The right bottle of wine has the potential to do one of two things: improve your day or improve your life. And one sure way to guarantee the former and up your chances of the latter is by pairing that bottle of wine with the best wine glasses.
Quality wine glasses will upgrade the taste, aesthetics, and enjoyment of your wine experience. There are wine glasses tailored to specific wine varieties, such as Pinot Noir or Chardonnay, as well as more versatile all-purpose wine glasses. Traditionally, most wine glasses are stemmed, but stemless glasses have become very popular in recent years as they offer a more casual, modern approach (and, practically speaking, can be less likely to be knocked over). Both crystal and glass options are available at varied price points (crystal being more expensive) and, when accompanying a commemorative bottle, they can make an excellent wedding or anniversary gift. Of course, you don’t have to reserve all of life’s little luxuries for a special occasion; the best wine glasses help you have an expertly crafted experience any time.
Wine glasses have come a long way. Wine drinking dates back to ancient civilizations, with glasses used in Ancient Egypt as early as 1500 BC. An integral part of religious practices and secular indulgence all over the world, the art of glassware has been being perfected for hundreds of years.
The Roman invention of glassblowing allowed for major advances. Europe has a long history of expertise in glassmaking, with Venice/Murano being the center of production. By the late 1600s/early 1700s, much of the fine European glassware was made using a mixture of minerals, including lead oxide, which led to it eventually being known as lead crystal. Adding lead oxide helped prevent cracking and created a more reflective surface. Of course, modern times have resulted in some changes. While a drinking glass made with lead is unlikely to cause any harm to the body, it is still not recommended to drink from, and lead crystal could cause damage to the body if it were used for something like a decanter, where the liquid would sit longer and lead would have the potential to seep in. With there being concerns over the safety of lead, these are lead-free crystal and offer the same delicate elegance, brilliance, and durability that antique lead crystal offers, but without any potential issues.
When shopping for wine glasses, look for high-quality glass or lead-free crystal glass, which now uses barium oxide, zinc oxide, or potassium oxide in place of lead oxide. The glassware, much of it still made in Europe, is light in weight while remaining high in clarity and brilliance. Many crystal glasses are even durable enough to be dishwasher safe. Shapes and sizes have changed in popularity over the years, so ornate, carved crystal is not in fashion. The world’s finest restaurants and sommeliers instead recommend an elegant glass large enough to swirl and enjoy your wine’s clarity, bouquet, and flavor.
Here’s a glass with the legs to showcase white wines for years to come
White wines are delicate and aromatic, and also served chilled. Due to these factors, you’ll find that white wine glasses have a longer stem than reds to reduce warming the wine with your hand. Most white glasses will also be smaller with shorter bowls, as a narrow bowl will concentrate the wine’s qualities, allowing the drinker to better enjoy the perfume.
If you are trying to buy a white wine glass with a specific grape varietal in mind, keep in mind subtle differences. Rosé, Sauvignon Blanc, and Dry Rieslings are considered higher in acid and prefer a smaller bowl than less acidic, more full-bodied wines like Chardonnay.
Great options are available in both stemmed and stemless designs. White wine stemless styles will typically be smaller than reds, as the wines do not need to breathe like reds to show their characteristics. Some people argue that stemless glasses might unwittingly warm the white wine, but for most average wine enthusiasts it shouldn’t be a problem.
Best for white: Zalto Denk’Art White Wine Glasses
This set of two crystal glasses is hand-blown and feather-light, made without lead. Each glass is 9.1 inches tall, 3.2 inches wide, and holds 400ml. The shape is designed with all white wine varietals (including sparkling) in mind, and a thin lip assures each sip arrives undeterred. They’re delicate stemware for delicate wines and therefore care should be taken with handling, but the glasses are, in fact, dishwasher safe.
It’ll be a red-letter day when you try your favorite wine in this glass
There’s research that says a daily glass of red may be good for lowering cholesterol and heightening heart health, so if you’re going to add a nightly ritual to your life you might as well make it as pleasing as possible. Red wines can be full-bodied, medium-bodied, and light-bodied, but all benefit from taking in oxygen to the glass, known as “breathing.” Red wine will display more aroma and flavor when it is given space, which is why the best red wine glasses have larger bowls than white wine glasses. Also, the rims of red glasses are wider to allow this oxygen to reach the wine (and any aggressively earthy, oaky aromas to blow off).
To tailor your glass to your favorite varietal, consider the body of the reds you like the best. The taller, more narrow red glasses are designed specifically for tightly wound and unctuous reds that need their acidity wrangled, directing Cabernet Sauvignon- and Zinfandel-based wines to the center of the tongue. While the more rounded glasses are often for medium and light reds with more delicate scents that need to linger; the wide mouths coat the tongue. These differences may sound subtle, but they can play a major role in fully enjoying your favorite red wines.
Best for red: Riedel Heart to Heart Cabernet Sauvignon Glasses
Available in sets of two, four, or eight, these Riedel picks come from a manufacturer that helped pioneer the development of glasses tailored to varietals, such as this Heart to Heart series. These diamond-shaped Cabernet Sauvignon (Bordeaux) glasses are machine-blown fine crystal 9 ¾ inches tall with a capacity of 28 ¼ ounces. This well-known, well-respected dishwasher-safe product has great reviews from customers for a reason.
You’ll fuss less, indulge more with these all-purpose glasses
It’s important to note that if you are the type of wine enthusiast that enjoys it all, there is no reason to have grape-specific glassware. The best all-purpose glasses will work with any and all types of wine. By taking the middle ground in terms of size and shape, they become a versatile glass that won’t ruin the experience of either white, red, or rosé. The truth is the subtle nuances between varietal-focused glasses are just that—subtle—and most casual wine drinkers wouldn’t notice the difference that much.
As with any good wine glass, the best all-purpose options, also known as universal wine glasses, will be made with care, with quality glass or lead-free crystal that offers brilliant clarity. The uniformity of universal glasses will also offer space savings in your cabinet.
Best all-purpose: Schott Zwiesel Vervine All-Purpose Wine Glasses
Crafted in Germany, this set of six Schott Zwiesel glasses features a thin-walled bowl, fine stem, and wide foot made from lead-free Tritan crystal—a technology using titanium and zirconium for brilliance with added strength. Although delicate, these 9.1-inch, 23.2-ounce wine Schott Zwiesel glasses have reinforced breakage-prone zones and they hold up to the dishwasher and are chip, scratch, and stain-resistant.
Pick stemless glasses if you like a mod bod
The best stemless wine glasses are attractive, well-balanced, and comfortable to hold in your hand. Stemless glasses can come in the same varietal-specific (or universal) bowl shapes as traditional stemware, but losing that stem gives these an air of modernity and helps make the occasion more casual. Stemless glasses can be a smart option for parties as they are less likely to tip over when carried around and placed on a variety of surfaces.
Some enthusiasts complain that stemless glasses are subpar because the act of holding the glass with your hand will adversely change the temperature of the wine and therefore adversely affect the taste of the wine. For most people, this is so slight that it is really a non-issue (and, besides, wines first served at proper cellar temperature evolve pleasingly in the glass as they warm). Stemless wine glasses are familiar to hold and come in a variety of styles and designs. They can bring sophistication without feeling fussy or fancy.
Best stemless: Mikasa Cheers Stemless Wine Glass
These stemless glasses are a great choice to bring festive flair to parties. The glass is mostly clear, but the walls offer a variety of whimsical etched patterns making it slightly easy to find your glass when in social settings. Each all-purpose glass holds 17 ounces and is produced from traditional glass, making them more durable for cocktails, soft drinks, and juices, etc., but it’s best to hand wash them. A set of eight is less than $65.
Here’s a glass that’s all-purpose on any budget
When shopping for budget glasses it makes sense to opt for an all-purpose design to handle any type of beverage. Typically, an all-purpose style is a Bordeaux shape, which is an elegant glass with a long stem that also features a slightly tapered rim (it’s a style that can also be found in stemless glasses, depending on your preference). Not only will this shape work to enhance the flavor (from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Shiraz to Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, and rosé), it is a timeless look that will work for many years to come and coordinate with any style of dinnerware.
On a budget, you can expect to find factory-made glass options as opposed to handblown crystal. Look, however, for glass made with thinner walls for enhanced clarity, as well as laser-cut rims for chip-resistant edges. The best budget glasses will be dishwasher-safe, lead-free, and BPA-free for your health and safety.
These all-purpose wine glasses hold 16 ounces or 26 ounces, depending on what you buy, allowing for plenty of room for swirling and sipping your favorite wines. They have a traditional 9-inch height (perfect for dishwashers) and are constructed with a ClearFire formula for enhanced clarity and strength. BPA-free, lead-free, and reasonably priced, these glasses are available four for under $45 and bring class to casual gatherings.
Q: What is the difference between glass and crystal wine glasses?
There are a few differences between glass and crystal glasses. The two might look similar from a distance, but crystal has a high proportion of minerals that allow it to be stronger while thinner, and to have more clarity and brilliance. Crystal refracts light, causing a special sparkle that makes it appealing for enjoying wines. Due to the increase in strength, crystal wine glasses can be lightweight yet less susceptible to breakage. While glass glasses can vary in cost and quality, typically crystal is associated more for special occasions due to design, styling, and cost.
Q: What are the best crystal wine glasses?
The best crystal wine glasses showcase crystal’s clarity, shine, and refraction of light. There are many reputable companies with a long history of quality craftsmanship, such as Schott Zwiesel, Zalto, Gabriel Glas, and, of course, Riedel wine glasses. While crystal glasses were traditionally made with minerals including lead, the best crystal wine glasses today are lead-free. Crystal glasses are available in all shapes and sizes tailored to your favorite bottles.
Q: What is the best all-purpose wine glass?
The best all-purpose wine glass will work for all types of wines, from whites and reds to sparkling and rosés. An all-purpose design should be vertically shaped, and large enough to allow for swirling. A Bordeaux shape is the best choice to use with multiple types of wines. Look for a clear glass without bevels to allow for optimal viewing of the wine’s color and clarity.
The final word on the best wine glasses
The perfect wine glasses will be suited for your lifestyle and enhance the experience of enjoying your specific preferences (or just enjoying the experience of entertaining). Whether you are looking for a glass designed to enhance the flavor of your favorite bottle, or whether you want a simpler all-purpose style wine glass, there are plenty of beautiful wine glasses on the market to choose from, as we’ve shown.