How to Find the Best Wine Glasses
For those of us who love wine, we may drink any variety out of any glass we can get our hands on. Guilty! But there’s more to wine glasses than just pouring the liquid into any old container you can find.
Most of drinking wine is the overall experience. If you can’t enjoy it from cork to last drop, including the aromas and the lingering aftertaste, then what’s the point, really?
Before we can even begin to talk about the best wine glasses, we have to talk about what makes wine glasses good and why your wine glass matters.
Truth be told, sometimes, the shape of the wine glass really doesn’t matter as much as you think it does. It simply adds to the visual beauty and the sense of occasion you want to convey.
The choices are so plentiful that it might leave you wondering what you need and why. Do you really need a different type of glass for every wine you drink? I’ll let you in on a little secret early. The answer is no.
That’s it. You can keep reading now and go about your day. You can enjoy wine forever and ever without worrying for another moment about whether you’re drinking it out of the right glass.
Or you can stick around and find out why there are so many options and what you could be doing with them.
A lot of people (ahem, the wine industry) will try to convince you that you need a different type of glass for every wine because it improves the experience, and this may be true to a certain extent, but only for very experienced oenophiles and for extremely choice wines.
Your favorite wine is going to taste just as delicious at the end of a long hard day in a glass created specifically for that variety as it will in a tumbler. Or a coffee mug. It’s your wine that matters, not the vessel.
So why are there different kinds of glasses?
Pure marketing. That’s it. Starting in 1973, the Riedel glassware company wanted to sell more. Claus Riedel came up with a surefire way to do that: convince people they needed a different glass for every variety of wine.
He released the Riedel Sommelier series that contained 10 different glass shapes and each was supposed to be ideal for a certain variety of wine. According to Riedel, each shape was designed to enhance the specific aromas and direct the wine to the part of your wint that would pick up the taste better.
As you might expect, sales skyrocketed.
Simple science says that these claims are complete nonsense. For one, your brain doesn’t care where in your mouth the taste lands. It’s going to pick up on the same flavors no matter what.
For another, as long as the diameter of the bowl is wider than the opening, the effect on the aroma of the wine is minimal.
The only thing these 10 different wine glasses do is enhance your experience, which shouldn’t be downplayed either, in the right setting. For the elegant dinner party you’re throwing on Saturday night, you should absolutely break them out.
But just remember, the wine will taste wonderful, no matter what you use for your friends on family on the next casual movie night. What really matters is the fellowship you share around the bottle.
Science also tells us that while there may be slightly different nuances that come from glasses of different shapes, the overall experience is the same. Several studies have proved that there is no specific shape that better accentuates any particular wine.
The Perfect Glass
So, is there one perfect glass? Since we know now that the glass doesn’t matter, which should you choose? Well, you should choose what you like. Ideal wine aeration simply comes from the diameter of the bowl being bigger than the opening.
That’s it. So whether you choose a fancy champagne flute, a full-bodied bowl, or something in between, you’ll enjoy the experience more because you’re drinking your favorite wine out of your favorite glass.
Types of Glasses
Just because the type of glass doesn’t matter, doesn’t mean you can’t know what your options are. It’s fun to look at the different shapes, understand what they look like, and experiment with them anyway.
Often, glasses are named for the type of wine they’re intended to hold, but there are other times when they’re named for their design, how they look, or what they do.
This is one of the tallest red wine glasses and was created to intensify the smell of Cabernet. While we know now that’s not true, it was once believed that it magnified and focused the aromas because of its shape.
However, because the bowl is wide and the mouth is narrow, it does allow the wine to breathe while still capturing the aroma at the mouth.
For a more pleasing visual experience, don’t overfill the glass. You’ll be able to enjoy the fragrance and the look of the wine in the glass if you only fill the bowl about halfway.
The large size of the bowl makes it easy to overpour, but just make sure you don’t pour more wine into the glass than what fills the widest part of the bowl.
The Bordeaux glass is actually the tallest of the red wine glasses, but it has a much smaller bowl than most of the others. The narrow shape of the glass directs the wine straight to the back of your mouth when you drink it, which makes it difficult to savor it much before swallowing.
It’s a good glass for bitter or tart wines that you don’t want to linger too much. You’ll still enjoy the good flavors, but it’s especially helpful with young wines that aren’t as full or rich.
Again, the shape of the glass doesn’t do much to enhance the aromas of the glass, but it can sometimes change the direction or the speed of the liquid, as this one does.
This glass is quite wide, slowing it down and placing it just on the tip of your tongue. It’s perfect for delicate wines that you want to experience more thoroughly.
Aroma is certainly part of the experience, so taking your time with delicate wines can enhance your experience quite a bit, giving you a more rich and full feel without missing any of the nuances.
Many of these glasses also have shorter stems, so they won’t be as top heavy. The lips are also thinner, so they’re much easier to drink out of.
Pinot Noir glasses are the red wine glasses with the widest bowl. They have short stems and lips that turn slightly outward at the top, which directs the aroma straight to your nose.
The large bowl makes it easier to swirl, if that’s your sort of thing. And if it is, this glass will certainly help you get a lot of enjoyment out of your wine, no matter what kind it is. It’s much easier to observe the legs of your wine in a larger bowl.
This glass is a bit shorter than the Bordeaux wine with a slightly larger rim. Make sure you’re looking for a thin rim, because Zinfandel is a light wine. Anything thick or bumpy will impede its flow into your mouth.
Bordeaux and Zinfandel glasses are very similar, so they’re pretty interchangeable, but true oenophiles prefer to keep them separate.
Rose is meant to be served chilled, so the purpose of its long-stemmed glass is to keep the heat from your hand away from the wine. It allows for the wine to remain cool.
There are two types of Rose glasses. One has a flared lip and the other has a short taper. Both are excellent choices, but the flared lip is meant for a younger wine while the short taper is intended for something slightly more aged.
The flared lip was designed to direct young wine toward your taste buds that detect sweet flavors. Given that young wine isn’t as sweet, the idea was that it would help you enjoy the wine more and help you pick out the sweeter flavors.
Insert eye roll here.
Even though we all know now that none of this is true, these are still cute little glasses that I enjoy drinking out of because I like the shape and the style.
Viognier is a highly prized wine, it’s generally very expensive, and it’s contact with oxygen should be very minimal.
Viognier glasses have very small bowls, and the intent is to minimize its contact with oxygen so it doesn’t destroy the aromatic notes that this wine is most known for.
The broad base is also intended to provide a low center of gravity that minimizes the risk of accidents, which would be very unfortunate for a wine of this quality.
While you may not necessarily get an improved aromatic experience from the glass, the shape really does improve your experience in other ways, and it’s a worthwhile investment if you’re going to be drinking a wine like a Viognier.
Glasses designed for white wines have a more upright, U-shape than those made for red wine. A Chardonnay glass looks a lot like a Pinot Noir glass, but it’s smaller. It’s great for any young white wine because the opening is larger, so it directs the wine in a broad stream all over your mouth, so you can enjoy more of it and let it linger.
The bowl is fairly large and it only narrows slightly at the top. The wine flows slowly through your mouth as you drink it, rather than quickly, so it’s a great glass for any wine that you want to take your time enjoying rather than drinking quickly.
It’s perfect for enjoying the intensity and the deliciousness of your favorites.
Champagne glasses are meant for anything sparkling. They’re very narrow and sit perfectly upright. The shape of the glass is intended to help the liquid retain its carbonation, which is the only way to enjoy something bubbly.
It allows the sparkling wine or Champagne to play on your tongue, while wider bowls will quickly cause your sparkling wine to go flat.
The shape also quickly directs the wine to the tip of your tongue, so you immediately get the effects of the bubbles while it tickles your nose. It’s easy to smell and enjoy the aroma of any wine in a flute like this one.
However, they are very easy to tip over, so pouring something full-bodied in here isn’t the best idea.
They are easy to decorate and they step up to almost any occasion, but there’s nothing wrong with breaking them out for a small get together either.
Vintage glasses exude charm, but they’re hard to drink out of. They’re not designed to improve anything, really. It’s kind of hit or miss, but they are fun for cocktail parties and other special occasions.
They come in a variety of designs including cut crystal to plan and you can use them for wine or the fanciest cocktails.
The bowl is incredibly short and wide, so the wine will have a lot of contact with the air. They’re hard to balance and it makes spilling your drink almost inevitable.
If you don’t mind the oxygenation and you like the appearance, then you’ll love breaking these vintage glasses out at your next party. You just want to make sure the base is heavy enough to support the heavy liquid you pour inside.
Always hold these glasses by the stem or you’ll warm your contents quickly and you won’t want to drink it.
These glasses are smaller and thinner, but similarly shaped to Bordeaux glasses. They can hold between six and twelve ounces, but it’s traditional to only fill them halfway. This ensures you enjoy the aroma of your Port, which is typically strong and delightful.
These are very similar to Port glasses, but they have a very long stem that’s meant to protect the quality of the Sherry. The mouth is very small and intended for you to drink your Sherry slowly and savor it.
Balloon glasses are very large wine glasses and they’re fantastic wine glasses to have on hand all the time because they’re very versatile. They can be used for reds that need a lot of room to breathe and they can be used for whites that need a large opening for you to enjoy fully.
Stemless glasses are popular among a younger generation of wine drinkers, but the warmth from your hand causes the wine to heat more quickly. You don’t have to worry about knocking them over as easily, which is certainly a benefit.
Some people prefer their wine to be well aerated before drinking, and if that’s the case, this is a pretty cool glass. It comes with an aerating device in the middle that aerates as you pour.
Best Wine Glasses
It’s important to remember that, even though you now know better, many wine glass manufacturers still operate under the assumption that you think there’s a glass for every wine. They’re marketing these glasses as if they’re meant for a special variety.
So, while they may say they’re for a special variety, if you like the look of them, you can use them for whatever you want. I even like to use my wine glasses for sparkling grape juice. My kids and I have fun toasting each other on movie nights with popcorn and soda, too.
Zalto Denk’Art Burgundy Wine Glass
This glass is definitely a splurge for just a set of two, but if it’s for an anniversary or an important celebration, they’re an excellent option. Zalto glasses are hand-blown to perfection and offer a drinking experience that’s beyond what others can provide.
They’re thin, beautiful, and make that special bottle even more so. The glass is designed for red wines of high alcohol content, like a Merlot, Bordeaux, or Burgundy, but it makes an excellent universal glass or white wine glass, too.
They’re extremely delicate, so you need to handle them with care, but they’re one of the most fantastic glasses to have in your collection.
- Very high-quality
- Thin and beautiful
- Makes an excellent universal glass
- Very delicate
Riedel Veritas Collection Wine Glasses
Riedel is well-known for offering value in their collections, and the Veritas Collection is no different. What you’ll find here is a set of quality wine glasses for less than you’ll get just one Zalto glass.
The Riedel Veritas collection includes varietal-specific wine glasses, so you can choose the shape and size you love the most. Your options include:
- New World Pinot Noir
- New World Shiraz
- Oaked Chardonnay
- Old World Pinot Noir
- Old World Syrah
- Sauvignon Blanc
My personal favorite is the Old World Pinot Noir, but the Cabernet/Merlot is sophisticated and the Moscato/Coupe/Martini offers an awesome retro design. Each is sturdy but lightweight and beautifully crafted to produce an elegant drinking experience.
While the average wine drinker doesn’t need to invest in all of these different styles to enjoy their wine, you can certainly get your favorites or make it your goal to collect all of them eventually.
Schott Zwiesel Pure Collection All-Purpose Wine Glasses
Schott Zwiesel makes some really great all-purpose wine glasses in different shapes and sizes. They’re a popular choice on Amazon, and very highly rated. The Pure Collection gets some of the best ratings of all.
They’re great for reds and whites, they’re lead-free, and dishwasher safe. It’s tough to find such great glasses for everyday use. Not only that, but they’re some of the most affordable glasses you’ll find.
They’re lightweight, but strong and sturdy. They’re also stylish and Tritan glass is resistant to breaking and chipping.
- Strong and sturdy
- Lead-free, break and chip-resistant
- Dishwasher safe
- Not a very well-known brand
Riedel O Wine Tumbler
Here we are again, looking at Riedel, but they also make some of the best stemless glasses. You can get them in Cabernet/Merlot sets, Viognier/Chardonnay sets, or in what they call a Happy set that has different colors on the bottom.
They’re sturdy but elegant and easy to hold. I’ve had mine for about a decade and it’s never broken or cracked. It goes in the dishwasher multiple times a week. The only time I’ve ever spilled it was when there was a mishap with one of my children.
They’re thin with a small profile rather than thick and heavy like a lot of other cheaper glasses. This is truly the best stemless wine glass out there.
- Well-known brand
- A lot of options
- Sturdy and elegant
- Dishwasher safe
Libbey Vineyard Reserve Wine Glass Set
If you need a set of wine glasses, this is a budget-friendly set of 12 from a brand that provides a lot of restaurant glassware. There are 6 glasses designed for white wines and 6 glasses designed for reds.
It’s perfect for stocking your bar or prepping for a party. While they’re super affordable, they don’t have a cheap appearance. They have a universal shape that you can use with pretty much anything.
- Universal shape
- Plain and simple
Waterford Lismore Essence Goblet
Waterford makes the best high-quality crystal, and this gorgeous wine glass is perfect, even though it costs quite a bit. It features the elegant Lismore pattern, which is one of the company’s most popular patterns. It’s been around since 1952.
The pictures don’t do it justice. It’s breathtaking in person. The size is great for red wine, but you could even use it for white wine or water. They’re a great registry item, they adorn tables for special occasions, or you can break it out for holiday dinners.
- Very high-quality
- Gorgeous design
Host Cooling Cups
If you love the thought of stemless wine glasses but you hate the idea that your wine is going to get warm, check out these insulated cups. All you have to do is put them upside down in the freezer and the cooling gel will keep your drink chilled.
You don’t have to dilute your wine with ice cubes or chill it before you drink it. If you’re a slow wine drinker, you won’t have to race against the clock to finish it before it gets warm. Even if it takes you an hour to finish your glass, your wine will still be cool.
- Insulated and stemless
- Convenient for a relaxed setting
- Comes in a lot of colors
- No elegant designs
If you still don’t know which wine glasses you like the best, these frequently asked questions may help make your decision a little bit easier.
Answer: There are plenty of quality wine glass brands. Some of the top options include Schott Zwiesel, Riedel, Libbey, and Zalto. Often, it depends on what you’re looking for and how much you want to spend.
If you’re looking to top quality and price isn’t a factor, Zalto is the absolute best. If you want affordability, Libbey is great. Riedel and Schott Zwiesel fall somewhere in the middle and offer great value.
Answer: There are a lot of factors that make a good wine glass. While one is certainly quality, and another price, your personal preference has a lot to do with it. You should always choose the wine glasses you like the best.
The shape of the wine glass doesn’t matter as much as what you like most. The experience will be enhanced by drinking your favorite wine from your favorite glass, no matter what it looks like.
Answer: Sommeliers tend to pick a different wine glass for every scenario, but that’s not because the glass makes a difference. It’s because they want you to think the glass makes a difference. It’s more about ambience and experience than it is anything else.
You’ll have a better experience at a restaurant that serves a Merlot in a different glass than they serve their Riesling. It will look more sophisticated and you’re likely to enjoy it more.
Sommeliers will choose the same brands you do, ranging from Riedel and Schott Zwiesel to Inalto Uno and Rastal Teku. Libbey is also one of the largest restaurant suppliers.
Answer: The short answer is no. While a huge marketing push by the industry has led you to believe that the shape of the glass makes a difference, science says it doesn’t. The shape of the glass mostly affects how quickly the wine flows into your mouth and where it lands.
If you want the wine to go directly to the back of your throat, a narrow glass will achieve this best. If you want your wine to be evenly distributed so you can savor it and experience the taste for longer, a wider bowl will slow the flow and make the wine feel smoother.
Answer: Riedel is perceived to be better because they market their glasses for certain types of wine. Or, at least, they were the first to do this. Many other manufacturers do this today as well.
Riedel is one of the largest wine glass manufacturers in the market, and they make some of the best wine glasses you can buy. They’re high-quality at a great price, so you get a great value. They are strong, sturdy, and long lasting, but still offer elegance and sophistication.
While we now know that the shape of the wine glass doesn’t affect taste, that doesn’t mean it can’t enhance your experience. There’s just something about pouring your favorite bottle of wine into your favorite glass and unwinding at the end of the day.
A narrow glass will direct the flow of the wine to the back of your mouth and allow you to enjoy the wonderful flavors while eliminating some of the bitterness while a full bodied glass will slow the flow and help you savor it more.
Either way, if you’re looking for the best wine glasses, my personal favorites are the Riedels. The Pure Collection is an excellent choice, and I love my stemless Riedel, too. They offer an excellent value for the price.
If you’re looking for something more high-quality, look at Zalto. On the contrary, if you want something cheaper, look at Libbey.
There are plenty of options, and you’ll know the perfect wine glass for you when you see it.