Once upon a time, you were new to the world of wine. Your expectations and standards low, you drank from whatever novelty mug your roommate had managed to wash and relished your participation in this adult ritual, regardless of whether the wine you had bought came from the sale rack at your local liquor store or (horrors!) flowed from a box. Now, of course, you're much more sophisticated. You know your favorite grape varietal and descriptors other than "dry." But did you know that the glass you choose to drink from can have a significant impact on your enjoyment of wine?
"The experience of drinking wine is always better in a wineglass," says Patricia Hui of Lalique luxury crystal. "It's a shape that hasn't changed in hundreds of years. The U-shape helps the wine 'breathe' and keeps the temperature more consistent, since your hands can change the temperature of the wine." Additionally, there's a mental component to drinking from proper glassware: "We consider wine-drinking an everyday moment of luxury. Wine is meant to be enjoyed. It's about taking a moment for yourself or to enjoy a meal with someone. You're curating a moment, and it pays to use things of better quality."
Now that we're all on board with using a proper glass, it's important to understand the differences between glasses designed for reds and those designed for whites. "Red wine has to breathe more because the flavors tend to be heavier and more complex," says Hui. "Ideally, you'll pour red wine and wait five or ten minutes to drink it. You'll see people swirling it in a decanter or glass, which helps the flavors open. White wine has less of a need for this. A smaller glass leaves less room for it to aerate, and you can enjoy it straight out of the bottle." Some wines demand an even more nuanced approach: "You drink Champagne from a flute because the shape helps conserve the bubbles and fizziness," says Hui. "For a Bordeaux or Burgundy—a heavy, complex wine that's quite dry in nature—a large glass makes sure it has space to breathe and open up."
If you're a dedicated drinker of a particular varietal—and have plenty of cupboard space—it could be worth investing in a specialized glass for chardonnay or pinot noir. But if you're an everyday (and indecisive) wine drinker simply looking to elevate the experience, go for a good general wine glass. Lalique offers a one-size-fits-all solution with the new Universal glass from their 100 points line. Designed by wine critic James Suckling, who tastes as many as 50,000 wines per year, the glass was developed to help Suckling consolidate his travel equipment to one glass that would work for any kind of wine. The goal for Suckling was to create a vehicle that would let him get to know a wine without any unchanged elements—and the goal for you is to create a moment of everyday luxury that will jive with whatever you pour. While the Universal glass is pricey at $140 per piece, Hui insists it's an investment that pays off in cost per use. "It's a luxury you splurge on once, and you can theoretically use it for every single meal," she says. If you entertain often, these glasses can carry social capital as well: "Having a nicer set of wine glasses shows that you have an understanding of wine and how to drink it," she says. "You instantly get the idea that this person knows what they're talking about. It shows a certain finesse."
Even if the benefits of drinking wine from a fancy glass are purely mental, Hui urges budding wine enthusiasts not to dismiss it out of hand. "It changes the experience," she explains. "In the same way you walk into a restaurant and experience the ambience, there's value in elements built for form over function: the way the glass is shaped to fit in your hand, the way it supports the wine, the specific stem and the design and the crystal." And she notes that wine can be intimidating, but the only way to know more about wine is to drink more wine because, at the end of the day, it's meant to be enjoyed.