Initially, I felt that using different stemware for each glass was some wine snob affectation. But a few years ago, I attended an event in Napa Valley with my colleagues at the New York Wine & Grape Foundation. There, we tasted wines in different glasses. The goal? To see if the wine experience was affected by the glass. I started out as a doubting participant…and wound up a true believer. The shape of the glass certainly makes a difference, whether you are an oenophile or a newcomer.
Champagne should always be served in flute glasses to display and preserve the bubbles. Regarding red wines, a larger and wider rim will allow more air to circulate around the wine, allowing it to breathe and maintain the complex character of the wine.
And then there is the business of how to hold the glass! Red wine drinkers tend to cup the bowl of the glass to lend some warmth to the wine. When enjoying white wines, Champagnes and sparkling wines, hold the glass by the stem to avoid raising the temperature of the liquid. These tips add to the science, pleasure and aesthetic of wine drinking.
When all is said and done, however, I am not a 100% stickler for stemware rules. I have gone camping in the woods where fabulous wines were served in the most simple glasses! But they were heavenly, all the same!