Home > Wine, Wine Collection and Buying > Is the Type of Wine Glass You Drink Out of Important?

Is the Type of Wine Glass You Drink Out of Important?

Over the years, I have collected wine stemware the same way I have collected wine itself- by the case. From ‘breathable’ glasses, to the entire Riedel Sommeliers series, which averages $100 a stem (note: there are about 15 glasses in the set). I never stopped and asked myself why it is that I enjoy stemware the way I do.

Is it the aesthetically pleasingย  thin, perfectly hand-blown German, Austrian or Swiss made high end crystal or glass that appeals to me, or is it that it actually does make a difference in the way wine tastes?ย  I have, perhaps wrongfully, assumed that great wine needs a high-end, and varietal specific glass, to be enjoyed. Am I the product of someone’s clever marketing attempts? As a marketer myself, I have really stepped back to analyze my pre-existing beliefs and notions about wine stemware.

My order of 4 ‘The One’ wine glasses were delivered today. when I ordered them, I had no idea that the Master Sommelier Andrea Robinson, had only produced one glass for red wines. I figured this was the first glass of many of hers that I would end up adding to my collection. Here are the sentences on the side of the box the stems came in that have me so deep in contemplation right now.

“You Don’t Have to Add a Wing to Your House to Store Countless Confusing Glass Shapes. You Don’t Have to Spend More on Your Glasses Than You Do Your Wine”… “Blind Tasting After Blind Tasting Has Proven That [You Don’t Need a Different Stem To Get The Most Out of Each Type of Grape]”.

YOW Andrea! Thanks for the inspiration of ‘deep thoughts by Seattle Wine Gal’ that are happening this evening. I must note that I really enjoy drinking wine out of the glasses you designed. I have had a few types of red wine in the glasses, and loved the way the glass complimented each and every one. I can see myself putting these stems in very close reaching distance in my cupboard. I also love the height, and find that many of my glasses, including Champagne flutes, are too tall to store anywhere but the weird drawer above the stove that no one can reach. I am quite honest with my ‘reviews’, so I will admit that I’m not overtly fond of a wine glass that touches the bridge of my nose with each sip, but perhaps my sipping style is a bit crude. I am very happy with all of the questions the glass has raised for me, and judging by all of the comments, it’s a topic that interests a lot of people!

All content belongs to Barbara Evans. Please note that I was not paid by Andrea Robinson to endorse her glasses nor was I asked to promote them in any way.

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  1. July 13, 2010 at 7:47 pm

    B- Great post! There has been so much out there lately about the “perfect” glass pairing for wine and it’s good to see that it’s just not needed! Let’s do a taste test w/ your new glasses and some others sometime, just for kicks! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • July 13, 2010 at 8:20 pm

      OK Taryn… you’re on. I love blind tasting. I have done a lot of it, and classy stemware always comes up a winner. I still wonder if it is the aesthetics that are getting me or the actual effect on the wine. OR… does it really matter that aesthetics plays such a bug part in wine consumption?

  2. Ben Reyna
    July 13, 2010 at 8:00 pm

    In my humble opinion, my enjoyment from wine can stem(pun intended, hehe) from having good food to eat alongside the wine. Or, a great atmosphere to drink it in. This could be my own home, a nice restaurant, a friend’s backyard, or anywhere that I feel relaxed and at peace. Mostly though, I get my enjoyment from having wine while in the midst of those I call my true friends and loved ones. But as far as the glass is concerned….it means very little to me at all.

    • July 13, 2010 at 8:24 pm

      HAHA- my geeky grandfather taught me well Ben- always appreciate a good..(bad)..any pun. I discovered your sentiments to be particularly true while traveling Italy in the name of wine. The first week, it was tough to drink wine out of a tumbler. After really exploring the terroir, and embracing the way things are done there, all that mattered was the company. I must admit, however, that after I got home, it was pure luxury to sip out of my tall, Riedel Cab glass. ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Ben Reyna
        July 13, 2010 at 8:30 pm

        well, maybe i’ll look into buying me a couple Riedel glasses and see what all the hoopla is about. i’m always open to expanding my wine experiences.

  3. July 13, 2010 at 8:00 pm

    i have a bunch of glasses too – champagne flutes, port glasses, pinot glasses, several red glasses, stemless, titanium (yes, titanium), venetian tumblers, even kentucky derby mint julep glasses that now double as wine glasses. but, for some reason, i use one reidel glass 99% of the time – the riedel “wine” glass (from the wine series) that my best friend gave to me as a house warming gift. i use it so often, it’s actually stained. i didn’t even know that crystal could stain, but it definitely needs a whitening treatment. so, i guess for me, it doesn’t matter. i’ve never done a full glass flight tasting, so nothing more than gut, but i’m more than happy to do all my tasting with my trusty riedel “wine” glass. and, i’ll still probably buy more stemware in the meantime… ๐Ÿ™‚

    • July 14, 2010 at 11:01 am

      RJ- we should plan a Seattle stemware blind tasting! It sounds like that one Riedel of yours is like a stuffed animal a 7 year old can’t part with. Buy a new one already! ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. July 13, 2010 at 8:03 pm

    Great topic! Options can get overwhelming. I use everything from Turkish Tea glasses to Riedel, depending on my mood and the wine. I do believe that the glass does make a difference though, as the nose for me is an important part in the great experience of drinking wine. Although I must say that recently I thought about this while on vacation and staying in a rental. I wasn’t about to pack wine glasses but somehow the glasses they had were just fine. Of course I packed some great bottles because any vacation is a celebration! Perhaps this was offset by the break from norm, great company, food and beautiful atmosphere?

    • July 14, 2010 at 11:02 am

      The easiest packable travel wine glasses are Riedel O glasses, I never leave home without them!

    • July 14, 2010 at 6:05 pm

      I work with Andrea but I’m a blogger & professional wine & food pairer too. The nose wins on her stems! I did a taste test with the owner of the pinot palace where I live (Rick’s Wine Cellar, Corte Madera CA) & he’s over-the-top with all Riedel stems, ALL water in his place is filtered so no chemicals touch his glasses, etc. And he said there is no doubt that Andrea’s glasses beat the Riedel (Somm too) on the nose. He said that the fact that your nose is closer to the wine is why and it will always win because of that. Pretty cool!

      • July 15, 2010 at 12:31 am

        Thanks Alana! I just declared today that I am shipping Andrea’s glasses to everyone I know for the holidays in December. I feel like, as a some-what experienced wine enthusiast, I ‘deserve’ a few stems for the different wine’s I drink. At the same time, I feel like a shipment of these glasses to my family members would help rip them out of the ‘Goodwill’ stemware, while allowing them the same dishwasher safe user friendly ease. I am a wine consumer who enjoys wine every evening. These glasses are perfect for me (OR pinot sitting next to me now in TheOne glass), but there is other stemware that works for different occasions. Let me just say that these glasses are the closest to arms reach in my cupboard- that says a lot!

        Thanks a bundle for your comments. There is an extremely lively discussion taking place here- I do hope Andrea herself will drop a word or two!

  5. Dave
    July 13, 2010 at 8:13 pm

    Hey, good point. No need to make wine glasses a fetish. BUT, I think most people use crappy glasses, and there is a BIG difference between drinking from a crappy glass and a good glass. I recommend (when I get a chance) to people that they buy a set of good, large glasses. Problem is, not that many people care at all about using a quality glass. Why waste the money on a good wine when you drink it out of Goodwill glasses?

  6. July 13, 2010 at 8:21 pm

    I think it’s the basically bowl shape that really matters and beyond that, it’s probably negligible. I recently switched from Riedel to Schott Zweisel due to pricing and durability. I hear the new Riedels are pretty tough to break though. We bought one “model” of the Schotts and use that for all of our wines. Seems to do the trick.

  7. July 13, 2010 at 8:29 pm

    The first winery I worked at was Italian, and heavy tumblers on wooden tables just felt natural. The second winery I worked at sponsored Riedel tastings, and I’ve been shown the man behind the curtain, I understand the way curves and bowls and arcs and the science of glass can enhance or detract from a wine’s very nature. The third winery I worked at never met a wine glass they didn’t like, as long as it had wine in it. But from a come to the table, poured among plates of food, feels good in my hand, perfect to dip the end of a cigar into, just the way I’m hardwired, I like what I like point-of-view, while there’s a place for elegant stemware that catches both liquid and light… give me a heavy tumbler and intelligent conversation any day. I’ll look at the label in a bit.

    • July 14, 2010 at 11:06 am

      Thanks for the comments Craig. I must admit that there is an Italian restaurant in Seattle that I bring my own stemware to. The last thing I want to do is order a gorgeous Super Tuscan and drink it out of a glass I would drink water out of. You do have a great point about atmosphere and conversation though. Some of the ‘best’ wines I’ve had and revisited at a later date had turned out to be the best because of who I was with and where we were.

  8. July 13, 2010 at 8:37 pm

    My last glasses were 24 from Ikea that the trainee cashier only charged me for 6. I discovered this at home and when I rushed back to express to her my undying appreciation – no, I didn’t. I just really enjoy the glasses to this day.
    In fact, when they break, I don’t mind so much.
    For me, consistent impressions are important. I can’t be suspecting a change in glasses when I’m working on some of the world-class, cutting-edge wines I make and detect some kind of difference. So as a rule, I use a rather plain and traditional generic claret glass. This keeps me in touch with the common people and makes for a level playing field when I’m blending top-notch, cult-status, mind-blowing wines.

    By the way, I have an enormous nose, too, and it’s sometimes wedged against the top rim so that I can take my hand away and the glass stays attached to my face. Can you do that? Never fails to entertain at social gatherings.

    • Ben Reyna
      July 13, 2010 at 9:28 pm

      lmao!

    • July 14, 2010 at 11:10 am

      HAHAHA- what a great comment Bradley.It’s nice to have a wine maker’s perspective. You have a great point about making sure the wines kick ass in any style glass. Be happy you’ve got that nose of yours- it’s a wine enthusiast plus. No, I can’t do that with my wine glass.

  9. July 13, 2010 at 9:52 pm

    I’ve heard the right kind of glass really does help, but since I have a very simple palate, I doubt I would notice. All I go for is a clean glass, but I do like the different designs so when given the option, I go for what looks interesting.

    So my suggestion is: Go for style.

  10. July 13, 2010 at 10:09 pm

    I haven’t yet tried Andrea Robinson’s glasses (though I will do so later this week and look forward to it,) but I have been a firm believer that different wines benefit from different glasses. In fact, I’ve had great fun playing tricks on friends — including some who work in restaurants — pouring some pinot into a Riedel pinot stem, a Riedel Bourdeaux stem, and an “ordinary” wine glass. People rarely figure out that all three glasses had the same wine in them. Sure, some of the difference has to do with the overall weight and quality of the Riedel glasses and the absence of any lip, but the shape absolutely matters.

    On the other hand, if Andrea really has come up with a one-size-fits-all red wine glass, that would be a superb development, especially for those of us with small kitchens.

  11. July 13, 2010 at 10:09 pm

    Glasses…

    B- I am surprised you would order more glasses, if you have so many. I definitely note that different glasses have different effects on wines, but not so much that I’d keep expanding a collection. I know this cause I have an assortment of glasses from wine shows and events. (I do not keep the cheezy glasses). But, every so often you go to a good tasting with some special glasses, and I’ll usually grab a few at the end of the show. My present stemware set is a PotPourri. Therefore I enjoy seeing how the wine smells from all my friends glasses when were trying wine, the smells are always different. (BTW: it’s totally cool to smell other peoples glasses when your in good wine geek company).

    That said, I have been curious about these one-hit wonder glasses, cause there are a few out there. For instance: http://www.winetasting.org/Mark_Phillips_Wine_Glass.html Mark Has his own One glass, as does Ms Robinson MS. I was wondering if this is becoming a trend? What do you think? Which wine figure will you follow? Are you buying the glass or the endorsement behind it. Whoever licenses the Parker “OeNoLY” Glass has a sporting chance. Or maybe the Gary VeenoStar Glass? Pardon the sarcasm, I am a marketer too, I know the gig. But it’s an endless contest, as every wine,every nose, will make a different assessment of a glass – there can never be ONE for everybody, and I think we all know that.

    And my vote on glasses goes to the set of glasses that I own a case of, Taste of Purple. I got turned on to these glasses as they are the biggest fishbowl of a glass I ever seen. Really this thing is huge! And for you schnozz-a-licious people out there, I am pretty sure these glasses could accommodate Gonzo’s nose. These glasses are crystal and are just majestic. And the big selling point, me being a fan of aeration, these glasses have a built in speed-bump, or aeration dimple. This bump causes the wine to lap and aerate, as you swirl your glass. Call it a sales gimmick, but the glass is a flat out rockstar, and I am down with aeration!

    Anyway – I say have good glasses. No need to get every single kind out there. But if you can acquire some different styles, they’re fun for geeking out on wine.

    • July 14, 2010 at 11:25 am

      I knew this post would surprise you, if you had happened upon it. I admit to playing a bit of devil’s advocate with it. I was sitting with my friend Annie (@BlackPearlSea) about a month ago on a rooftop sipping expensive Champagne out of the Riedel somm series flute. She looked over at me and said “this bubbly is stellar, and the glass adds to this experience ten-fold”! I agreed with her. I think using great stemware, and different types, helps a consumer enjoy what’s in their glass that much more. I’m not sure that it is always the glass itself that adds or subtracts from a wine, but who cares? Wine is a ‘product’ that has been marketed for many years as an experience and lifestyle, rather than just fermented grape juice. Whether I like it or not, I am just as much a effected by this fact. You have a good point about me not needing a zillion glasses, but I justify that by entertaining a lot. Plus, my wine room downstairs looks super cool with all of the hanging glasses from the ceiling. OK- I better get started on designing my UN-O glasses. They will be like the Riedel O glass, but very much ‘un’ like them, they will be the only glass anyone will ever need for wine, juice, milk, water, beer, and margaritas. I also recommend eating cereal out of them and throwing away all of your bowls.

      • July 14, 2010 at 6:08 pm

        Andrea had me try Prosecco in the One White. Blind taste it against a flute and tell me what you think.

  12. July 13, 2010 at 11:04 pm

    I took a bottle of HillCrest Pinot Noir Blanc to an outdoor concert tonight. My crew is responsible for bringing the glasses and other hardware necessary, and for some reason tonight pulled out paper cups. I nearly stroked out at the thought of sipping my much-anticipated bottle from paper. I got through it, but had I known I’d have brought a $5 bottle. Or beer.

    My preference for most all reds is the Riedel Oregon Pinot Noir glass, and as a matter of fact, one of my favorite restaurants serves all their wines, red and white, from this one stem. One of my favorite winemakers, Ernie Pink at Amelia Robert, likes the Riedel Burgundy for his reds, which is not entirely unlike “The One” in form. I’d be willing to give The One a whirl on its price and aesthetic alone.

    • July 15, 2010 at 12:41 am

      Oh Pam… my sista… agreee 100%! If I have to drink wine out of a paper or plastic cup, I am totally icked out. I would so much rather have a beer in that circumstance. But seriously hun- is it something that is just in our mind, as a product of wine being marketed as ‘an experience’ or a ‘high-class’ beverage that makes us bristle at the thought of sipping it from a paper cup? That is the burning question here. Please give me your thoughts!

  13. July 14, 2010 at 6:32 am

    I’m in the camp that doesn’t believe that the glass makes a difference scientifically, unless you believe it does. Like most art, it’s all in the mind of the beholder. I do get excited when someone hands me an interesting Rhone blend in a nice Riedel glass. On the contrary, I get disappointed when a restaurant brings out thick-sided spherical glasses that are very hard to swirl. I did pick up a Sommeliers series Bdx glass to examine the price once in Draegers of San Mateo that immediately triggered an awful day dream of being in Pier One Imports in the glass section and bumping over a whole shelf of glasses. I think if you looked at a Sommeliers glass wrong, it would break!

    • July 14, 2010 at 6:12 pm

      If I look at a Riedel it breaks! The One is dishwasher safe and I put them in. I never put my other stems in the dishwasher and it was so tedious to hand wash them all the time.

      • July 15, 2010 at 6:42 am

        I’m all for finding a universal, everyday glass. In fact, we tend to do most of our wine drinking from the best Bdx-shaped Spiegelau tasting room souvenir glasses we’ve been given. With one pair of Lucas Winery glasses, we put them through so many dishwasher cycles that the silkscreening completely wore off.

        By the way, if anyone can give me a good way to remove cloudiness from Riedel Vinum glasses that have been through the dishwasher, I’ll write them up for my newspaper blog!

  14. July 14, 2010 at 6:52 am

    Barb,

    From what I can tell there are two basic principles at play in the glass; the bowl to allow more or less air into the wine for aroma and the width of the opening to direct the wine into certain areas of your mouth. While I can notice a difference between a red plastic cup and a proper glass, I have a difficult time telling the difference between red glass 1 and red glass 3-5.

    IMO – go with what you can comfortably afford, feels good in your hand, looks good in the display and doesn’t get your nose stuck.

    Josh

    drinknectar

  15. July 14, 2010 at 9:26 am

    Barb, I drink Shiraz out of a 16oz beer glass. I only pour about 4 or 5oz in it. Nice wine glasses are great for setting the mood, building anticipation, but when it’s just me lazing about the house I don’t think it matters. Except plastic. Can’t do plastic cups

    • July 15, 2010 at 9:28 am

      I have noticed a lot of people saying that “stemware doesn’t matter- but no plastic cups”! Why is that? I would assume that stemware does matter to someone who won’t drink out of plastic cups. What’s your take on this?

  16. July 14, 2010 at 12:56 pm

    I agree that it’s important to have a wine glass with a bowl that’s big enough for swirling. Beyond that, I’m not really picky, except stemless glasses annoy me.

    The biggest wine glasses I’ve seen were the official Riedel Willamette Pinot Noir glasses. Rumor has it they can hold a whole bottle. Finally, wine glasses for those kids who “don’t share well with others!”

    Cecilia
    @RandomOenophile

    P.S. Was very sad last Saturday that I was not tasting in Woodinville with you. That was so much fun — thank you again!!!

    • July 15, 2010 at 12:53 am

      This here raises an interesting question my dear. Why aren’t you comfy with stemless glasses? I admit, I wasn’t either, until I worked in a wine shop that only used Riedel O ‘tasting’ glasses for their tastings. At this point in the game, long after having access to killer stemware, I still feel like ‘if I were stranded on an island with one glass and access to all wines imaginable’, it would probably be the R. O that ‘had me at hello’. Do tell… my dear, why it does not strike your fancy!

  17. Stuart Sabel
    July 14, 2010 at 9:43 pm

    Barbara,

    I had always suspected that the glass made a difference and tried to do the “right thing” with respect to stemware.

    That was until we went on a cruise and the Sommelier did a Riedel tasting for a group of us. It was incredible that the different bowl shapes made such a difference with various varieties of wine. (honestly, I hadn’t had too much to drink to tell the difference.)

    Since then, I’ve tried harder to pair the wine with stemware that would enhance the flavors. It really does make a difference.

    Heck, you can take (relatively) inexpensive Riedel glasses and put them head to head with cheap stuff from Target and you can really tell the difference.

    At the end of the day though, if I’m having good food and wine with friends, I don’t care as long as it works and the people are those I want to be with. ๐Ÿ™‚
    Cheers!

    -Stuart

  18. July 15, 2010 at 6:44 am

    Not to “shatter myths,” but you might want to review Dr. Vino’s blog from October and follow some of his links that are quite interesting:

    http://www.drvino.com/2009/10/27/shattered-myths-riedel-glasses-stemware/

    • July 15, 2010 at 9:32 am

      Nice Jon- thanks! I’ve been reading the posts and links for the last few minutes… Back to it!

  19. July 15, 2010 at 8:08 am

    I’m a big believer in the importance of good stemware. I don’t think you have to have different stemware for every wine (nice marketing job by the Riedel folks) but I can unequivocally say that stemware makes a difference in the perception of wine. Trying two differently shaped wine glasses side by side makes this pretty obvious. There are perceivable differences in aromas on different glasses. I discovered this a long time ago quite by mistake when talking with a friend about the wine we were drinking. We were drinking from different glasses and were getting very different things. We switched and ‘Voila!’ the wine was different.

    I haven’t gone mad on buying stemware (compared to some apparently!) but drinking out of good (i.e. tapered) glasses makes a considered difference. Beyond that there is the undeniable aesthetic appeal. Since wine is very much about an aesthetic experience to me, this aspect definitely plays in to it too. Look forward to checking out The One from Andrea.

  20. July 15, 2010 at 10:03 am

    I’ve contemplated this so many times! I think a glass tasting test is in order. I have a lot of hand-me-down glasses, $3 all-purpose glasses from Cost Plus as well as the typical Riedel set and the only comparison I can make is that each one feels different than the other. From crystal to glass to thickness and proportion. But nowhere in the analysis is the thought that the wine tastes different.

    However, when letting ones wine breath after pouring there is a huge difference in taste. Which I do believe the glasses have something do to with it. But to say there is a difference in each red wine glass from different producers is hard to come by – and again I say Taste Test!

    I do think wine glasses no matter what shape or form, make drinks taste better. All be it the marketing ploy that is instilled in your brain to think wine glasses = luxury. Which means anything you pour into that wine glass will be…luxurious. Same thing with marketing Diamonds. They aren’t the most precious stone around but they do have the best marketers in the world.

  21. July 15, 2010 at 10:05 am

    Thanks for this post Barb! This is always a fun topic to discuss.

    I’ve done the taste tests and yes, I think that glassware can make a difference in how you experience the aroma and flavor of a wine. But, I’ve enjoyed wine out of a small tumbler in the right setting with great delight too.

    I don’t believe you need to amass a large collection of glassware, but I do believe everyone should look for at least one good quality wine glass for use at home.

    I think something that has been overlooked in all the comments is the importance of a clean glass. No matter what kind of glassware you use, if it’s not clean or contains any kind of soapy residue, it will ruin your wine tasting experience. In fact, sparkling wines or Champagne will not demonstrate their fizz if placed into a glass like this.

    I am a firm believer in hand washing all my wine glasses. Some people don’t use soap at all, opting for hot water or baking soda instead. I don’t go that far, but go light on the soap and I rinse, rinse, and rinse again.

  22. July 21, 2010 at 6:30 pm

    I drink most of my wines out of a rocks glass or a stemless. The only wine glass I feel I truly need is a Champagne flute; that I will not compromise on. I don’t mind fancy-pants stemware when someone else is cleaning them, storing them, and sweeping them up when they break.

  23. July 21, 2010 at 6:34 pm

    Oh, and I’d also like to get a massive glass pour like the woman in the photo! That thing is so full the stem might snap in two!

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