The amount of vessels you can use to drink wine can be overwhelming, from Zalto stemware to mason jars. This “anything and everything” approach to glassware is especially stark in the natural wine space. Our community likes to make the wine approachable, thus, trendy places often opt for simple glassware, like bodega glasses. This should make choosing glassware easier but ultimately it adds even more options!
The goal of this blog is twofold. First, we’ll put our somm hats on and explore why traditional wine glasses are made the way that they are, and the merits of their design. Then, we’ll take our somm hats off and look at how glassware is being used in the natural wine world and the brands and types of glassware we personally love at MYSA so you can make your own decisions about what kinds of glassware are perfect for your natty setup!
An Introduction to Wine Glasses:
There are many reasons why wine glasses are shaped as they are. As you likely already know, there are different types of glasses made for different wine styles or even grapes (looking at you Burgundy glasses) and that’s where this topic can get overwhelming very quickly. Rather than focusing on each type of glass, we're going to work our way down from a 'traditional' wine glass to explore why each section of the glass is shaped the way it is.
Wine glasses typically have a lip that curves inwards at the top. The inward angle allows aromas to pause at the top of the glass and not completely escape immediately. This is one of the most important aspects of a wine glass, especially if you’re looking to savor it and really contemplate the wine. The ability to really get your nose in there and have the aromas halted towards the top of the glass is very helpful and makes the experience more enjoyable.
The MYSA Take: Glassware like Bodega glasses do not have this lip, and while they look pretty dang cool, we love using glasses with a curved lip to really get the most out of the wines.
This is where the types of glasses vary immensely. The general theory behind how wide and large the bowl of the glass should be has to do with the amount of air that needs to be introduced for the wine to open up or present itself best. For example, an aged Cab Sauv with a lot of oak and tannin will benefit from the increased amount of surface area that is exposed to the wine inside the bowl and help the wine develop. For wines with more delicate aromas, it’s better to have a smaller bowl to capture and preserve the aromatics.
The MYSA Take: We’ve all seen these glasses go to the extreme massive bowls and I personally find them cumbersome. We rarely drinking heavy tannin or oaked wine, and a standard (or universal as we say in the wine world) glass shape and size typically works for all styles.
There are some good reasons why it’s better to have a stem on your wine glass. First, holding your wine by the bowl heats the wine up and deregulates its temperature. Second, our grubby fingers can smudge the glass, so holding it by the stem preserves your ability to be able to admire the wine and judge its color.
The MYSA take: We know this section kind of oozes wine snobbery. We're all for a good stem on a glass when we're evaluating it, having a really nice meal, or it’s really hot and I want to keep the wine colder (though I also have some cool glasses I use for that I’ll link below. Otherwise, pass the stemless and don’t take yourself too seriously!
What About Bubbles?
Bubbles are an interesting subject for glassware as it’s a very different structure of wine glass. The traditional vessel is a flute that is long and skinny so that the bubbles have to travel far to reach the top of the glass, bringing with it all the yummy aromas from the wine and creating a delicious mouthfeel. While coupe glasses look adorable, they’re the worst for sparkling wine because the bubbles only get to travel a small distance. If you’re not that into bubbles you can put them into a glass with a larger bowl to temper them, but if you love them then the flute is certainly the glass for you.
The MYSA take: We kind of hate coupes, They're cute but impractical and ruin sparkling wine. Also, they spill too easy. Flutes for life!
Glassware in the Natural Wine Space:
The natural wine community is turning the wine world on its head in several ways and one of those is about the glassware used to enjoy the wines. From bodega glasses and funky vintage colored glassware, to collectible cartoon glasses and mason jars, fun, varied, interesting glassware is on the up and up. Natural wine, and in particular glou glou wines are purpose made to be fun, simple, and not contemplated in the way you’d want to with a vintage Burgundy.
These wines will have lovely aromas, but often won't be the most complex, "decant for 3 hours before drinking" types of wines, so the necessity of curved lips, broad bowls, or long stems aren't as important.
That said, natural wine is so much more than just it’s popular glou glou category, so while these hip and fun glassware works for your piquette on the patio, when you bust out your Radikon or aged Dutraive, it’s the traditional glassware you’ll want so you can really get the most out of your tasting experience.
Our Favorite Glassware
We love all styles of wine glasses but also don’t have a ton of space in our home, so we have to be very picky about what we keep around for our natty wines! Below by category I’ve linked our favorite glasses by style with notes on why we love them:
Bodega Glass - Spanish "Chatos"
We love that these glasses are short, easily stackable, and if you break one it’s no big deal! Perfect for your glou glou wines and non-serious drinking.
Here is also a less expensive version of this type of glass.
Universal Glass - Zalto Universal
These glasses are unreal, so light and delicate (so be careful, we’ve broken a couple and it’s very sad) but they are worth the effort of keeping up with them as the legitimately show more of the wines aromas and is the best experience you can create for yourself.
They can be trickier to get in the US, so we’ve also heard that the Gabriel Glas ones are outstanding!
Flutes - Schott Zwiesel Flute
We’re honestly not that picky about our flutes! I’d just say that I know the ones that don’t curve in look cuter, but the ones that do curve do a better job, so keep that in mind!
Non-Glass Glass - Corkcicle Glass
To be honest, I kinda hate all the alternatives to glass for your wine needs, but going to the beach often I’ve found myself using this glass and after a few uses have decided it’s getting the job done as best it can. My tip is to wash it a few times before you use it, otherwise initially any of these style glasses taste like metal a little bit until they’re worn down.
Everyone should just drink what they like in whatever vessel feels appropriate to them! Especially now that you have the knowledge of why wine glasses are set up the way they are, you’re now equipped to decide what is and isn’t important to your wine drinking experience every time you go to pour a glass and can make an educated decision on if it’s time for a bodega glass, flute, or your baby’s tippy cup (there is a place in Paris that does this and it’s kinda fun!). You do you and don’t let anyone make you feel bad about your glassware selection.