If you’re like me, you enjoy taking home wine glasses as souvenirs from special events or dinner parties. Maybe you keep a treasured assortment in your cupboard, or even a set of fine stemware for special occasions. There is a lot to think about when it comes to choosing wine glasses. The most important consideration is enjoyment. Wine is meant to be enjoyed, and the glasses you choose should accentuate this, whether they enhance the flavor of the wine, or the aesthetics of holding a beautiful, delicate glass in your hand.
Many guests at the wine tastings I lead ask questions about stemware, so I thought it was timely to answer the top questions here.
What Should I Look for When Buying Wine Glasses?
When buying stems, there are seven things to look for:
- The bowl of the glass should be larger than the top to enable proper swirling. Swirling releases the wine’s aromas, which is 90% of the tasting experience. So the better the swirl, the better the tasting experience!
- The lip of your glass should be thin, so the taster can focus on the sensation of the wine and not the sensation of the glass.
- Look for high quality glass. It makes a difference both to the taste and the wonderful clinking sound.
- If you used stemmed glasses, look for a stem that isn’t too delicate.
- Look for clear glass, so you can really see the color of your wine.
- Make sure the size of the glass is large enough to allow for a decent pour while still leaving enough space for the swirling action that releases the wine’s aromas.
- If you can find a dishwashable stem, that’s a plus.
Is Talk About Good Stemware just a Marketing Ploy?
A good wine will taste good out of anything – a paper cup, a plastic cup, or even a slipper. But the wine usually will taste significantly better out of a finer stem. A lot of science has gone into designing stems that optimize the tasting experience – concentrating the aromas so they hit your nose in the best place and the wine so it hits your mouth in the best place.
How Much of a Difference Will I Notice by Using a Finer Wine Glass?
When doing a side-by-side comparison of the same wine from a cheap glass and a fine glass, people very often experience more rounded, complex, finer sensations from the fine glass and more compressed, less distinguishable, cheaper sensations from the cheap glass. I highly recommend doing your own test. Pour the same wine into a “cheap” and “fine” glass and see what you notice. Do this for several different wines. I think you will be very surprised by the differences you experience.
Do I Need a Different Glass for Different Types of Wine?
And if you have a favorite wine, it might be worthwhile to invest in a set of stems appropriate to that type of wine. If, on the other hand, you enjoy a wide variety of wines, you are better off with a set each of white wine and red wine stems, and a set of sparkling wine/champagne flutes. The white and red stems are similarly designed, with the red one being slightly larger. The sparkling wine/champagne flute is long and narrow for optimal concentration of the bubbles. If you can’t afford flutes, sparkling wine and champagne taste great out of white wine glasses too.
Should I Use My Antique Crystal Glasses?
These glasses have lead in them, so you want to use them on a very limited basis, perhaps for special occasions. Also, the glasses were made at a time when research hadn’t yet been done on designing stems that optimize the tasting experience. So these stems probably don’t give you as good a tasting experience as a newer stem.
What About Using Stemless Glasses?
Stemless glasses are great if you’re concerned about fragility and breakage. The down side is that your fingers touch the glass, adding unwanted spots and changing the wine’s temperature.
Do You Have Specific Recommendations?
As an independent wine consultant with WineShop At Home, I am partial to WineShop At Home’s beautiful Artisan 5 Star stemware line. You can check them out by visiting my stemware page. With the holidays coming up, stemware can be a great gift for your wine-loving friends.
Video about Wine Glasses
Here’s a short video I created on stemware. I hope you enjoy it.
Do you have questions or thoughts about wine glasses, or even some stories about your favorite glasses you’d like to share? Post your comments and anecdotes here.
As an independent wine consultant with WineShop At Home, I absolutely enjoy bringing a taste of the Napa wine country home to you one sip at a time. Whether you simply love to drink wine, seek a special personalized wine gift, or are in search of a new wine jobs opportunity as a wine consultant, feel free to contact me for a truly unique wine tasting experience!
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Betty, I am in agreement with you that stemware does make a significant difference when drinking / tasting wine, but so does decantering.
Depending on the wine you might find me working in my garage or vineyard with a glass of wine in a water glass or tumbler, then again with friends it might be a higher quality wine glass.
Experienced tastebuds can tell the difference between glass quality and style, although, after a couple glasses, who cares anyways.
Great post … Toatly agree!!
Thanks John. I completely agree with you that decanting makes a world of difference. And yes, you are right on when you say that after a couple glasses, who cares 🙂
I too agree stemware does make a difference. The key word being “stemware”. I don’t like stemless glasses. The glasses always seem to get dirty and the wine gets warm, not a fan.
And if you have to serve wine in plastic cups at least use the clear cups and not big red cups.
Kim, I completely agree on all fronts. But if you’re at a tailgate party and red plastic glasses are the only thing available, they will do 🙂
I agree with Kim. I dislike stemless glasses when drinking wine. The exception is when I was in Rome and drank wine out of glasses that looked like the equivalent of our juice glasses. That was delicious!!
Great post Betty!
What is it in many parts of Europe about drinking wine from juice-like glasses? The wine does taste great. Could it be the magic of being in Europe?
It could be that wine in other countries is though of more as “juice”…something to drink freely throughout the day and with your food. Alcohol content and those heavy tannin tastes we love here are usually lower too, so maybe stems aren’t as important.
Jen, I think you’re onto something. But I’m guessing that for finer dining occasions, the nicer stems come out.
Great post! I never thought stemware made a difference until you showed me at a wine tasting. The difference in recognizing the aroma and flavor of the wine was much improved in a higher quality glass. Thanks for the reminder!
You’re welcome! Thanks for commenting!
Betty…as a group member, I’d like to offer you a sample set of my new wine glasses called “Swerl” for review…Swerl glasses feature ridges on the inside (in kind of a Waterford Lismore pattern) that aerate wine in-glass…they are targeted at the 95% portion of the market drinking value-priced wines…definitely rounds out those $6 Smoking Loon cabs or Bogle Zins, and brings out the fruit in the young oaky or grassy wines…not so elegant perhaps, but this market doesn’t seem to even notice…destined for Safeway or Costco/Sam’s or CVS alongside the box wine…preferred over Vinturi in most taste tests…and just plain fun to see the difference in the young less expensive wines…send me an address and I’ll forward a set…Go Bears
That’s great, Mike. Thanks. I’ll send you a separate email.
I am anything but an expert about wine and my friends still laugh about my drinking an expensive bottle from the Napa valley from a jelly glass. That was many years ago.
I do know that good wine taste much better from one of my quality wine glasses than from the cheap kmart glasses.
That’s a great story. I think most of us have stories like that. I agree with you that a good glass can make a good wine even better 🙂
I absolutely love your tips about how using better stemware can help open up the aroma and taste of the wine you are tasting. I’ve actually tried it myself and it’s true! Thanks for sharing this!
You’re welcome. It’s very fun and enlightening to do a tasting using a good glass and a bad glass.
Oh my God, Betty. This is a great video, with some good information about stemware. Thanks so much for including me on your list so I can see it and enjoy your lovely face and voice.