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Why do you need a special glass for wine, anyway? If you wanted, you could poor your wine into a regular glass, or even a random coffee mug or a Red Solo plastic cup. But you’d only be getting half the experience, wine experts say.
Enjoying wine is about savoring the complex flavors inside each bottle. (Well, that and getting a little buzzed.) The way you unlock those flavors is to expose your wine to oxygen, and a good wine glass is key to that.
Most wine glasses are bigger on the bottom and narrow on top. This design makes it easier to swirl your pour around and unleash the flavors. A well-made wine glass also allows you to stick your nose in the glass to properly enjoy the rich aromas.
Also, frankly, the best wine glasses just look nice and fancy. We can’t deny that presentation is important, especially when you’re having guests over for a dinner party.
So whether you’re a hardcore oenophile with a wine cellar in your basement, or you’re perfectly happy to to pick up some cheap Yellow Tail at the grocery store, it’s worth it spend a little more on quality wine glasses. We asked some wine experts and sommeliers which ones they recommend you pair with your vino.
Best Wine Glasses: Updated September 2020
Riedel VINUM Wine Glasses, Set of 8: $141.60
So why does the type of glass matter? Let Ian Vivi explain. He’s a Slovenia-based sommelier, waiter, wine seller and wine blogger who’s gotten to the bottom of why a good glass makes a difference.
“Glass is glass, right? Absolutely no!” Vivi says. “We also did presentations on the sites, where we used three types of glasses and the same wine. 90% of respondents claimed the wine from the highest glass range tastes much better. Why so?”
He found that “thin glass allows for bigger volume for the bouquet and right shape for every type of wine.” Though he allows that some of the products from Riedel can be very pricey, others are more affordable to the everyday consumer. “On top of that, my experience with Riedel glasses is great. The glass is much more compact, and it is harder to break it, comparing to cheaper glasses. If we add coating, which will make sure your glass will look great for a long time, that’s it.”
The idea of having a different glass for different types of wine might be a bit intimidating, but Paige Comrie has a low-pressure suggestion to make it easier. Comrie is a certified American Wine Expert, Wine Educator, and wine blogger based in San Francisco.
“Riedel is my go-to glassware recommendation for people of any price point. Back in 1958, Joseph Riedel began experimenting with the idea that different glassware could enhance the aromas and flavor profiles of certain wines,” she says. “In the Riedel collection, you’ll find a different glassware shape for every varietal in existence. Their wine glasses are perfectly shaped, well-balanced, and the glass is thin enough that it doesn’t get in your way as you taste through wines.”
If you really, really want to get into wine, eventually you will need to know where to put your fingers on the glass so as to swish with maximum impact without your body heat disrupting the taste. Doreen Winkler has a suggestion that might help in this department. Winkler is a natural wine sommelier, consultant, and founder of Orange Glou, the first wine subscription service and wine bar popup devoted solely to skin-contact (orange) wines.
Winkler likes the Ravenscroft tasting glass, which is made “by old-world European craftsmen of the finest lead-free crystal,” she says. “These are the perfect all-purpose tasting glass for all types of wines and very uniquely shaped!”
To be more specific, Winkler says, “The glasses beautifully showcase wines and the stemless design with both a thumb and index punt allows you to hold it without body heat affecting the wine’s temperature. The bowl is large enough to capture a wine’s full aroma, without being so big as to over-aerate the pour.”
Bottega del Vino: From $60 (unavailable at Amazon)
Sometimes the right choice is crystal clear. Rachael Lowe is a Food & Wine “Sommelier of the Year,” and a two-time James Beard Award nominee for her work at Chicago’s famed Italian restaurant, Spiaggia. She says that “if you’re looking to splurge, Bottega del Vino is my favorite line. We actually use it in the main dining room of Spiaggia. It’s some of the most elegant stemware I have ever worked with.”
Lowe adds that the glasses are “originally handblown in the Veneto and linked to the famous wine bar located in the heart of Verona. This crystal is absolutely beautiful and offers a diverse line from which to draw.”
There’s no doubt that the Riedel brand is one of the most respected and recommended in the wine world. But if their highest-quality glasses are a bit out of your price range, Matt Crafton, Head Winemaker of California’s Chateau Montelena suggests the Gabriel Glas Gold Edition. “It’s pretty close to the ideal Swiss army knife glass in that you can use it for pretty much any wine and it costs about half of the Riedel Bordeaux Grand Cru glass,” he says. “I’ve seen people cry when they break those.”
Best Wine Glasses: Value Choices
You don’t have to spend a lot of money to have a nice set of wine glasses. But be careful, as if you go too cheap you might have a set that breaks too easily, especially in the dishwasher.
Fred Dex is a New York-based Master Sommelier, and he thinks that “Spiegelau to me are the best consumer options. They are the most inexpensive and best overall value in wine glasses you can find,” he says, adding that “I bought two sets on Amazon. They are durable, dish washable and the best value out there.”
Vivi notes that “if you are tight on the budget, then you should consider Schott Zwiesel glasses,” which he says “is not far behind from Riedel, but the price is! The volume and shape are usually great in these products, as well. At home, I have Riedel for my leisure and Schott Zwiesel for our little wine parties in the backyard.”
OK, so this isn’t exactly a budget/value choice. But if you’re willing to spend a bit more, Dex also recommends this brand from Austria, as it “performs amazingly over an arc of any wine from Champagne to Napa Cabernet and everything in between.”