally wider than those for white wine?

Also are there any reasons for white wine glasses to be narrow?

Summary of the question is really; why have two different sizes for wine glasses?

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5 Answers 5

up vote 8 down vote accepted

As baka has said, more volatile components of the wine will be released with more wine surface exposed.

Also, this not only releases aroma but also helps the wine to "breathe" and oxidize, which is why you open the red wine bottle half an hour before serving it (so that this process starts), and why you might pour the wine into a decanter.

This process accentuates the flavors and aromas of the wine. It is not very much necessary with younger, colder served wines (e.g. vinho verde).

In young, sparkling wine, a larger glass will disperse the bubbles faster, as well as warming it. This is undesireable, hence the smaller, narrower glasses.

Aged white wine should behave similarly to aged red wine, although it doesn't need to breathe as much.

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This is what I was thinking; with red wines (especially new wines) you generally want exposure to air, even after the decanting period. A wider glass exposes more surface area. –  Aaronut Sep 3 '12 at 18:57

Because red wine needs to breath! I also made a video on white wine glasses: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=viimmjEwHAE

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This would be much more useful if you could summarize the information from the video here. –  Jefromi Nov 16 at 17:13

As has been said, red wine glasses are generally wider because increased exposure to air helps the deeper and generally more complex flavors of red wine develop fully. Larger surface area means higher air exposure, and the wider bowl of red wine glasses allows for more wine to be exposed at any given time.

In general, white wines do not require as much oxidation for the flavors to expand, thus partly explaining the narrower shape. However, there are other reasons. Heat transfer is another big reason for the more narrow shape of most white wine glasses. Larger surface area means higher oxidation, but it also means that more heat will be transferred into the wine from the surrounding air. The larger the surface area of a cooling/warming object, the higher the rate of heat transfer, so having a narrower opening decreases the exposed surface area, ultimately keeping the wine chilled longer.

One of the biggest reasons, however, is flavor distribution. Different kinds of glasses are made to deliver different sorts of flavors to the optimal part of your tasting apparatus. Generally, red wines tend to feature flavors that are best tasted with the tip of the tongue and the front of the mouth, while white wines are usually comprised of lighter flavors that can be more thoroughly processed by the back of the mouth. The wider bowl of the red wine glass and narrower shape of the white wine glass both cater to this trend, respectively.

For more information on different types of wine glasses (including a break down of some of the different types of red wine glasses), take a quick look at this article. It details all of the different types of glasses, as well as which type of wines they are designed to optimize.

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From Ilikewine.com

Then there is shape and size of glass. No doubt your scientist will assert that neither size nor shape, neither material nor colour of a vessel, can affect the tasting of the wine. Well, there are plenty of subtleties in wine which are beyond the reach of scientific analysis. This matter of the vessel is one of them. Drink any good wine from a thick, white teacup and see what a difference it makes.. The ideal wineglass, whether lighter or heavier, should be smooth- lipped.

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Very little if anything in food and cooking is "beyond the reach of scientific analysis". The vessel may (in fact does) alter one's perception of what they're eating or drinking, but that does not provide any foundation for statements such as "should be smooth-lipped". Why should they be smooth-lipped? Is that an absolute, or is it based on culture and media exposure? How do we know that there isn't an even better design, if it's all apparently subjective? –  Aaronut Sep 3 '12 at 18:55
    
Someone who says that would be a very poor scientist actually... –  nico Sep 3 '12 at 19:19
    
I would argue that at least 50% of cooking is "beyond the reach of scientific analysis". I have yet to find a universal measure for tasty. I suspect smooth-lipped would prevent injury to the mouth and aid in delivery. However, the assumption that a difference of mere millimeters of surface area between one wine glass and another would noticeably impact the flavor is a little hard for me to swallow. (Pun intended) I, can, understand how one might prefer a tall slender glass for a light crisp white or a goblet for a full-bodied red. –  EDabM Sep 3 '12 at 21:18
    
So this answer basically boils down to "Because it's better, for mysterious unquantifiable reasons"? –  Yamikuronue Sep 4 '12 at 13:14
    
Exactly! Hand me my astronaut Jambalaya in a tube please ;) –  EDabM Sep 6 '12 at 0:32

My guess is that it has to do with typical serving temperature. Red wines are generally served at warmer temperatures, so they need less concentration at the nose, because the aromatic compounds are more volatile at warmer temperatures. Basically, "more" smell is coming out of a warmer liquid than a colder one, so to get the full experience, you can get by with a larger-mouthed glass.

I have no idea if this is true, though.

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