Everything has become specialized. Even wine glasses have gotten in on the fun. No longer is it chic to sip Burgundy from just any old glass. You need to spend a small fortune on a glass specifically designed for those French Pinot Noirs that you spent a rather large fortune on.

We are all familiar with the basic shape of a wine glass. At the bottom is the foot or base. One that is large enough to support and balance a full glass of wine. Next is the stem. It should be long and graceful. Not too thin, not too fat. The purpose of the stem is to provide a handle that keeps your body heat away from the wine. Always hold a glass of wine by the base, or by the bottom of the stem. And, finally, the most important part of the wine glass, the bowl. You want a bowl big enough to allow you to swirl the wine.

Which brings up another important point, never fill a wine glass more than 1/3 full. Unless you are at an overpriced restaurant, with a snooty sommelier, then get your money's worth and say "fill it to the brim, buster!"

This revolution in the art of the wine glass began with Claus J. Riedel in 1961. The Riedel family has been involved in the glass trade since the 1600's but Claus was the first to begin designing glasses made to enhance specific styles of wine. His early experiments were so successful that simply by changing the glasses his tasters were convinced he had changed the wine. It was the glass that made the difference.

Below is a brief rundown of the 8 basic types of Riedel stemware and an explanation of why they work.

The structure in these wines is provided by their acidity. But sometimes that first taste can be shockingly tart. The innovation in these glasses is the flared bowl. This flare will direct the wine to the tip of the tongue first, where sweetness is best detected. Think of lemonade and how the sugar balances the tartness of the fruit. This glass will help you sense the sweetness first and calm the bracing acidity. Great for most Sauvignon Blanc, Verdicchio, Albarinho, Custoza and the like.
The bowl of this glass is taller and wider than that for the young whites. It is also slightly narrower at the top. Notice how the sides of the bowl are straight. This directs the flow of the wine past the tip of the tongue toward the middle and back of your mouth. These wines are richer and more mellow than their young cousins. So tempering the acidity is not as important. The smaller opening at the top will help trap the more complex and subtle aromas of a mature white wine. Most white Burgundies, white Rhone wines, Soave from Italy and top California or Australian Chardonnays.
These big white wines are rich, round, deep and complex. The bowl is this case is all about the aroma. The round shape let you capture as much of the bouquet as possible. These wines are round and creamy, so acidity is not an issue. The bowl also allows the wine to warm and open up more quickly. Meursault, white Chateauneuf du Pape, California Chardonnay, Chilean whites.
The best definition for a Rosé is that it is a white wine made with red grapes. So it makes sense that these glasses should be a happy medium between the two styles. The bowl of the rosé glass is more round than that of the young white wine glass. The rounder bowl will allow this slightly more complex wine to open up. It is the acid in these wines that requires the flared top. New World Rosés, Tavel.
This glass is essentially the same as that for the mature whites. In fact, many finer establishments use the same glass for their young reds and mature whites. The tannins in a young red can be aggressive making the wine harsh and astringent. The straight sides of the glass will direct the flow toward the center of your mouth and away from your gums where the effects of that astringency are most keenly felt. Young French, California and Italian reds.
Notice the size of these glasses, they are very large, indeed. Very mature wines do not need decanting. Their delicate nature is fleeting. They should be handled with care and given room to breathe. The large bowl and the narrow opening gives your nose a lot of room to enjoy the amazingly intense aromas of these classic wines. Best described as smooth and velvety, these wines are sent down the center of your mouth by the straight sides of the glass. Top Bordeaux, Australian Shiraz and California Cabernets and Merlots.
These glasses are similar to the previous model but with a flared opening. Some mature reds retain their acidity and the flared top allows the taster to pick up on the subtle sweetness of these complex wines. Top Burgundy, California and Oregon Pinot Noirs, Barolos, Barbarescos and Brunellos from Italy.
The sparkling wine glass is also known as a flute. The shape reduces the surface of the of the wine and helps retain the bubbles. But the shape is important for another reason. These wines are quite acidic. The shape forces the tasters to tilt their heads back as they sip. The wine will quickly move along the tongue and miss the acid receptors on the side.