DOMSOM’s rule of thumb is white wine glasses will have narrower bowls as well as narrower openings than red wine glasses. The narrower bowls and narrower openings helps preserve the higher acidity found in many white wines. Big, buttery, creamy chardonnay or white wines with higher alcohol content, however, can benefit from a bigger bowl and opening to allow the alcohol a place to escape instead of creating an unpleasant hot sensation in your mouth.
Red wines benefit from bigger openings in wine glasses as this allows more oxygen to enter as well as allowing some of the higher alcohol related sensations to remain at a distance from your nose when smelling or tasting. As we learned, many red wines spend some time in oak which build on the secondary and tertiary aromas and flavors of the wine. Larger openings in glasses make these easier to experience and make drinking the wine more enjoyable. Pinot Noir and lighter more aromatic red wines can benefit from a large bowl which tapers to a narrower opening as the glass can concentrate the aromas much easier than a wide opening can.
Bottom line is a wine can be enhanced by the glass it is served in whether white wine or red wine. The good news is there are tons of great wine glasses on the market which provide a great balance between traditional white wine glasses and red wine glasses. As with most things, there is always a happy medium. If you want a glass that can be used for both whites and reds, look for words like “universal” or “tasting” wine glasses and you are good to go.