The minimal wine glass is clear, has a stem, and holds at least four fluid ounces (120 milliliters). The usual all-purpose wine glass holds at least twice as much. In recent years, the sizes of wine glasses have increased–and so, perhaps, have the sizes of servings–but the extra capacity is better devoted to still air space that traps the wine’s bouquet. Except for champagne glasses, the actual amount of wine poured is half or less of the glass’s capacity.
All of the numbers in the descriptions are approximate. An ordinary, 750-mL, red wine bottle is shown for comparison’s sake.
Holds six, sometimes seven fluid ounces (180 mL); 8½ inches (22 cm) high.
Not as tall as a flute (around 5½ inches, 14 cm), holds more (8¾ fluid ounces, 260 milliliters) and is sneered at because the wine soon becomes flat. Still, it has festive associations. Supposedly modeled on the breast of one of Napoleon's sisters.
Two ounces (60 mL), 4 inches (10 cm) high. Cordials may also be served in larger glasses, say, Spanish-style sherry glasses.
The white wine glass has been growing, but remains smaller than the red. Older styles have capacities somewhat under eight ounces (240 mL); newer designs somewhat under 12 ounces (360 mL). The traditional German glass for riesling, the romer, is much smaller.
The smaller red wine glasses are now around nine ounces (270 mL), which used to be an average size. More typical are 12- and even 14-ounce (415 mL) glasses.
The burgundy glass has a more balloon-shaped bowl and larger capacity than the red wine glass; it holds about 14 ounces (415 mL) and is 7 inches (18 cm) high.
Next to the ordinary burgundy glass is the premiere example of the new generation of enormous glasses, the acclaimed 37-ounce (1095 mL) glass for Burgundy developed by the Austrian firm Riedel, which has a program for designing the optimum glass for each type of wine, based on a theory that the size of the mouth of the glass and the shape of its bowl affects which part of the tongue (and hence which taste buds) the wine reaches first. Some scoff and some wine experts are believers.
The Spanish-style sherry glass shown (a copita) is about 6 inches (15 cm) high and holds 6 ounces (180 mL). Another type of sherry glass has a conical bowl; it deserves the reputation of the champagne saucer.
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The traditional port glass holds 6½ ounces (190 mL) and is 6 inches (15 cm) high. It is shaped like a small version of a red wine glass. Some people feel the traditional glass does not do justice to the wine's complexity, and that port should be served in a much larger glass. In England (2003), glasses with a capacity of 450 mL are marketed as port glasses.
The stemmed water goblet that accompanies wine service is about 7½ inches (19 cm) high and holds 13 ounces (385 mL). This glass can be filled.
The ISO has standardized a series of glasses for wine tasting. They are stemmed with elongated, tapered bowls, with capacities of 120 (for sherry), 210, 300 or 410 milliliters.
Many of the most beautiful wine glasses are made of a type of glass which contains lead, a toxic substance. When such a glass is filled with an acidic solution, some of the lead migrates into the beverage. An adult who only occasionally uses such a glass may be willing to trade the de minimus poisoning for the enjoyment the glass provides. However, leaded glass should never be used to serve children, particularly not strongly acidic drinks such as lemonade, orange juice, cranberry juice, or even water with a lemon segment. There is no threshold below which consumption of lead is not harmful.
Storing acidic wine for long periods in a lead glass decanter is probably not a good idea either.
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Last revised: 13 October 2003.