Table setting – The glasses

The Holy Grail of every table, figuratively and literally, glasses and the way we use them can both facilitate and confuse anyone who does not know how and why we can have many different shapes and sizes on the same table.

Margarita’s Way

I was always puzzled regarding glasses and the way we are supposed to set them on the table. After doing some research I realized that it depends on: the number of glasses, the room we have on the table and the style of the dinner.

How to

There are 4 ways to place the glasses: in a straight line, diagonally, in a curve and in a triangle (and sometimes a rhombus shape).

Whichever way you wish to place them, the basic guidelines are as follow:

  • Glasses are always placed to the right and directly above the knives.
  • The first glass on our right hand side, smaller and narrower, is to be used for white wine. Next to it, we place the wider and larger red wine glass.
  • Finally,we place the water glass, that is a bit larger and wider than the red wine glass.
  • If we choose a water glass with a lower height, we can place it first, mostly for practical reasons (this way, the waiter can fill the glass more easily).
  • Colored wine glasses are only used for white wine.
  • At formal dinners, the champagne glass is placed behind the red wine glass, while the cherry glass is placed behind the white wine glass.


We place the glasses in the order in which they will be used, (same way we do with cutlery).

When setting up the table, make sure you have placed all the glasses that will be needed, as it is not considered appropriate to bring additional glasses to the table after the meal has started.

In case we want to go through our dinner only having white wine, then we can retire the red wine glass from the table.

The only glass that can come to the table later is the dessert wine glass (if it is not placed on the table from the beginning of the meal), when dessert is about to be served.

Before tasting the next wine that is served, it is expected from us to drink a few sips of water, to clear our palate.

We serve those around us first, leaving ourselves last.

The temperature of each wine brought to the table needs great attention because the whites arrive very chilled and the reds very warm. So when we serve wine, we make sure to hold it by the base of the bottle and not by its neck.

There will be an article dedicated on wine serving.

When adding some water to the ice where you keep your white wine, you maximize the cold surface that surrounds the bottle.


  • Make sure to hold the wine glass by its stem without touching the bell containing the wine, so as not to affect its temperature and taste.
  • When we clink our glasses together, we should hold them so that the part that comes in contact with the other glass is the base of the bowl, and not the part closer to the rim. This way, we can create the pleasant sound we are looking for, at the same time avoiding the risk of the glasses breaking.
  • When we raise our glasses, we look into the eyes of the person we cheer, and not our wine!


  • If we don’t want to use one of the glasses, we don’t need to turn it over, rim-down on the table. With a gentle motion, we cover the top of the glass without touching its surface when we are being served, quietly informing our server that we will not be drinking, for example, red wine. It is up to service to withdraw the glass from the table.
    We use the same code to inform our waiter that we will not be drinking any more wine.
  • Against common belief, it is not appropriate to tap on our glass when we wish to make a toast.

Main image by @wonderfoodland

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