Basic Glassware Do's & Don'ts

What to Avoid:

  • Anything with colored glass. The wine should look its natural color from any angle. Also avoid any glasses that have been painted with seashells, life preservers, buoys, seagulls, or any other beach/river motif
  • Anything with “cut” glass or facets. I’m sure these were once the height of luxury, and yes, they are sparkly! They are also way too heavy and distract from the natural appearance of the wine. They also make swirling the wine very difficult.  
  • Stemless. I’m sure this will be the most controversial on the list and, yes, there are circumstances where it’s fine. Sitting on a beach swilling $10 rose? Go for it! Serving a $50 pinot to dinner guests? Not great! Stemless users have no alternative but to warm the wine with their hand while completely smudging the glass. These glasses also typically mute the aromas that would otherwise be present. For all of these reasons stemless glasses should only be used when stems are impractical or unavailable. 
  • “The Karen”. Karens come in a wide variety of styles but they all feature ridiculously long stems. You will be moving shelves in order to store these. Although the stem length is the Karen’s defining feature, they also commonly exhibit additional flaws such as colored or cut glass. 
  • Glasses with enormous bowls. My number one, all-time, undefeated restaurant wine pet peeve is a server who pours too much of the bottle in your glass. These oversized bowls encourage you to make the same mistake at home.
What to look for:
  • Medium-sized glasses. An overall height of 9-10” with a bowl-to-stem ratio of 1:1 is probably ideal. 12”+ and you’re in Karen Country. 
  • Fairly thin stems. You don’t want something so dainty that it will break just from looking at it. At the same time, broken wine glasses are a fact of life. Heavy stems feel clunky and make swirling difficult. 
  • Shape. This is fairly subjective. The very worst shape would be the one that tapers out and never tapers back in (V-shape). There are fairly squat and round glasses traditionally used for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. There are also more upright glasses traditionally used for Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. Buy all-purpose glasses and eliminate the need for two different sets. 

Glasses as described above are what wine professionals use to evaluate wines for quality, and are essentially average in every way. They’re also great for the dinner table and are less likely to get knocked over. 

For what it’s worth, Crate and Barrel sells a wide variety of really good glasses for less than $6 each. That’s where I buy my everyday glasses. It’s probably best to visit their store in person as I find it very difficult to accurately judge wine glasses online.

A note on expensive wine glasses. If you’re seriously considering expensive glasses, look for Zalto or the higher-end Riedel lines. I’m generally against very expensive glasses as they almost never get used. The one exception might be for a glass geared to whatever your favorite wine is- Chardonnay, Napa Cab, or whatever it might be.

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