To state the obvious, you need glasses to drink wine.
Yes, I understand that NEED is not technically correct because you could be one of those people that prefers to take pulls from the bottle directly, but I can confidently say that's the exception, not the rule.
Now some of you may think, "Are there really that many different wine glasses?" The answer is yes. There are TONS of different glasses which you may notice if you ever take a stroll through a store's glassware section. But does the glass really make a difference? If you're a rare or very casual wine drinker, I hesitate to say yes. I would get the basic set from your local home goods store (Target, Crate & Barrel, World Market, etc) and move on, but know that the official answer to the above question is yes -- it really does make a difference.
Why does glassware make a difference? Different types of glass, different glass shapes, and other details can make a difference on not only how you perceive the wine and your drinking experience, but also how the wine smells and tastes. All of these things could potentially affect how you enjoy the wine. For example, if a bold red is in a tiny glass, it may not have the same aromas as in a big open glass due to limited air exposure and a small bowl. As smell greatly affects taste, this red could not be as flavorful as it would be in the appropriate glass.
Therefore, my recommendation is evaluate what types of wine you like to drink and match accordingly.
- Do you like big, bold cabs? I would recommend a glass that is a bit taller than an "normal" wine glass and one that has a medium bowl. These are commonly known has bordeaux glasses.
- Or do you prefer more subtle pinot noirs? Then I would get a glass with a larger bowl and narrower at the top. This allows for plenty of air to get to the wine while also funneling the aromas to the top. These are commonly known as burgundy glasses.
- Are you sold on chardonnays? Maybe surprisingly to you, I'd get a big bowled, open rim white wine glass. With the open top, plenty of air will get to the wine and allow for you to taste the bold flavors of chardonnay.
- Is a sauvignon blanc or pinot grigio more your style? I'd stick with a traditional white wine glass that tapers up at the top.
- And what about the sparkling wines?! Make sure to have a few champagne flutes on hand. There are a few different shapes you can find, but I would recommend the ones that taper at the top to keep those delicious bubbles in.
My final pieces of advice are to (1) shy away from stemless glasses and (2) don't select colored glasses. Don't get me wrong, I have a few stemless (even a set with pumpkin faces etched on them!) and they are very nice to have around to mix things up, but they allow your hand to warm up the wine. Also, colored glasses tend to take away from the experience by altering the color of the wine.
This may seem overwhelming, but don't let it! Remember that while it's nice to have a plethora of glasses to choose from, in reality, most of us have limited cabinet space. For a person just heading into the wine world or those living in small apartments, I would have a set of nice red wine glasses like these or these and maybe a few champagne flutes for those special bubbly occassions.