People leave the comfort of their homes to seek an experience; an experience they’re willing to pay more for. Dining and drinking is a frequent part of this, and it often involves the greatest beverage of all: wine. Restaurant wine service is a massive profit opportunity, given significant upcharge potential for a glass or bottle.
If you’re not offering wine service at your restaurant, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to increase margins. On average, restaurants offering wine by the bottle charge up to three times what they paid to acquire the wine. That’s a 200% profit!
Even if you are offering wine service, are you doing it correctly? Guests are willing to pay this upcharge knowing full well they could buy the same bottle much cheaper at retail. They do so because they’re out to enjoy the moment by sipping on a decent wine, pairing it with a complementary dish, and engaging in lively conversation. The type of glass you’re serving your wine in can make a huge difference. They’re designed strategically for users to get the most out of the wine they’re sipping, depending on the type they ordered.
Wine glasses also make up a big part of your establishment’s ambiance – thus lending itself to the overall dining experience. However, not all glassware is created equal. Here, we seek to educate on the best type of wine glassware based on wine type, as well as the differences in quality to help you make more profit margin and get the most bang for your buck. Cheers!
Types of Wine Glasses: Which Wine Glass Should You Use?
Most wines need to be exposed to air after opening to bring out the aromas and flavors. This is commonly referred to as allowing the wine to breathe and can make a world of difference in younger, full-bodied wines like cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and petite sirah. The same rings true for white wines (learn how to taste wine like the experts do here).
A misconception that many practice is uncorking the bottle to let sit for a few minutes. In reality, the top hole of the bottle is just too small to accommodate a steady airflow to allow the wine to aerate properly. Unless you leave the bottle out for hours, you’re not likely to notice a difference.
Many connoisseurs insist on pouring the bottle into a carafe upon opening. When it comes to table service, the best method is swirling the wine in the glass. That’s why the ideal glass should have a long stem and a big enough bowl to allow guests to aerate by swirling without spilling or dropping. The stem is also used to hold the wine while drinking. If you opt to hold it by the bowl, you risk warming the glass with your body temperature, which can alter the taste and experience.
Note: Not all wines need to breathe. Older pinot noirs or red burgundies are often too sensitive and the flavor profile may fall apart during aeration, resulting in a dull or lifeless taste.
Even though it’s possible to still enjoy wine out of any glass (even a red solo cup, as I know only too well from my college days), a quality wine glass can enhance the aroma, flavor, and pleasure. As Karen MacNeil puts it in her acclaimed text The Wine Bible, “A well-designed glass allows the wine’s aromas and flavors to evolve. Moreover, the wine itself will flow over the rim in a direct stream that focuses it on the palate.”
Furthermore, the color of the wine is just as much of the experience as tasting it. It’s recommended that you stick to a clear glass that will add a sparkling clarity to the wine; one that won’t obscure or distract from its appearance.
A variety of shapes are available that are better suited for different wines. Traditionally, glasses with a larger bowl, such as balloon-shaped wine glasses, are better for red wines served at room temperature because it’s specially designed for maximum air exposure. White wines are often served chilled, which is where a smaller glass that closes in on the top of the bowl comes in handy. This type of glass helps to focus on the wine’s bouquet (its complex aroma) while keeping it chilled (read also: Pouring, Serving, and Storing Wine in Your Restaurant for more tips on best practices to enhance the quality of your wine service).
Let’s continue to break down the most common types of wine glassware.
Setting the Bar: Resources for Running an Efficient Bar Operation
Red Wine Glasses
Standard Red Wine Glass
As a rule of thumb, red wine glasses will have a bigger, rounder bowl that serves two purposes:
1) it increases the amount of oxygen to the wine to open up the flavors, and
2) allows guests to get close to the wine to get a good whiff. After all, smelling is an important part of the tasting process.
Traditionally features a smaller opening so the flavors immediately meet the tongue in a consistent flow to enhance the richness of medium to full-bodied red wines.
Pinot Noir Wine Glass
Ideal for lighter red wines, like young Pinot Noirs, because the wide bowl allows the wine to oxygenate, enhancing the experience.
Cabernet Sauvignon Wine Glass
Great for bolder, fuller-bodied wines like Cabernet Sauvignon. Features a broader bowl and narrow mouth, used to enhance the aroma, drawing it right up the nose.
Bordeaux Wine Glass
The tallest of the wine glasses mentioned, Bordeaux wine glasses are similar to cabernet glasses in that they are better suited for heavier wines. Though it’s tall, the bowl is narrower to enable direct airflow that, again, opens the wine and softens the tannins that can cause a wine to taste bitter. This allows for the more complex flavors to lift straight up to the nose.
Burgundy Wine Glass
Burgundy wine glasses are characterized by the biggest bowl yet a thin rim. Often reserved for use with lighter wines to detect more delicate flavors.
White Wine Glasses
Standard White Wine Glass
Smaller than standard red wine glasses, the bowl on white wine glasses is typically more u-shaped to preserve and deliver the bouquet of the wine while maintaining its cooler temperature (keep in mind, most red wines are served close to room temperature, while most whites should be served chilled).
Though there are other types of white wine glasses, such as a Sauvignon Blanc glass, or a Riesling glass, or, if you insist on pretending to be a complete wine snob, a sweet wine glass (not to be confused with a dessert wine glass; see below), most of them are just splitting hairs. You can get by just fine with a standard white wine glass without losing any of the experience (we promise, we won’t tell your sommelier friend).
The reason we’re calling out the Chardonnay glass specifically is because it’s not only one of the most popular white wines on the menu, it’s also a heavier, full-bodied white with unique and varying characteristics, such as oaked and unoaked varietals. Therefore, all full-bodied whites, like Viognier, should be served in a Chardonnay glass to get the most out of it.
Additional Wine Glass Types
Champagne Flutes and Sparkling Wine Glasses
Flutes and tulip-shaped glasses are best reserved for sparkling wines. This allows the bubbles to swell and rise, and prevents them from dissipating as quickly, keeping the sparkling beverage fresh and ready to be enjoyed. This also allows the aromas to rise with it.
In the past, some have used coupe-shaped glasses to serve Champagne. Coupe Champagne glasses feature a long stem and broad, shallow bowl. Though this trend has been coming back into style under the name of “vintage,” it’s not the best way to serve champagne if you’re really hoping to get the most out of it. The bubbles dissipate quicker in these types of coupe glasses, and it’s more likely to be warmed by the user’s hand.
A quick note on the differences between Champagne and sparkling wine. Wine labeled as Champagne should come from the Champagne region in France. Many wine experts argue that this is the best sparkling wine in the world because the region has the right combination of elements. Writes Kevin Zraly, wine expert, teacher, and author of Windows of the World: Complete Wine Course, “The soil is fine as chalk, the grapes are the best grown anywhere for sparkling wine, and the location is perfect. This combination of soil, climate, and grapes is reflected in the wine.”
On the other hand, sparkling wine can be produced anywhere in the world. German wines refer to it as Sekt. Italian as spumante, which is where a lot of Prosecco comes from. In the United States, the two biggest regions for sparkling wine production is New York State and California.
Dessert Wine Glasses
Dessert wines are sweeter wines that are great to serve at the end of a meal for a final nightcap. A typical serving is two to three ounces, much smaller than the standard pour. Dessert wines, like port and ice wine, are often much stronger, usually around 20% alcohol by volume whereas most wine lingers between 13 and 15%. Despite the added intensity, they produce a sweet and satisfying closure to the palate.
Because the serving is much smaller, many manufacturers have started producing dessert wine glasses – stemmed glassware with a small, narrow bowl to enhance the presentation, allow for swirling to bring out the aromas, and steer the sweetness down the center of the mouth the back of the palate. However, if you’re running low on dessert glassware, a white wine glass makes a suitable substitute.
All-Purpose and Stemless Wine Glasses
All-purpose wine glasses are also available if you serve a variety of wine types. The bowl on these is typically a hybrid between white and red wine glasses, designed for use with both types.
Stemless wine glasses have seen a rise in popularity as of late, given their more contemporary style. However, wine served in these types of glasses are harder to swirl and aerate because there’s no stem. Also, since you’ll be holding the glass in your hand, the wine may warm quicker, thus altering the flavor.
Stemless wine glasses are available to cater specifically to red or white wines, as well as for universal use. The differences between red and white versions can be observed at the rim of the glass. Those with wider bowls are often reserved for serving red wines, while those with narrower ones are preferred for whites. They are more commonly used in residential environments than commercial ones.
Wine Glass Construction and Quality of Glassware
There are three common types of glassware construction:
This refers to a process of cooling that strengthens the glass to withstand temperature fluctuations, reducing internal stress. However, of the three common types, this is the lowest end. When it comes to glassware, occasional breakage is unavoidable. When a glass that has undergone the annealed process drops and breaks, it shatters into hundreds of shards, thus causing a quite a mess to clean up and posing a safety risk to those nearby.
The most common type of glass construction process you’re likely to observe in your ongoing wine glass research. Tempering refers to a process of thermally treating glassware to greatly increase its strength and durability, making it up to four times stronger than annealed glasses. In rim-tempered glassware, only the rim of the glass has undergone this process. In wine glasses, this makes sense since the bowl is the heaviest part of the glass and, given its shape, the rim of the glass is the most likely to take the brunt of the impact. Tempering doesn’t make the glass invulnerable to damage, but when it does breaks, it won’t shatter. Instead, it’ll break into larger chunks for a manageable cleanup and less risk to physical safety.
Here, the full glass has undergone the tempering process. It’s not super common in wine glasses, but a term that may pop up during your research.
What’s the Big Deal with Crystal Wine Glasses?
Crystal glassware offers the most clarity out of any other type of wine glass. As mentioned earlier, the appearance of the wine is often just as crucial to the dining and wine experience as the flavor and aroma.
In a nutshell, all crystal is made of glass, but not all glass is crystal. Most glass is made out of soda-lime, composed of sand. Crystal quality was traditionally manufactured by adding lead to the original soda-lime composition. This gives it a more delicate quality and enables the glass to be spun much thinner for a smoother drink flow and better acoustics, thus continuing to add to the wine-drinking experience. However, the use of lead has resulted in some concern over health risks, especially if the wine is left in too long. There’s the potential of the wine absorbing some of the lead that could then harm the drinker, so manufacturers have taken it upon themselves to look for lead alternatives. Arc Cardinal’s Chef & Sommelier brand, for instance, has released their Krysta line, which features lead-free crystal without sacrificing its original appeal.
The drawback to crystal is it’s more expensive and fragile compared to traditional stemmed glassware. However, some manufacturers heat-treat their glasses for added durability. Like tempered glasses, heat treatment refers to a thermal after-process of heating the glass for added strength.
Tips for Buying Wine Glasses
You can never have too many glasses. Again, breakage happens, so in a commercial foodservice, it’s always best to be prepared. A few tips to get you started:
- Buy wine glasses you can afford to break and buy more than you think you’ll need (learn about reducing glassware reorders here).
- Buy the right size. A glass that’s too small can feel awkward and can detract from the flavors you’re meant to glean from the wine itself.
- Clear and smooth glassware dramatically enhances the presentation and experience. Make sure the rim is thin so the wine glides consistently and smoothly. A thick rim can take away from the enjoyment.
- Always opt for stemmed over stemless to enable proper aeration and to provide something to hold onto other than the bowl. Again, you don’t want the wine to warm.
Recommended usage varies greatly from restaurant to restaurant, depending on several factors such as the type of establishment, the theme, ambiance, menu, etc. As noted, it’s always best to buy more than what you think you’ll need. Trust us, they’ll come in handy when you least expect them to. One thing you’ll want to account for is washing time. Glasses take time to clean and thoroughly sanitize, and require even more time to settle back to room temperature before re-entering circulation to reduce the risk of thermal shock.
Here’s our best recommendation for general restaurant types, based on a hundred-seat dining room. However, we encourage you call 800.215.9293 before making a bulk purchase to discuss your expectations with one of our knowledgeable product experts who can guide you to the right product and quantity for your unique needs.
Suggested minimum glassware requirements for a 100-seat dining room.
Dining (by the bottle service)
|Flute, 5 – 7 oz.||12 dozen|
|White Wine Glass, 8 – 12 oz.||12 dozen|
|Red Wine Glass, 20 – 23 oz.||12 dozen|
|All Purpose Wine Glass, 10 – 15 oz.||24 dozen|
|Flute, 5 – 7 oz.||12 dozen|
|All Purpose Wine Glass, 10 – 15 oz.||24 dozen|
Bar (by the glass service)
|Flute, 5 – 7 oz.||6 dozen|
|All Purpose Wine Glass, 10 – 15 oz.||12 dozen|
Wine Glass Care and Maintenance
Glassware breaks; however, with proper care and maintenance, breakage can be reduced. We still recommend preparing for the unavoidable by stocking up early and often.
The most common reasons glasses break (apart from accidental drops) is due to either mechanical or thermal shock. Mechanical shock refers to the bumps and clanks glasses go through during use and transport. Micro-abrasions invisible to the eye occur that causes stress on the glass. Over time, this adds up and the glass will break. Avoid using your glasses to carry flatware, carrying several by the stem in between fingers (called “bouqueting”), or coming into contact with overhead racks or other glasses.
Thermal shock refers to abrupt shifts in temperatures. A common occurrence of this is when glasses first come out of a high-temperature glasswasher and are immediately put back into service before they have time to resettle to room temperature. Read more about mechanical and thermal shock in our article on Reducing Glassware Reorders: Handling Dos and Don’ts.
As for cleaning your wine glasses, many experts insist the best way to wash wine glasses, especially crystal glasses, is by hand. MacNeil writes:
“The best way to wash wine glasses is by hand using your hand (not a sponge) and a small amount of diluted soap and lukewarm water. Glasses should be rinsed several times in hot, but not scalding, water. Very hot water can cause the glass to expand rapidly and crack. Drain the glasses briefly upside down, then turn the glasses upright and let them dry in the air. Any drop or spots can be finished off with a clean, soft cloth.”
We know, handwashing glassware in a commercial foodservice is inefficient and not ideal. Running through a commercial dishwasher is just fine; however, you will want to make sure you have the right glass rack. Stemware is typically much larger than other types of drinkware, so you may want to look into racks with extender options to accommodate the appropriate height and diameter of your wine glasses.
We encourage running through a high-temperature glasswasher unit instead of a low-temperature, chemical sanitizing dish machine. Some chemical sanitizers will leave residue traces on the glassware, which can distract once again from the presentation of the wine (read more about commercial dishwashing solutions here). Also, lipstick stains are a common occurance on glasses. Often, a low-temperature machine struggles to remove all residue for crystal clarity. A high-temperature glasswasher is designed to get the job done.
Fun Fact: In several top restaurants in Italy, a washed glass isn’t considered ready for use until a small amount of wine is poured in, swirled about, discarded, and rinsed out. This process is referred in Italian as avvinare i bicchieri and serves to “prepare the glass to receive the wine.”
The Best Wine Glasses: Wine Glass Brands to Note
Libbey Glass is one of the foodservice industries largest manufacturer of commercial glassware, redefining styles and standards that fit any setting. They offer a vast selection of wine glassware to create compelling tabletops and experiences.
Traditional Libbey wine glasses are made from standard soda-lime, but they also distribute some of the most premier and upscale glassware under various brands such as:
Spiegelau glasses are made of fine crystal that radiates class. Spiegelau wine glasses are designed to emphasize the taste of wine to create the ultimate wine drinking experience.
Libbey’s Master’s Reserve™ is a luxury line of glassware that combines presentation with performance. Master’s Reserve wine glasses feature a whisper-thin, beadless edge; strong, slender walls; and seamless bowl and stem for a sleek look that enhances service life. These glasses have undergone Libbey’s signature ClearFire™ process, formulated with their soda lime to create a purely radiant shine.
Anchor is another industry standard specializing in a vast assortment of commercial glassware, ranging from traditional beverage serving, cocktails, beer, wine, coffee, and more.
Stölzle boasts their glassware is “born in fire, shaped by time,” with more than a century of making glasses from the sand of the Lausitz Region in central Europe. They credit the high-quality sand as the reason their glasses are so clear.
Chef & Sommelier is all about crafting an upscale experience with crystal wine glasses intended to pair with exquisite meals.
Krysta is a line of glassware under the Chef & Sommelier brand which stands apart. Not only are Krysta glasses made of high end, lead-free crystal, they offer superior strength, complete transparency, long-lasting brilliance, and perfect acoustics.
Shopping for Wine Glasses
You may also enjoy our article Types of Wine and Popular Regions, and our Glassware Buying Guide that outlines common types of drinkware, usage, care and maintenance, and more. For more information, call 800.215.9293 to speak with a foodservice product expert.
Chase joined Central Restaurant Products in February 2016 as a Content Specialist, bringing to the role years of various foodservice experience, including front-of-house service (slingin’ chicken wings and libations with a smile on his face) and back-of-house food prep using heavy-duty commercial cooking equipment to prepare for peak dining hours at his university’s dining hall.
He puts this experience to use writing for Central’s Resource Center, website, and print catalog. ServSafe certified, he enjoys educating on food safety in the commercial setting, researching new dining room and tabletop trends, and sharing innovative solutions to enhance operational efficiencies. He also enjoys (in no specific order) long hikes with his dog, bingeing 90s sitcoms, red wine, and live music.