It’s at a certain level of personal risk that I make the following statement: You don’t need different kinds of wine glasses for different kinds of wine.
As a sommelier I was constantly perplexed by the idea that the shape of various wine glasses mattered when tasting varieties and regional styles. Occasionally I’d even have an over-ambitious distributor (or winemaker) insist I could only taste their wines in a “proper” glass. My standard response, that I’d prefer to taste the wine in the same glass I offered my guests, was met with all sorts of oenological side-eye.
The reality of the situation is this: Good wine glasses are expensive, prone to breakage and require a lot of storage space. Having multiple kinds of glasses just complicates things even further. When I was keeping a restaurant taped together I tried to reduce complexities as much as possible. Simplifying my “glass strategy” went a long way to making service that much more efficient without cutting any meaningful corners.
So if you were to go to a single type of glass, what would I recommend? Generally speaking, you should look for the Riedel Vinum 6416/15. (Please note I make this recommendation completely independently. I was in no way influenced by anything other than my past experience. I would, however, accept retroactive bribes.) The Riedel 6416/15 can handle most wines, red or white, while still looking elegant. But the real reason is a little more cynical. It fits in the standard (cheaper) dish racks, it’s easier to polish, it’s reasonably priced… and makes a 5oz pour look ample.
Anyone who’s run a beverage program (or a restaurant for that matter) knows that saving a few ounces of product can go a long way to covering the ever-increasing costs of doing business. You’ve probably also figured out that appearance matters a lot. So being able to cut back on a pour without it looking short is a huge bonus when selecting a glass. (For the beer equivalent you can look into “cheater pints” with thicker bottoms.)
Sure, if you want to really go over the top for your guests, feel free to offer the whole library of glasses. There’s no doubt they love the attention to detail and the extra hospitality touch of matching their pinot noir to a Burgundy glass. But if you are on a tight budget and trying to make your margins, all that glassware is an extra cost with very little return.