The oldest know wine glasses which were the forerunners of the modern wine glass with a stem and foot are fifteenth century enamel wine glasses. These glasses held more than four ounces (120 ml) of liquid and compare favorably with the wine glasses of today.
Towards the end of the sixteenth century in Germany, wine glasses were etched as decoration. The progression of wine glass design saw the introduction of fine wine crystal glasses in France at the end of the eighteenth century.
Many wine experts are of the view that wine must be served in fine crystal glasses for it to be fully appreciated, but this requirement is by no means essential for wine to be enjoyed. However there are a few guidelines which will help when choosing wine glasses. It is true that the aroma, appearance, bouquet and even the taste of the wine is enhanced through using the proper wine glasses, preferably crystal.
Crystal wine glasses commenced production in quantity in the nineteenth century. At this time, wine glasses for the wealthy classes were fabricated in sets of a dozen glasses with a separate set for burgundy and claret, port and sherry, liqueurs and champagne. By the 1950s, Reidel Crystal and other manufacturers had developed advanced wine glass designs with unique shapes and sizes almost all possible types of wine.
When choosing crystal wine glasses, it is plain crystal glass which will best accent your wines. Avoid colored wine glasses of all types including those with tinted bases or stems. Another key consideration when choosing your wine glasses is to remember the way aromas are captured within the wine glass. Wine glasses with a wide bowl that narrows toward the mouth will allow more space for swirling the wine and the narrow mouth will direct the aroma to the nostrils efficiently, unlike large glass openings that quickly disperse the aroma of the wine.
As red wines need more space to develop and breathe once poured, they are usually served in larger glasses than white wine. However, for full appreciation a wine glass can never be too large (within reason!). Sparkling wines are best served in thin glasses with straight sides so that the bubbles are retained.
There have been a number of all purpose wine glasses developed which allow efficient enjoyment of both red and white wines. These wine glasses typically have a tulip shaped bowl of reasonable capacity, around eight ounces or 240 ml.
Having chosen and purchased your lovely crystal wine glasses, it is important to know how to position them when you are having a dinner party and serving different types of wine. Wine glasses should be positioned in the order that they are to be used, starting from right to left. For example, you may first position a tall stemmed glass for a white wine to be served with your entree dish, and to its left a large wine glass for the red wine accompanying your main course, and ending with short smaller glasses for sherry or port. Or as many as you like!