What It's Worth: Wine Glasses

11/14/2011 02:51 pm ET | Updated Oct 11, 2012

In What It's Worth, I investigate why an everyday household item is worth buying...and what to look for when shopping for that very item. This week, I'm zeroing in on wine glasses.

Though we think of wine glasses as very basic, their design has actually taken centuries to evolve. In fact, the clear wine glasses that we know and love actually date roughly from 14th-century Italy, when the art of glassblowing addressed an everyday need: A vessel to hold wine.

The evolution continues in today's marketplace. I'm continually impressed by the diverse selection of wine glasses out there, from classic shapes to the more diminutive tumblers. This means that shopping can be overwhelming, especially when we're often told to keep in mind the differences between red and white wine glasses. Though the specifics for red versus white wine glasses can be broken down to minute details, I've found that there are a handful of general differences that make shopping much, much easier.

Glasses for red wine should always have a larger bowl or rounder body. Many red wines need to breathe and aerate, and the larger bowl exposes more wine to air, something that will noticeably enhance the taste and flavor of the wine. For certain reds that don't need to breathe as much, taller glasses with less broad bowls work best.

For white (or blush) wine glasses, the opposite is key. These wines are not enhanced by exposure to air, so the mouth and bowl of the glass should be smaller and more narrow, respectively, than that of red wine glasses. But keep in mind that doesn't mean it should be as long and slender as a champagne flute. And, of course, always hold white wine glasses at the stem, not the bowl, so the heat from your hand does not boost the temperature of the wine (altering its flavor).

If you're looking to shop, I've found a few styles on the market right now that are worth a look.