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The Best Wine Glasses for All Occasions

From universal to varietal-specific and hand-blown works of art to durable stemless vessels, you'll find the perfect wine glass here.

collage of three wine glasses

There are a few signs that mark one’s arrival to adulthood, and owning a set of proper wine glasses is one of them. While we’ve all certainly drunk wine from a juice glass or coffee mug — or straight out of the bottle — from time to time, there’s no beating the proper experience of sipping and savoring wine the way it was intended from an actual wine glass.

But knowing where to start when buying said wine glasses can be an intimidating prospect. There are a dizzying number of options available, as even a cursory glance at the product landscape will show that wine glasses exist for not only any conceivable situation but also for basically every specific type of wine. And although the average person probably doesn’t need 20 different varietal-specific glasses, you don’t have to be a sommelier to want at least a couple of high-quality wine glasses in your cabinet.

What to Look for in a Wine Glass

There’s a reason we don’t just drink wine out of a pint glass (or rather, why we shouldn’t). Wine glasses are specialized for drinking wine, and as such, they are made up of several components that optimize the experience. Below, you'll find the most important factors to consider when buying a wine glass

The Rim

Also occasionally referred to as the lip, the rim is the top portion of the wine glass — the part that actually touches your lips when you take a drink. And when it comes to the rim of a wine glass, generally speaking, the thinner, the better. You’ll want to aim for a rim thickness below 1mm, as these whisper-thin rims create less interference between the wine and your tongue, allowing for you to better concentrate on tasting the wine itself and not the glass. The tradeoff, of course, is that thinner rims are more fragile.

The Bowl

The bowl of a wine glass is the part that holds your wine, and they come in all sorts of shapes. In general, a wider bowl leads to greater aeration, allowing the wine to “breathe,” which alters its flavor, as well as allowing for more aromas to make their way to your nose. Different types of wine require different levels of aeration and aroma, but a general rule of thumb is that red wines should have a wider bowl, white wines should have a narrower one and sparkling wines should be served in the narrowest vessels.

Stemmed vs Stemless

Traditionally, wine glasses have a stem, the long, delicate portion that you hold while drinking. The reason for this is more than providing elegant aesthetics, though stems do that too. Practically, a stem prevents you from having to hold the bowl of the glass with your hand, which can raise the temperature of the wine. The downside of a wine glass stem is that they’re the most delicate part of a wine glass, and can easily be broken off if you’re not careful. So, if you’re accident-prone, you may opt for a stemless wine glass. While they don’t offer the temperature security of a stem, they’re a lot harder to break and easier to hold onto, making them more practical for a lot of people.

Hand-Blown vs Machine-Made Glass

A glass wine glass will either be hand-blown or machine-made, with both offering their own benefits and drawbacks. Hand-blown glass is, naturally, handmade. Because of this, each piece of hand-blown glass is unique. Hand-blown wine glasses are also able to be crafted into lighter and thinner forms than machine-made glasses, making for a more beautiful glass as well as a more premium drinking experience. The downsides are that hand-blown glasses are considerably more expensive than their machine-made counterparts, and also more delicate and prone to breaking. Machine-made glasses are more durable because they’re thicker, but also because of their thickness, they suffer from having greater taste interference than hand-blown glasses.

Varietal-Specific Wine Glasses

For most people, having a universal wine glass that works decently for all types of wine — or, at most, separate generic red and white wine glasses — will be just fine. But if you’re an aspiring sommelier or just really want the best experience for each of your preferred types of wine, then you may consider varietal-specific glasses. These are wine glasses that are tailored to specific grape varieties — e.g, Chardonnay or Pinot Noir — offering the ultimate drinking experience for nearly every style of wine. Once the domain of sommeliers only, varietal-specific glasses have gone more mainstream in recent decades, thanks largely to Riedel’s Vinum line that brought the first machine-made varietal-specific glasses to the masses in the 1980s.

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