Luis Alvarez/Getty Images Drinking wine from a wine glass lets you fully enjoy its aroma, taste, and texture. For red wine, use a glass with a large bowl and wider opening to allow the wine to aerate. For white wine, use a glass with a smaller bowl and opening and a long stem to keep the wine cool and concentrate its aromas. If you don't want to buy two different sets of glasses, experts recommend a universal glass, which has a versatile shape to bring out the best qualities in red, white, and rosé wines. See also: The best wine clubs
You've educated yourself on different grapes and varietals and picked out an enticing bottle of wine to enjoy. But to fully experience that wine at its best, you can't just pour it into any old drinking glass or mug.
"The architecture of the wine glass is the final step in the journey from [the] vineyard to your palate. The height of the stem, the shape and size of the bowl, and even the base of the glass are intentionally designed to highlight the true expression of each varietal," said Aime Dunstan, winery event manager at Cakebread Cellars. "Try pouring the same wine in glasses of differing shapes, and you will notice how the glass influences the aroma, flavor, and texture of the wine."
That's why there are different glasses for red wine and white wine, and even within those categories, they're split further into glasses for different varietals like Burgundy and Chardonnay.
"Red wine glasses tend to have a wider bowl and larger opening, which carefully brings out the aromas in a smooth and soft way. On the other hand, white wine glasses are thinner all around, which turn up the intensity and keep the temperature of the wine cooler while you sip," said Ronda Fraley, sommelier and founder of online wine club The Wine Party Co.
There are also universal glasses, which have a versatile shape that's not too wide or narrow and enhances the taste of all types of wine. "I suggest beginners get their 'feet wet' by starting with a universal glass and then letting their passion grow from there," suggested Aldo Sohm, wine director at Le Bernardin and Aldo Sohm Wine Bar. Sohm uses a universal glass as his standard tasting glass.
The number of glasses you should buy and the amount you should spend depends on how much you love wine and how often you entertain. "It all depends on the use and occasion," said Christine Collado, the general manager at wine shop Parcelle and former wine director at Chef's Table at Brooklyn Fare. "If you're having a huge party and know that breakage is going to be an issue — maybe just get something you're not as attached to. If you're wanting to make an investment, $15 to $30 per stem tends to be the average range."
Our guide to the best wine glasses is split into three categories: red, white, and universal. All of our picks are based on research, expert input, and adherence to the typical features of each type of glass. Read more about our methodology here. For each category, you'll find glasses that suit a range of budgets, whether you want to invest heavily in the wine-sipping experience or stock up on low-maintenance glasses.
Here are the best wine glasses: Best universal wine glasses: Schott Zwiesel, Good Trouble Glass, Gabriel-Glas, Zalto Best red wine glasses: Spiegelau, Willow Park, Riedel Best white wine glasses: Vineyard, Spiegelau, Williams Sonoma Reserve, Orrefors Prices and details are accurate as of 11/18/20. We've overhauled this guide by speaking to wine experts like sommeliers and winemakers to learn what to look for in different kinds of wine glasses and how to shop for wine glasses. We've chosen 3-5 glasses per category that fit the criteria based on their input and our own research. For our next update, we'll be putting some of these glasses through a variety of tests. The best universal wine glasses Universal wine glasses, which have a bowl and opening that are not too big or small, are all-purpose chameleons that can be used with red, white, and rosé wines. They're excellent options for wine drinkers who want to keep things simple. A red wine glass has a wider bowl and larger opening, both of which allow for better aeration of tannin-rich wines like Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux. If you like wines from Burgundy such as Pinot Noir and Nebbiolo, get a glass with an even wider bowl and a more narrow opening; these varietals have more intense fruit notes, and the tapered shape helps concentrate and direct those notes to the nose. In a white wine glass, look for a smaller bowl and opening and a long stem. These features help keep wines like Sauvignon Blanc cool and better deliver aromas to the nose. However, if you're enjoying a full-bodied white wine like an oaky Chardonnay, you'll want a glass with a larger bowl.
We spoke to a variety of experts about the most important features of different wine glasses, the best materials, general price ranges, and their favorite brands. With their advice in mind, we then selected glasses for all budgets in our three categories: red, white, and universal.
Our next update will involve requesting samples of all the glasses, conducting durability tests, and bringing them to a wine expert to evaluate. Here are the durability tests we plan to do:
Gently knock over each glass with 150 mL water in it (a standard glass of wine) three times and note any cracks and breakage. Hand wash each glass with warm soapy water and dry. Note any water spots. If the glass is dishwasher-safe, run it in the dishwasher. For glasses used for red wine, note any stains after use. Wine glass and wine drinking FAQs What glass do you use for rosé?
Good news: you don't need to buy an entirely different set of glasses just to enjoy this summertime classic. Although there are glasses designed specifically for rosé on the market, our experts agree that a universal or white wine glass works just as well; you could even use a red wine glass for an especially deep varietal.
Fraley said, "If rosé is your style of choice, I recommend going with a universal wine glass because it's a style that can be a bit of a chameleon. Bolder, deeper styles of rosé that look almost red, like those from Tavel, would benefit from the shape of a red wine glass whereas the lighter styles that are very pale in color, like those from Provence, would be better suited for a white wine glass."
Crystal or glass?
There are pros and cons to each, though the wine community generally seems to favor crystal for its beautiful yet durable construction.
"Crystal glasses can be spun thin while maintaining durability so you maximize the drinking experience and account for clumsy moments at the same time," said Fraley. That's because crystal contains traces of minerals like magnesium or zinc, which strengthen the material. However, since it's porous, crystal can corrode if put in the dishwasher, which is why handwashing is recommended.
On the other hand, glass is "a non-porous yet delicate material, which means that it won't corrode over time but it's more likely to break if you're not careful. It tends to be a bit more affordable so just look out for a thin, light glass that comes with a broken glass guarantee to get that enhanced experience with a little peace of mind," said Fraley.
In summary, go with crystal if you want something extra durable and you don't mind washing your glasses by hand and spending more money. Go with glass if you can deal with occasional breakage, prefer throwing everything in the dishwasher, and want something less expensive.
Stem or stemless?
"When you hold a stemless wine glass, body heat from your hands will increase the temperature of the wine, and nobody likes a warm glass of wine," said Dunstan. A stemmed wine glass offers greater temperature control, and holding the glass by the stem reduces the appearance of unsightly fingerprints. At formal events, true oenophiles will go so far as to sip from the same spot on the rim each time to limit lip prints as well!"
That said, you should also take your environment into consideration. If you're enjoying your wine outdoors in the company of children or pets, a stemless glass may be more practical and less mess-prone than a stemmed one.
Do you need to decant wine before pouring it?
Depends on the wine. It's recommended to decant older red wines because they produce sediment over time. The decanting process separates this gritty, bitter substance. Decanting (for both red and white wine) also exposes the wine to air and helps open up its flavors.
"We recommend decanting red library wines aged eight or more years in-bottle for 30-60 minutes. Exposing older vintages to a wider plane of oxygen speeds up the breathing process, enhancing fruit and oak aromas," said Dunstan.
What about swirling it around in your glass?
If you're unable to decant your wine, "a brief swirl in whatever rhythm you can manage in the glass will accomplish [the exposure to oxygen] for younger wines," said Dunstan.
A quick swirl of your glass before your first sip will release different aromas that wouldn't have appeared otherwise. And as you raise your glass to your nose and mouth, those aromas will be waiting for you in the bowl of the glass and make your overall wine experience more enjoyable. You can swirl your glass in any direction on a table, with your thumb and index finger at the base of the glass. If you're more confident you won't spill any wine, you can do it mid-air as well.
How do I wash my wine glasses?
It's best to handwash them with warm water and a small amount of mild, unscented soap, and focus on the rim and outside of the bowl. According to Riedel, you should "never hold the bowl and the base at the same time, as any twisting or pressure on the stem may cause it to snap." Then, use a lint-free cloth such as a microfiber towel to dry the glass. Letting the glass air dry may lead to streaking or water spots.
What's the best way to store wine glasses?
Because the rim of the glass is delicate, it's best to store them standing up, in a stable and secure place like a cabinet. Keep glasses away from dust, grease, and odor. Hanging racks, which store glasses bowl side down, also work, but there's greater chance of breakage in case the glass drops or is otherwise disturbed.
Check out our other wine guides The best wine clubs The best wine openers and corkscrews The best wine aerators The best wine coolers and fridges The best Champagne glasses
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