After blind tasting wine in more than 80 different glasses with a professional winemaker, a sommelier, and a wine critic, we think the best everyday wine glass is the Libbey Signature Kentfield Estate All-Purpose Wine Glass. We considered over 250 glasses, and we found that the inexpensive tulip-shaped Libbey glass enhanced the aromas of both red and white wines better than most of the competition. In our tests, it proved to be durable enough to withstand the rigors of daily use. Since the Libbey glass has all the features we look for in finer stemware at a bargain price, we think it’s the best all-purpose wine glass for your home.
For a more elegant glass that’s appropriate for everyday drinking, we recommend the Riedel Vinum Zinfandel/Riesling Grand Cru. In our tests, the elongated tulip-shaped bowl did an excellent job enhancing the aromas of both red and white wines. Though this non-leaded crystal glass (fortified with lead oxide alternatives to make it more sparkly) appears delicate, it’s surprisingly durable and dishwasher-safe. It’s an ideal height: not too tall, so there’s less risk knocking it over; yet not too short that it appears squatty. The laser-cut rim on this glass provides a thin edge that doesn’t distract from the wine drinking experience. This is a thinner, more refined all-purpose wine glass for daily use.
We recommend the pricey Zalto Denk’Art Universal Glass for the serious wine drinker. Both red and white wines showcased unbelievably well in this glass. Our pros gushed over the Zalto’s thin, mouth-blown glass and the unique tapered design of the bowl. Made from non-leaded crystal, the Zalto sparkles brilliantly under the light, and its delicate stem is pulled the thinnest out of all the glasses we tested. Since it’s expensive and delicate, this isn’t a glass you’ll likely feel comfortable bringing out for most company, but it’s ideal for special occasions or when enjoying your favorite vintage.
For casual drinking, we recommend the Ravenscroft Crystal Stemless Wine Glasses, which were thinner and lighter than most of the glasses we tested in this category. Though they’re stemless, these glasses retain the elegance of traditional stemware because they are made from non-leaded crystal, have relatively thin lips, and are light weight. Our experts recommend these glasses when enjoying inexpensive but refreshing wines.
The best varietal-specific glasses (those designed for specific types of wine) come from the Riedel Veritas collection. Not only is this stemware more elegant than our main pick, but the cabernet and chardonnay glasses we tested proved to be the best for showcasing wine aroma. This collection includes nine varietal-specific glasses for wine (as well as glasses for beer, spirits, and cocktails). The Veritas glasses are ideal for those passionate about the complexities of the wine they’re drinking and want to showcase their fine wines in superior glassware. You probably don’t want to set these glasses out for rowdy drinkers, since they’re made from thinner, finer, and more delicate non-leaded crystal. The Veritas glasses are available in many styles for wine, but if you’re not sure where to start, we recommend beginning with the Riedel Veritas Cabernet/Merlot Glass for red wine and the Riedel Veritas Viognier/Chardonnay Glass for white wine.
For this update, we spoke with wine professionals, including Eric Asimov, wine critic for The New York Times (parent company of The Wirecutter and The Sweethome); Scott Carney, master sommelier and dean of wine studies at The International Culinary Center in NYC; and Michele Thomas, sommelier, a freelance wine and spirits writer, and sales associate at The Greene Grape Wine & Spirits in Brooklyn, New York. Additionally, we spoke to Kristin Wastell, the visitor center manager at the Ravenswood Winery Tasting Room in Sonoma, California.
We also spoke to chemosensory specialists, such as Steven D. Munger, PhD, director at the Center of Taste and Smell at the University of Florida, and Terry Acree, PhD, a professor in the Department of Food Science at Cornell University. Additionally, we reached out to glass experts such as Jane Cook, PhD, chief scientist at the Corning Museum of Glass (CMOG) in Corning, New York, and William C. LaCourse, PhD, a professor in the Glass Engineering Department at Alfred University in Alfred, New York.
For our previous update, Jeff Cohn, winemaker at Jeff Cohn Cellars, tested all of our wine glasses in person. We also consulted with Belinda Chang, a James Beard Award–winning sommelier, former Champagne educator for Moët Hennessy, and currently the wine director at Chicago’s Maple & Ash; and David Speer, owner of Ambonnay in Portland, Oregon, and one of Food & Wine’s 2013 Sommeliers of the Year.
We also looked at several wine glass reviews from sources such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Wine Spectator, and Apartment Therapy. Finally, we scoured stores such as Williams-Sonoma, Crate and Barrel, Macy’s, Bed Bath & Beyond, and Amazon.
Michael Sullivan has reviewed dinnerware and knife sets, along with other kitchen equipment for The Sweethome. He previously worked in restaurants and bartended for several years. For this guide, he researched more than 250 wine glasses and tested over 50 for our 2017 update.
When purchasing wine glasses, it’s helpful to know the meaning behind some basic terms—including crystal, non-leaded crystal, and soda-lime glass—to ensure you know what you’re buying.
Crystal, not to be confused with quartz crystal, is a type of colorless glass containing lead oxide. American standards vary depending on the producer, but most high-end US glass manufacturers follow the United Kingdom’s standard: Leaded crystal must contain a minimum of 24 percent lead oxide, according to British Glass. Jane Cook, chief scientist at CMOG, told us, “The extra lead content softens the glass and makes it easier to cut and polish.” Wine glass makers can pull leaded crystal thinner than soda-lime glass, which results in flawless bowls and stems, thin rims, and delicate craftsmanship. Leaded crystal is also more refractive—that is, super sparkly. It’s also more expensive than soda-lime glass.
Some glassware manufacturers used to claim that the microscopic roughness on the surface of leaded crystal enhanced wine more than soda lime glass. However, two of our experts, Williams C. LaCourse and Jane Cook, said it would be difficult to say if either type of glass significantly impacts the volatilization of aroma molecules in wine better than the other without the appropriate research and testing.
Terry Acree, a professor in the Department of Food Science at Cornell University, told us that what makes crystal preferable to glass “has nothing to do with taste, it has nothing to do with flavor, and it has nothing to do with the chemistry of the glass. It has only to do with all of the other things that make you feel good in life. The person sitting across from you, the candlelight, the fact that a Riedel wine glass costs $150 guarantees that anything that comes out of it is going to taste better. It doesn’t matter what it’s made out of. It all has to do with psychological expectations.”
Non-leaded (or lead-free) crystal, as its name implies, is a type of lead-free glass that bears similarity in appearance to leaded crystal. While there are many formulas used to make non-leaded crystal, glass manufacturers commonly replace lead oxide with additives such as barium. According to Cook, since lead is a very toxic, well-regulated material, most glassware manufacturers have moved away from using lead oxide in their glassware (including well-known companies such as Riedel). Instead, they’ve opted to use less toxic materials to produce stemware that shares similar attributes to leaded crystal. Cook explains, “Barium crystal is far less toxic, but it’s also harder than leaded crystal. It’s not going to scratch as easily. It’s going to look a little bit different, and it’s not going to have the same color profile to it that leaded crystal does, but it’s an option.” Keep in mind that non-leaded crystal can also be referred to as “crystal,” which is confusing, so we recommend contacting the manufacturer directly if you’re uncertain, or it’s not clearly labeled on the box.
Soda-lime glass is primarily made from about 60 to 75 percent silica (sand), 12 to 18 percent soda ash (sodium carbonate), and 5 to 12 percent lime (calcined limestone), according to the Corning Museum of Glass online dictionary. Since it’s so versatile and inexpensive to produce, this type of glass is commonly used for everything from wine glasses and tumblers, to wine bottles and pickle jars.
“Machine blown” or “mouth blown” are terms often used by stemware manufacturers to indicate how a glass is formed. As expected, mouth-blown glasses, like our upgrade pick—the Zalto Denk’Art Universal Glass—cost considerably more than most machine-blown glasses due to the labor and skill involved to produce it. Stemware can also be made by mold pressing, or mold blowing. Glassware manufacturers can also use a combination of blown and molded pieces to create stemware.
We turned to our experts to find out which features they look for in the ideal wine glass, including the type and quality of glass, size and shape of the bowl, thinness of the glass and rim, stem length, size of the base, overall balance, weight, and aesthetics.
Our experts stressed that a wine glass should be clear, unadorned, and smooth, so you can see the liquid inside. We were able to rule out any colored or decorative glasses, or heavy crystal glasses with patterned etchings. Additionally, the glass should be free of imperfections, such as bends, warps, bubbles, or egregious seams on the stem.
Choosing the type of glass that’s right for you comes down to cost, practicality, aesthetics, and entertaining preferences. Michele Thomas, a sommelier and freelance wine and spirits writer, said, “In terms of crystal versus glass, it’s about the occasion, what you’re doing, and how fancy you want to be. [Soda-lime] glass is less expensive. But aesthetically, crystal is definitely a nicer glass.”
Eric Asimov, wine critic for The New York Times, makes the case for spending a little more for better quality everyday glasses saying, “It’s maybe the least expensive investment you’ll ever make, to spend $20 rather than $10. Why bother choosing among inadequate glasses when, for a little more money, you can get really nice glasses?” He doesn’t necessarily feel that crystal is inherently superior or inferior to soda-lime glass, but said, “Since better wine glasses tend to be made out of crystal, the experience of drinking wine out of crystal glasses has been better. I don’t think that’s so much because of the material of the glass, but because of the quality and thought that goes into the glass.” For this guide, we tested wine glasses made from crystal, non-leaded crystal, and soda-lime glass ranging from $4 to $70. In our blind taste test, the pros chose all lead or non-leaded crystal glasses as the finalists in nearly every category.
After speaking to our experts, we determined that the shape and size of the bowl (the part of the glass that holds the wine) are two of the most important aspects of any wine glass because they will affect how well you can swirl the wine and how its aroma will be detected. “You want a bowl that’s big enough to hold a healthy amount of wine, while really being no more than a third full. That gives you plenty of room to swirl the wine without fearing you’re going to throw it across the room or onto your shirt,” said Eric Asimov, the wine critic for The New York Times. On the other hand, if a bowl is too big or too deep, the aroma can get lost and be harder to detect. We found all-purpose glasses between 14 and 19 fluid ounces provided enough volume to expose red wine to more surface area (allowing more oxygen to be absorbed into the wine, and increasing the speed at which aroma molecules volatilize), while still being small enough to preserve the subtle aromas of delicate whites.
In our tests, we found that a slight tulip shape to the glass showcases wines best so that their aroma may be smelled and enjoyed before drinking (see this article on how the shape of a wine glass can affect the taste of wine). Sommelier Belinda Chang advised us, “There’s limitations to glasses that don’t go convex and then concave. As you’re swirling the wine and adding oxygen, you want the molecules that give aromas to line up and down the side of the glass.” Asimov agreed, saying, “You want the diameter of the rim to be a little less wide than the widest part of the bowl. That helps to channel aromas upwards and makes the aromas of the wine a little bit easier to detect.” We eliminated any glasses that didn’t taper inward at the top, such as the flared Riedel Vivant Burgundy, which made smelling wine aromas difficult in previous tests.
Though we looked only at glasses with tapered bowls, the shape can vary dramatically depending on the maker. Most manufacturers sell many stemware lines, each varying in terms of height, width, shape, and quality of glass. We looked at a range of glasses in many styles with both rounded bowls like our main pick, the Libbey Signature Kentfield Estate All-Purpose Wine Glass, and angled bowls, such as our upgrade pick, the Zalto Denk’Art Universal Glass. According to our experts, other than the size and shape of the bowl, choosing wine glasses becomes a matter of aesthetics and personal taste.
Among the most important aesthetics to consider is the rim of the glass. All of our experts were partial to a thin rim on their glass because it felt best against their lips and was less diverting. If it’s thick and pronounced, it can feel clunky and distracting. Thomas said, ” I generally like a thin-lipped wine glass if I’m going to do a real tasting.” Asimov agreed, saying, “I don’t like glasses with a heavy lip.” While the thickness of the rim is a matter of personal taste, in our experience, better quality wine glasses tend to be thinner and less obtrusive.
Some stemware manufacturers claim that a thinner rim helps to direct the wine to a specific place on the palate, referring to the “tongue map,” or the idea that we detect different tastes on specific parts of our tongue. However, Terry Acree, a professor in the Department of Food Science at Cornell University, told us, “The tongue map was very clearly debunked about 40 or 50 years ago. There’s absolutely no evidence of a tongue map in human beings. There seem to be some different sensitivities on the sides of the tongue versus the back of the tongue, et cetera, but every taste bud responds to all five senses.” Furthermore, Gordon M. Shepherd, author of Neuroenology: How the Brain Creates the Taste of Wine, wrote, “It’s important to remember that taste buds are not confined to the tongue; they are also present on the palate, at the back of the roof of the mouth, on the tonsils, and as far down as the epiglottis. The tongue needs to move the wine to reach all these taste cells to get the maximum taste stimulation.” In other words, the thinness of the rim has no effect on the flavor of the wine as some glassware manufacturers have claimed. For optimal perception, the wine must be dispersed throughout the mouth and not to a specific part of the tongue.
Thinner stems are more elegant and generally go hand-in-hand with high-end stemware. We sorted through hundreds of glasses for this guide, and in that time a clear pattern emerged––the less expensive the glass, the thicker the bowl and the stem become. However, delicate glasses with thinner stems aren’t the best choice if they will be used at parties or spend time in the dishwasher because they’re more likely to break. Even though all of the glasses we tested claim to be dishwasher-safe, very fine, thin crystal glasses should be washed by hand. For this guide, we looked at glasses that had stems with a range of thicknesses.
The length of the stem and the balance of the piece should make a glass less prone to toppling over on the table or in your hand. “I live in an apartment, so super tall wine glasses aren’t that feasible,” said Michele Thomas, “but a glass with a stem that’s 3 or 4 inches is probably fine.” We avoided wine glasses that were too short and stubby, because they lack elegance and are unattractive, opting for glasses with longer, more classic stems. That said, we still wanted the glasses to be short enough to easily fit in a cupboard or in the top rack of a dishwasher. The length of the stem also needs to be long enough so you can comfortably hold the glass without your hand touching the bowl, which could warm the wine and leave smudges. In our testing, we found the ideal height of a wine glass is between about 8 and 9 inches.
After observing the base of each wine glass we tested, we found that those with a small circumference were easier to knock over and, in some cases, made the glass top heavy. Bases that were too wide were sturdier, though some of our experts pointed out that they could catch on the edge of a plate, which is easy to do on a crowded table. Ideally, we wanted bases that were about the same circumference as the widest part of the bowl for optimal balance.
The overall weight of the glass is also important. If it’s too light it’s liable to topple over, while a heavy glass is unpleasant and cumbersome to hold.
Aside from all-purpose wine glasses, we looked at glasses specifically designed for both reds and whites. Some glassware manufacturers, most notably Riedel, take the concept one step further and have glasses specially designed for many varietals such as Chardonnay and Riesling. The idea behind separate glasses is that they can enhance or flatten out various characteristics of the wine you’re drinking. For those who enjoy entertaining, having red and white wine glasses is also a nice hospitality detail that sets a tone of formality for special occasions. However, Asimov told us, “I don’t really put stock in the notion that you need different glasses for different types of wine. I think that’s an affectation and promoted heavily by self-interested wine glass manufacturers. … But it’s also a psychological thing, and if you believe it, then it’s fine.” Keep in mind, unless you have the space, or enjoy the look of formal place settings, having multiple glasses for every type of wine is impractical for most people.
Scott Carney, who’s been to one of the Riedel tastings where they compare wines in a generic glass versus a varietal-specific glass said, “While it sounds like smoke and mirrors and all, it was quite clear that the Riedel glass was far more expressive, no doubt.” While Asimov said he uses one all-purpose glass for everyday drinking, he notes that “there’s a lot of room for personal preference [when choosing glasses], and it ought to be dictated by that rather than some sort of pedantic sense of what’s right and what’s wrong.” We limited our search to finding a pair of glasses that featured red and white wines well.
In addition to traditional stemware, many of the top glassware manufacturers offer stemless options. However, one of the biggest drawbacks to stemless glassware is that it leaves unsightly fingerprints on the surface of the glass. Furthermore, Asimov said, “the benefit of the stem is mostly that you’re not affecting the temperature of the wine with the heat of your hands. I think if you’re drinking a good wine, it’s a little bit of an affectation to serve it in stemless glasses. … But I’m not really snobbish about glasses. People can serve wine in whatever they want, but my preference is stemware.” Most of our experts agree that stemless glasses are fine for casual drinking, but they’re not not ideal for enjoying nicer wines on a regular basis.
In our tests, we also found that stemless glasses are easier to knock over, especially on a crowded table. Michele Thomas said, “I think stemless glasses are cool looking, but I’m the kind of clumsy person that would knock over a stemless wine glass. I’d want the bowl of the glass more elevated on my table so I have a little more clearance, especially when reaching for my water glass.”
For our 2017 update, we spoke with industry-leading sommeliers, winemakers, as well as wine critics and educators, to come up with the best wine glasses for most people. While there are many types of glasses for different types of drinkers, we set out to fulfill the following categories:
For our original guide, Jeff Cohn, owner and head winemaker at Jeff Cohn Cellars, reviewed 33 wine glasses. For our 2017 update, Eric Asimov, the wine critic for The New York Times, and Michele Thomas, a sommelier and freelance wine and spirits writer, blind tested 53 glasses in the Sweethome test kitchen. Mark McKenzie, a NYC-based sommelier, poured wine for our tastings and also offered his insight.
To prevent our testers from being influenced by a particular manufacturer, we covered the maker’s etching on the base of each glass. We washed all of the glasses in the dishwasher and polished them by hand using a microfiber cloth to remove any water spots or smudges before testing. At our experts’ suggestion, we used aromatic wines for our review, which included reasonably priced red and white wines from the Greene Grape in Brooklyn, New York. We tasted red and white wines in all-purpose and stemless glasses to test their versatility. Our tasting also included varietal-specific glasses, which we paired with the appropriate corresponding wine.
We also performed drop tests with all of our finalists: We filled the glasses one-third full with water and knocked them over onto a hardwood surface, onto a tablecloth-covered counter, and onto a hardwood floor from a height of 3 feet. We also hit the rim of the glasses against the edge of a marble counter to see if they would break.
The best wine glass for everyday use is the Libbey Signature Kentfield Estate All-Purpose Wine Glass. This inexpensive, 16-ounce tulip-shaped glass was among the top stemware chosen by our experts in our blind taste test. It stood out for showcasing the aromas of both red and white wines well. It’s nicely balanced with a thin lip that doesn’t distract from enjoying the overall drinking experience. The Libbey glass has a classic look that makes it appropriate for daily use, or for more formal occasions such as dinners and cocktail parties. This glass is durable and practical for daily use, and it’s dishwasher-safe.
Our experts were able to detect the subtle aromas of both red and white wines, which were more expressive when drinking from the tulip-shaped Libbey glass. In our blind taste testing, Michele Thomas said the Libbey glass “brings out more of the florals in the wine,” compared with some of the other options she tested in the all-purpose glass category. She added that the glass was also, “really nice for reds.” The Libbey glass is narrow enough to preserve the delicate nuances of most whites, while its 16-ounce capacity makes it big enough for swirling reds.
Among the all-purpose glasses we tested, our experts found all the components of the Libbey glass, including the size of the bowl, length of the stem, and diameter of the base to be well-balanced. “The stem is tall and it has a nice size base,” said Michele Thomas. “It has the appropriate proportions and good weight.” Asimov agreed, saying, “It feels comfortable to hold.”
While the Libbey glass is slightly thicker compared with fine crystal stemware, Thomas said it’s “a good company glass.” Though it’s very durable, the glass is still elegant enough for dinner parties, which is great, especially when hosting rowdy guests. Made from what Libbey calls its ClearFire formula for soda-lime glass, it does seem to sparkle more under the light than other offerings in this price range.
Though Asimov noted the Libbey glass was “a little lippy on top” compared with some of the other glasses we tested, it’s still remarkably thin for such an inexpensive glass. Typically thinner rims and elongated stems are features we see in glasses costing nearly twice or three times as much. Asimov also observed that the Libbey glass “doesn’t have that ridge on the stem where it meets.” Other inexpensive glasses, such as the Libbey Allure All-Purpose Wine Glass, commonly have an unattractive seam on the stem, which wasn’t the case with this glass. The best part is, since it’s so inexpensive, you won’t be heartbroken if one breaks.
According to its website, Libbey began as the New England Glass Company and has been producing American-made glassware for nearly 200 years, so it’s a trusted brand with proven longevity. The Libbey glass comes with a 25-year manufacturer’s chip warranty. The customer service representative we spoke with at Libbey said the company will replace the glass if it chips during normal use (just be sure to save the chipped glass, as you may be asked to return it). For replacements, call Libbey customer service at 1-888-794-8469. (This doesn’t cover breaks, naturally.)
While the height of the stem on the Libbey glass is long enough to be held comfortably without touching the bowl, it’s not quite as thin or elegant as more expensive glasses like the Riedel Vinum Zinfandel/Riesling Grand Cru or the Zalto Denk’Art Universal wine glasses. It also weighs the most out of all of our picks, at around 5.8 ounces, though our testers said they didn’t find it distracting. The stem has a slight bulge where it meets the bowl of the glass, but again, our testers didn’t comment on it. What the Libbey lacks in elegance, it makes up for in terms of durability. We’re willing to forgive these minor aesthetic preferences since it showcases red and white wines well and is affordably priced.
The Riedel Vinum Zinfandel/Riesling Grand Cru is an elegant wine glass that’s also durable enough for daily use. Both red and white wines were very expressive in this glass due its elongated, tulip-shaped bowl. Since this glass is so thin, the laser-cut rim feels practically seamless on the edge of your lips. Machine blown in Germany from non-leaded crystal, the Riedel Vinum glass also seemed to shine more brilliantly under the light compared with our main pick. And while it appears delicate, it’s actually very durable and dishwasher-safe. Our testers found this glass to be well-balanced and the appropriate height, too. We think this is a more refined all-purpose wine glass that’s still suitable for daily use.
In our tests, the elongated tulip-shaped bowl allowed our testers to detect the fragrance of both red and white wines well. “The taper on this glass helps to concentrate the aroma nicely,” Thomas said. The Riedel Vinum glass also stood out from the competition because of the thinness of the bowl and rim. Thomas added, “The lip on the Riedel Vinum is thinner and less distracting, which is great.” We found the thin, laser-cut edge to be barely noticeable, which allows you to focus on the wine more than the glass. This wasn’t the case with some of the other glasses tested, such as the Libbey Allure All-Purpose Wine Glass, which our testers found thick and distracting.
When put alongside our main pick, the Riedel Vinum is undoubtedly more elegant. Just by looking at it, you can see that the glass is thinner and has a narrower stem. “The Riedel Vinum glass is delicate,” said Thomas, “but not prohibitively so.” Though it’s very thin, the Riedel Vinum glass didn’t break after several cycles in the dishwasher and washings by hand using a bottle brush. It also passed our impact tests (except when it was dropped from 3 feet). It fits comfortably in the top rack of a dishwasher or in a cupboard.
In general, ask any wine professional, and they’ll tell you the number one name in stemware is Riedel. Tim Fish, senior editor at Wine Spectator, confirmed Riedel’s status as a “highly regarded company” in this roundup of wine glasses appropriate for a first-time buyer. The Kitchn cites Riedel as one of its “firm favorite brands” with products that are “highly respected and have stood the test of time.” Good Housekeeping is a fan too, as evidenced in the subtly titled article “Riedel Wine Glasses – The Best Wine Glasses.” Also, according to the Riedel website, the Riedel Vinum series dates back to 1986, so these glasses have stood the test of time and will be easily replaceable.
One drawback to the Riedel Vinum is the slight seam where the stem meets the bowl and the base of the glass. However, we feel this is a minor compromise for such a thin, elegant glass that’s reasonably priced. Also, both Asimov and Thomas agreed that since this glass holds a couple of ounces less than our main pick, it might be a bit small for those who drink bigger reds at home. Thomas said in our tasting that, “since the bowl is not quite as big, you get less of the fruit and a bigger alcohol punch because of the narrowness of the glass.” That said, we still think the Riedel glass will feature most wines well.
Before we even drank from it, the Zalto Denk’Art Universal Glass stood out from our lineup as being superior to the rest. Though it’s very expensive (around $60 per glass), our testers unanimously agreed that it showcased red and white wines exceedingly well. The thinness of the glass and its long, delicate stem were unparalleled compared to all the other glasses we tested. It’s not practical for daily use, but the Zalto is the perfect glass for enjoying a really nice wine on a special occasion with superlative stemware.
Though the Zalto holds almost 20 ounces, which is on the high end of the scale in terms of capacity, both of our testers praised it in terms of its ability to effectively showcase the fragrance of both wines we tested. “The Zalto captures the aroma, scent, and acidity of the wine,” Thomas said. During our blind tasting, Asimov was enjoying the experience of drinking from the Zalto so much he said, “This glass makes me want to drink the wine and not spit it out.”
Weighing just 3.76 ounces, the Zalto Universal glass is feather light. However, while our pros gushed over it, Thomas stressed, “I would not bring this glass out unless someone special came over because it’s so delicate. The Queen gets this glass. It’s so elegant and gorgeous to drink out of.” According to the company’s website, the Austrian-made Zalto glass is mouth-blown and designed “in accordance to the tilt angles of the Earth.” Since it’s highly refractive with dramatic angles, the Zalto makes an elegant statement on a dinner table, which is likely one of the reasons it has been used at fine-dining restaurants such as Le Bernardin, Eleven Madison Park, and The French Laundry.
With all of the praise, we still don’t recommend this glass for daily use. “It’s such a pleasure. But the question becomes, when is it worth it?” Asimov said. “Only if money is no object or you really care about wine.” Since it’s expensive and fragile, this isn’t a glass you’ll likely feel comfortable bringing out for most company. After all, most people would be crestfallen if one were to break. But it’s the ideal glass for special occasions or when enjoying your favorite vintage. We don’t recommend getting this glass if the price and risk of breaking it will be too distracting for you to enjoy your wine. That said, it would make an excellent gift for weddings, anniversaries, or other special occasions.
And while the Zalto is advertised as being dishwasher-safe, and it passed our dishwasher and impact tests unscathed (except for the 3-foot drop), we still recommend washing it by hand using a bottle brush.
For stemless glassware, we recommend the Ravenscroft Crystal Stemless Wine Glasses. Machine made in Poland from non-leaded crystal, the Ravenscroft retains the elegance of traditional stemware because it’s lightweight with a thin rim. The glass also sparkled more under the light compared with some of the other stemless options in our roundup. In addition, these glasses are very short so they will easily fit in a cabinet with low shelves. Our testers unanimously agreed that the aromas of red and white wines were more expressive in this glass compared with the competition in this category. The Ravenscroft glasses are available only in a set of eight, and they come in a sturdy, partitioned box, which is convenient for storing extra glasses away for parties. Since they’re so inexpensive, you won’t be heartbroken if they break.
These stemless glasses hold just over 17 ounces, so Ravenscroft recommends them for Bordeaux, cabernet, or merlot. However, our experts felt they showcased white wine well, too, making them a suitable choice as an all-purpose glass. In our tasting, Thomas said the Ravenscroft glass provides, “more aroma and florals. It brings out the rose petals and soil in the wine. There’s also fruit notes. It’s a more talkative wine glass, so it accentuates the wine.”
The Ravenscroft glasses are surprisingly lightweight, which makes them feel more refined and elegant compared with the soda-lime glasses we tested, such as the Williams-Sonoma Open Kitchen Stemless White Wine Glasses. While Asimov isn’t a fan of stemless wine glasses, he said that the Ravenscroft glass is “light and not as heavy as the others.” Thomas agreed, saying, “It feels easy and comfortable to hold.” Aside from being lightweight, the Ravenscroft appeared more refractive and brilliant under the light compared to much of the competition in our stemless category.
Aside from the inherent drawbacks to all stemless wine glasses—they show fingerprints, and your hand will warm the wine while drinking—the Ravenscroft glass has a slight lip. “The rolled edge on the Ravenscroft doesn’t kill the glass, but you definitely notice it,” Thomas said. However, since we recommend stemless glasses for casual use, we’re willing to forgive this minor drawback. The Ravenscroft glasses come with a one-year warranty.
We recommend the Riedel Veritas Cabernet/Merlot Glass and the Riedel Veritas Viognier/Chardonnay Glass for those who prefer separate glasses for red and white wine. Both of our testers chose the Riedel Veritas glasses as their top pick for varietal-specific glasses during our blind taste tests. The ultra-thin rim on the Veritas glasses makes them a pleasure to drink from, and the stems are thinner and longer than that of our top pick, making these glasses better candidates for an elegant table setting. The Veritas series is made of non-leaded crystal, so the glasses are thinner and more effectively refract light than the soda-lime glasses we tested.
If you want a different type of glass for each type of wine, we think the Veritas Cabernet/Merlot and the Viognier/Chardonnay glasses are an excellent place to start. While tasting white wine in the Veritas Viognier/Chardonnay glass, Thomas said it, “concentrates the acidity and fruit notes.” The Viognier/Chardonnay glass is just over 13 ounces, which helps to preserve the subtleties of more delicate whites. At around 22 ounces, the Cabernet/Merlot glass is no doubt the best for showcasing bolder reds.
Our testers were impressed by the overall weight and balance of the Veritas glasses. Asimov praised the Veritas Cabernet/Merlot glass: “It’s the best of the red wine glasses. It’s balanced and a pleasure to hold. It’s relatively light and feels expensive.” Thomas also noted, “These glasses are beautifully balanced, but they’re not for normal everyday use.” The thin, laser-cut rim on the glass has no lip, while the stems are thinly pulled, adding drama to any table setting.
The Riedel Veritas glasses are machine-made, but they feel so thin you’d guess they were mouth-blown, like our upgrade pick, the Zalto. However, since these glasses are so delicate, we don’t recommend them for daily use, and we’d hesitate to put them in the dishwasher (even though they’re considered dishwasher-safe). Both of the Veritas glasses we tested passed our impact tests, aside from the fateful 3-foot drop.
Our testers pointed out that the Veritas Cabernet/Merlot glass might be considered too big for some people, especially those who mostly drink lighter bodied reds. However, since there are nine wine glasses to choose from in this collection, we don’t think its size is a dealbreaker.
While all of the glasses we recommend are top-rack dishwasher-safe, we think those that are very thin, such as the Zalto and the Riedel Veritas glasses, should be washed by hand. Our experts told us that big bowls with thin stems are more likely to break. “All of the Zalto sales literature guarantees that they’re safe for dishwashers,” Asimov said, “but they feel fragile and they are expensive, so I’m a little hesitant to do that.” We recommend cleaning delicate stemware by hand using hot water and a little bit of dish soap. For glasses with narrow openings, we recommend using a bottle brush. Dry the glasses using paper towels or a regular kitchen towel.
To remove water spots and smudges, or to get your glassware really sparkly, we recommend hand polishing it using a microfiber polishing cloth. If there are hard-to-remove stains on the glass, try using a little white vinegar (just be sure to wash them after). Never polish your glass by holding the base in one hand and twisting the polishing cloth around the rim of the bowl at the top, which could torque and snap thinner stems. Instead, hold the glass by the bowl while polishing to avoid twisting it apart. Check out this Riedel video for the proper polishing technique. Also, never use linen softener when cleaning your polishing cloth, as this could leave a greasy residue on the surface of your wine glasses.
It goes without saying, but to avoid scratching your stemware, never let it rattle around in the dishwasher or come in contact with other glass or metal. When storing your glassware, Scott Carney said it should be kept upright: “You don’t want to have it upside down putting pressure on the rim. It should always be standing on its foot.”
Regarding the toxicity of leaded glassware, articles in The New York Times and Wine Spectator indicate that leaded crystal is safe to drink from. Our science editor, Leigh Krietsch Boerner, PhD., confirmed the only potential danger with leaded crystal crops up if booze is stored in it. That gives the lead time to leach into the liquid, so avoid storing alcohol in leaded-crystal decanters.
In contrast, the short amount of time a few ounces of wine spends in contact with a glass isn’t enough for a significant amount of lead to leach from the product. We know it might sound alarming to allow any amount of lead into your wine, but toxicity is directly related to dose, not necessarily to the compound you’re ingesting. (That’s why you can eat the cyanide in an apple and it won’t hurt you.)
The Riedel Ouverture Magnum was our previous top pick. However, in our new round of testing, our experts found the stem on the Ouverture Magnum too short and unpleasant to hold. Though it did well in our taste tests, our experts felt that our new pick, the Libbey Signature Kentfield Estate All-Purpose Wine Glass, was an all-around better glass.
The Veritas Riesling/Zinfandel Glass is undeniably elegant. Our experts felt it was suitable for white wines, but too narrow for red wines.
The Stolzle Weinland All Purpose 15 oz. did very well in our tastings, but our testers felt it lacks elegance because it is shorter, and has a small bowl and a slight lip on the rim. According to a representative we spoke with at Anchor Hocking, this glass is being discontinued.
The Mikasa Laura Set of 4 stemless wine glasses were the unanimous second choice for stemless glasses in our blind taste test. These glasses enhanced the aromas of red and white wines, though not as well as our main pick, the Ravenscroft.
Our testers found the Riedel O Wine Tumbler too big for white wines and uncomfortable to hold. We wished this glass had a smaller bowl with a slightly narrower opening.
Both the Bormioli Rocco Tre Sensi Large Wine Glass and the Tre Sensi Medium Wine Glass did well in our blind taste test. However, they have a slight lip around the rim of the glass, which our testers found more distracting than our main pick for varietal-specific glasses, the Riedel Veritas glasses.
According to our experts, the Riedel Vinum Bordeaux and the Riedel Vinum Viognier/Chardonnay glasses showcased wine aroma well. However, our testers felt that the red wine glass was slightly small for big, bold wines.
The Bormioli Rocco Spazio 17 oz. Wine Glass by Bormioli Rocco and Spazio 13.5 oz. Wine Glass by Bormioli Rocco were top-heavy and uncomfortable to hold. They also felt that the length of the red wine glass had a bowl that was too long, while the stem was too short.
While our testers liked the Forte Stemware Collection Full Bodied White Wine Glass 17.3 oz. and felt it was an appropriate shape and size for most white wines, they found the Forte Stemware Collection Burgundy Light Bodied White Wine Glass 13.6 oz. to be too deep to detect wine aroma.
The Viv 20 oz. Big Red Wine Glass and the Viv 13 oz. White Wine Glass are great budget varietal glasses. However, they have a slight lip and shorter stems, which makes them less comfortable to hold than the Riedel Veritas glasses.
After our blind taste testing, we were able to dismiss wine glasses from Stolzle, Riedel, Nachtmann, Schott Zwiesel, Spiegelau, Luigi Bormioli, Bormioli Rocco, Snowe, Libbey, Mikasa, Luminarc, Ravenscroft, Rogaska, Rosenthal, Villeroy & Boch, Lenox, Waterford, Crate & Barrel, IKEA, Target, and Bed Bath & Beyond. We were able to rule out wine glasses from these competitors based on the tasting results from our experts, or issues relating to limited availability and quality. Additionally, we looked at offerings from CB2, Fishs Eddy, Pottery Barn, Sur la Table, Williams-Sonoma, World Market, and Macy’s, but ultimately we were able to dismiss them because they didn’t meet the criteria for this guide.
(Photos by Michael Hession.)
Originally published: March 14, 2017