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.
Q and A about Wine Glasses
Question: What should one look for when buying wine glasses?
Answer: Here are seven things to look for:
- You want the bulb of the glass to be slightly larger than the top. This allows the aromas and flavors to concentrate better.
- You want a thin lip on your glass. A thick lip, which is found in mass-produced utility wine glasses, degrades the taste.
- Look for high quality glass. It makes a difference both to the taste and the wonderful clinking sound.
- Because you hold your glass by the stem (to prevent the transfer of heat from your hand to the glass), look for a stem that isn’t too delicate.
- Look for a clear glass. The color of the wine plays an important role in the enjoyment of the wine. It also provides valuable information such as its age.
- 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.
Question: Is talk about good stemware just a marketing ploy? Can’t I get away with using $2 stems from my local discount store?
Answer: 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.
Question: How much of a difference will the average wine drinker notice between a cheap utility wine glass and a finer wine glass?
Answer: 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.
Question: Do I need a different glass for different types of wine, such as a glass for Merlot, a glass for Zinfandel and a glass for Chardonnay? That’s what I’ve heard from a number of well-known stemware companies.
Answer: 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.
Question: I have antique crystal glasses that are heavy and decorative. Should I use them?
Answer: 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.
Question: What about using stemless glasses?
Answer: Stemless glasses are great for those of you concerned about fragility and breakage. The down side is that your fingers touch the glass, adding unwanted spots and changing the wine’s temperature.
Question: Do you have any specific recommendations?
Answer: Since I am an independent wine consultant with WineShop At Home, I am partial to WineShop At Home’s beautiful Artisan 5 Star stemware line. We sell our stems in sets of four. Our white stem set is $49.95. Our red stem set is $52.95. Our sparkling wine/champagne flute set is $49.95. Our decanter is $54.95. I would love for you to check them out by visiting my website.
Video about Wine Glasses
I created a short video on stemware that you can find at
I hope you enjoy it, and feel free to leave a comment on my YouTube channel, and be sure and subscribe so you receive all my latest videos.
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 brief anecdotes here.