A Real Sommelier Gives Her Best Advice on Pairing Wines With The Correct Stemware
By Mia Van De Water, Master Sommelier
Likely more than a few people out there might not think what you drink out of makes a huge difference—especially while you’re drinking. And from that first sentence, you can probably surmise that is in fact, not the case. Beer, cocktails, and as you might have guessed, wine all benefit from being sipped out of the right receptacle. Might be beneficial in letting the wine breathe, might help keep those bubbles bubbling. Mia Van De Water, Master Sommelier, knows a little more than most of us and because of that, thought this little guide to the importance of stemware might be of use—with a couple of curveballs of course. Cheers, Mia.
What wine should we be sipping and why?
Coupes are traditionally associated with Champagne, but as the wide mouth allows effervescence to escape faster, they are actually best for those of us who (like myself) love the flavor of Champagne but are sensitive to aggressive bubbles.
We’ve just moved into a new apartment and we can’t find the stemware, what wine should we select?
Anything that will help you decompress from the stress of moving! A coffee cup won’t do much for you other than literally hold liquid, so I would default to something cheap and cheerful—any subtle aromatics will get lost in a ceramic mug. Drink what you like, of course, but this sounds like the right time for New Zealand Sauvignon
Blanc or Zinfandel from California.
Special night in, what are we drinking:
Bordeaux glasses (meaning large wine glasses that are taller than they are wide) are specifically intended for wines with a lot of “structure,” which is a common sommelier euphemism for wines that have a lot grippy tannin (the chemical compounds that make your mouth feel dry after drinking, similar to if you tasted some over-steeped tea). Other than wines from its namesake Bordeaux, varieties like Sangiovese, Tempranillo, and Syrah also work beautifully in a Bordeaux glass—however, if you’ve got something particularly aromatic like Barolo, see if you can snag a Burgundy bowl, where the wider base and narrower top can really amplify the wine’s aroma.
Sister-in-law is throwing a “rustic” dinner party, what wine should we bring?
Same story as the coffee mug— keep it bold, bright, and juicy regardless of whether you’re drinking red, white, or rosé. This might sound cliché, but I like to default to wines from more rural and “rustic” places, like Italian Montepulciano, Grenache or Carignan-based blends from the Rhône Valley or Languedoc in Southern France, or fresh Albariños from the Iberian Peninsula.
Don’t always trust those stems, what wine should we have?
I would always advocate for stemless wine glasses over tumblers, but…on balance, this is the best of the standard kitchenware options. Tall, narrow tumblers can even function like flutes, so they are perfect for bubbleheads that want their Champagne or Cava to stay sparkling until the last sip.
Clearly just won or stole the Stanley Cup, what do we fill it with and drink until morning?
Definitely want to go with white wine here, as given the sheer size and weight of the Stanley Cup, spilling on yourself is inevitable. Perhaps some cool-climate Riesling to go with a cool-climate sport?
Someone has decided they need to liven up a wine dinner, what’s being served?
Tulips make excellent cordial glasses, so channel your inner sommelier and sip some Chartreuse or single-village mezcal (it’s what all the cool kids are into these days). This is also your best glass for sweet and fortified wines, so pull out that Madeira or Sauternes and go to town.
We broke the mug from the first scenario, what should we pull from?
In my professional opinion, anything can be a layback.