Where To Buy Wine Glasses
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To find out what makes a great Champagne glass, we spoke to wine professionals, including Belinda Chang, former Champagne educator for Moët Hennessy; David Speer, the founder of Ambonnay in Portland, Oregon; and Philippe Gouze, the director of operations at Blue Hill at Stone Barns, the world-renowned farm-to-table restaurant outside New York City. Additionally, we interviewed Maximilian Riedel, CEO of Riedel, to learn more about the history, development, and production of Riedel stemware.
Tammie Teclemariam, who worked on the 2019 update, is a freelance food and drinks writer and wine professional. Since 2011 she has worked in restaurants, wine distribution and retail, and completed a six-month viticulture and winemaking apprenticeship at Clos Centeilles in Minervois, France. She researched more than 50 glasses and tested 14.
For the sake of including some less expensive options, we did test some wine glasses made from soda-lime glass in addition to ones made from non-leaded crystal. Ultimately, we found elegant, thin-enough glasses made from both materials. (You can read more about the differences between types of glass later in this guide.)
We avoided wine glasses that were too short and stubby, because they lack elegance and are unattractive in comparison to glasses with longer, more classic stems. The stem also needs to be long enough to comfortably hold the glass without your hand touching the bowl, which could warm the wine and leave smudges. But we still wanted the glasses to be short enough to easily fit in a cupboard or the top rack of a dishwasher. In our testing, we found the ideal height of a wine glass is about 8 to 9 inches.
In our tests, the thinnest glasses generally did an excellent job highlighting the flavors and aromas of multiple wines, and most people found them handsome to look at. But in actual practice, many of our testers remarked that the thinnest stems were difficult to grip and felt poised to break during use. Even knowing that those thinner glasses are more durable than they appear (all remained intact in our drop tests), most people were nervous using them. Ultimately, the glasses we favored hit a nice middle ground: thin enough to feel elegant but thick enough to feel comfortable.
The overall weight is also important. A glass that feels almost weightless when empty can feel unbalanced when it is full of wine, while an excessively heavy glass is unpleasant to sip from and cumbersome to hold. We looked for options that struck a comfortable balance.
For our 2019 update, we tested our previous picks against eight new glasses in a blind tasting with Mary Taylor, a wine importer and distributor who has previously worked as a sommelier. After we eliminated all varietal and red- or white-specific glasses from our testing, we looked for the most versatile all-purpose glasses by tasting six vastly different wines in every glass, including $15-to-$20 reds and whites, a $10 red, aged wine, and natural wine.
We also polled a dozen members of Wirecutter staff on how they drink at home and asked them to taste wine from the glasses they were most attracted to, then to score the experience. We noted not only how wine smelled and tasted in each glass, but also how each glass felt to hold, swirl, and drink from. Between each round of tests, we washed all of the glasses in the dishwasher and polished them by hand using a microfiber cloth.
We found the Harmony to be more attractive than the more traditionally shaped Ravenscroft glass, our previous pick for stemless glassware. The angled edges of the Harmony made for a sturdier glass that was almost impossible to knock over during our drop tests (it often popped back upright like a punching clown). If you choose stemless glasses for parties or large dinners, the Rastal Harmony takes up less space on a table and packs more easily into the dishwasher. Other glasses we tested felt more regal than befits a stemless glass and ended up feeling too clunky.
We researched over 80 glasses and tested 10. Aside from comfort and overall aesthetics, we were mainly looking for glasses that excelled at preserving carbonation. The clear winner from our tests was the Riedel Vinum Cuvee Prestige. Its tulip shape walks the line between that of a tall flute and the more useful (aromatically speaking) bowl of a traditional wine glass, and has ample capacity to hold a generous pour of bubbly without overflowing. It also has a tiny imperceptible etching at the bottom of the bowl that allows the gas to escape in a steady flow from a single targeted place, keeping the wine carbonated for as long as possible. Considering the quality craftsmanship and materials, this flute is a bargain at about $25 per glass. Made from non-leaded crystal, the Cuvee Prestige sparkles brilliantly under the light.
Some glassware manufacturers, most notably Riedel, take the concept one step further and have glasses specially designed for many varietals such as chardonnay and riesling. If you have particular allegiance toward a certain grape variety and the cabinet space to store unitasking glassware, matching your wine to the perfect glass can be a fun and expensive hobby.
Light weight does not indicate a glass is more fragile. In our drop tests, the lightest glasses performed admirably, almost bouncing back after they fell, while the two that broke were some of the heaviest. At Pasquale Jones, a 55-seat restaurant in Manhattan, they exclusively use thin, lightweight Zalto universal glasses for all of their service. The 150 to 200 glasses in use on any given day are washed in a high-speed bar glass dishwasher with a rack modified to fit the fine stemware before being dried and checked for lint by their polisher. Hannah Harris, a manager and sommelier there, says they only break one or two glasses a night, a normal amount for any busy restaurant of that size.
Although it may seem counterintuitive with delicate stemware, we recommend cleaning wine glasses in the dishwasher. In fact, some high-end wine glasses specify not just that they are dishwasher safe, but that machine washing is preferred. This is because the biggest risk for breaking comes during handwashing, where a glass can slip and hit the sink or snap if you twist the bowl and stem in opposite directions. But if you must handwash glasses, we recommend cleaning delicate stemware with hot water, a bottle brush, and a little bit of dish soap.
To remove water spots and smudges, or to get your glassware really sparkly, we recommend hand polishing it using a microfiber polishing cloth. If there are hard-to-remove stains on the glass, try using a little white vinegar (just be sure to wash the glass after). Never polish your glass by holding the base in one hand and twisting the polishing cloth around the rim of the bowl at the top, which could torque and snap thinner stems. Instead, hold the glass by the bowl while polishing to avoid twisting it apart. Check out this Riedel video for the proper polishing technique. Also, never use linen softener when cleaning your polishing cloth, as this could leave a greasy residue on the surface of your wine glasses.
The Jancis Robinson x Richard Brendon glass is the result of a highly anticipated collaboration between an English design company and Jancis Robinson, an acclaimed wine critic. The lightweight, hand-blown glass is a competitor with Zalto and is similarly pricey at around $60 per glass plus shipping. The bowl is rounded rather than angled, which gives it a more classic look, but the thin profile tells you this is a modern glass. This glass performs extremely well, and wine importer Mary Taylor noticed it worked best with aged red wine. But our testers had the same discomfort gripping such a thin stem that they did using the Zalto.
The Zenology Universal Wine Glass was impressive on first inspection, and even lighter than the Jancis Robinson glass. But unlike with the other ultralight glasses we tested, the lip on the Zenology felt a little rough and almost sharp to sip from. Additionally, this was the only glass that broke during delivery, right at the point where the bowl meets the stem, a common weak point for wine glasses.
Both the Bormioli Rocco Tre Sensi Large Wine Glass and the Tre Sensi Medium Wine Glass did well in our blind tasting. However, they have a slight lip around the rim of the glass, which our testers found more distracting than our main pick for varietal-specific glasses, the Riedel Veritas glasses.
According to our experts, the Riedel Vinum Bordeaux and the Riedel Vinum Viognier/Chardonnay glasses showcased wine aroma well. However, our testers felt that the red wine glass was slightly small for big, bold wines.
The Bormioli Rocco Spazio 17 oz. Wine Glass by Bormioli Rocco and Spazio 13.5 oz. Wine Glass by Bormioli Rocco were top-heavy and uncomfortable to hold, according to our testers. They also felt that the length of the red wine glass had a bowl that was too long, while the stem was too short.
While our testers liked the Schott Zwiesel Forte Stemware Collection Full Bodied White Wine Glass 17.3 oz. and felt it was an appropriate shape and size for most white wines, they found the Schott Zwiesel Forte Stemware Collection Burgundy Light Bodied White Wine Glass 13.6 oz. to be too deep to detect wine aroma.
Tammie Teclemariam is a freelance food and drinks writer who contributes to Wine Enthusiast, Eater, Taste, and other publications. Before becoming a wine and spirits professional, she studied philosophy, apprenticed as a pastry chef in France, and interned at Ceremony Coffee Roasters. She lives in Brooklyn.
We identify the ideal glass, taking into account the depth, the fineness, the height, et cetera; to do so, we organize comparative tastings in groups, during which we all taste the same wine in several glasses. Each one gives an opinion and we eliminate successively the glasses to end up with the one ultimate glass for the wine. It is a very interesting and fun experience that awakens all the senses. A very nice idea of an activity for an evening between friends or for future spouses that want to have fun while choosing the perfect wine and glass match. 59ce067264