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Do you enjoy a nice glass of riesling with dinner? Or perhaps you like to sip on pinot noir at the end of a long day. Whatever you’re drinking, a decent set of wine glasses can make your experience all the more decadent and relaxing.
The market offers wine glass sets of many types and styles. For the uninitiated, selecting the right wine glasses can feel like a baffling task.
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Please check out the product matrix, above, to learn about the top five wine glass sets available. To discover more about wine glasses in general and which type might fit your needs, please continue reading this shopping guide.
The bowl of a standard wine glass is large at the bottom so the wine can breathe. It tapers to a narrower top, allowing the aroma of the wine to waft up to your nose. Beneath the bowl is a long stem which finishes in a circular base at the bottom.
Standard wine glasses differ slightly for red, white, and rosé wines. We’ll discuss the differences later on in this review.
Stemless wine glasses are essentially the same as standard wine glasses, but they have no stems.
Some people prefer the contemporary, informal vibe of stemless wine glasses. Others object to them on the basis that a human hand, when placed against the glass, will warm the wine and compromise its ideal temperature.
This probably wouldn't make much of a difference if you were sitting at a table and allowing the glass rest between sips. But if you were milling about at a party and carrying the glass with you, the change in temperature could negatively affect your enjoyment of the wine.
Stemless glasses have a modern look, but their structure can affect the temperature. The average wine drinker probably wouldn’t notice, but some wine connoisseurs avoid them.
Flute glasses are long and thin with a slight taper at the top. They’re typically used to serve champagne and sparkling wine.
Like standard wine glasses, they're stemmed.
The thin shape of a champagne flute reduces the surface area of the wine and helps it retain its bubbles for a longer period of time.
A coupe is a wide, shallow stemmed glass that resembles a saucer. This style was designed especially for sparkling wine in the 1600s.
Coupe glasses have generally fallen out of favor, as sparkling wine goes flat in a coupe faster than it does a flute. However, some people still use them simply because they enjoy the vintage look.
In the U.S., coupe glasses enjoyed popularity with champagne and wine drinkers between the 1930s the 1980s. Today, the flute is a more popular choice.
While many people use one kind of glass for all wine varieties, differences exist — some subtle and others not so subtle — between glasses designed for different types of wine.
Glasses designed for red wine generally have larger bowls and larger openings.
The large bowl permits a greater amount of wine to come into contact with the air. This enhances red wine’s complex flavors and aromas.
Aeration intensifies the flavors and aromas of red wine after it’s been confined to a bottle for years. A wine glass with a larger bowl exposes more wine to the air, allowing it to breathe.
White wine glasses don’t have the large bowls and openings that red wine glasses do. However, the bowl may be taller and slightly less tapered toward the opening. These design features help keep the wine cool while showcasing its aromas.
Since the flavors in rosé wine are slightly more complex than those in white wine, experts recommend a short-bodied bowl with a slight taper to showcase its attributes.
However, the fermentation process of rosé wine is similar to that of white wine, so only the most avid wine enthusiasts would probably require separate rosé glasses. Most find it perfectly acceptable to serve rosé in a white wine glass.
White wines are served chilled, so white wine glasses are designed to help keep their contents cool for as long as possible.
When you serve sparkling wine — including champagne — the goal is to maintain its sparkle for as long as possible.
The ideal vessel for sparkling wine is a flute glass. Due to the flute’s narrow design, only a small surface area of the wine is exposed to the air. Therefore, it takes a long time for the beverage to go flat.
Champagne flutes have a smaller capacity than most wine glasses. This feature helps expensive sparkling wine to stretch further and last longer at parties.
Most wine glasses are made from either glass or crystal, both of which are fine choices. Crystal tends to be clearer and is generally seen as the superior choice, but it is also more fragile.
As previously mentioned in this shopping guide, the choice between stems and no stems is mostly a question of personal preference — apart from the idea that the heat from your hand could warm the wine in a stemless glass a bit.
Stemmed glasses radiate a classic style, while glasses without stems exude a more contemporary aura.
Glass and crystal are the most common wine glass materials, but you can find plastic and stainless steel options which are great for picnicking or camping.
Some wine buffs seek a glass with excellent clarity, as it displays the true color of the wine and lets them fully appreciate the beverage with their eyes as well as their other senses.
For the majority of us, however, having a wine glass with perfect clarity probably doesn’t sit too high on our list of priorities.
Crystal wine glasses have better clarity than those made from glass, but they tend to command a higher price, too.
How many wine glasses do you want in your set?
The number you choose will probably depend on how many wine drinkers live in your home and how many people you tend to invite over when you entertain.
The market offers sets as small as two and as large as twelve.
When determining how many wine glasses to buy, think about how often you entertain — if ever — and how many people would be sipping from a wine glass at any one time.
You can spend as much or as little as you want on wine glasses. Some party sets cost less than $2 per glass. Top-of-the-line crystal stemware costs upwards of $50 per glass.
That said, we think that wine glass quality more or less “tops out” at a certain level. Spend $15 to $20 per glass, and you'll find yourself with a set that’s about as good as it gets. Spend any more than that, and you’re likely paying for a brand name or an interesting design rather than extra quality.
If you want to strike a happy medium — say something between $2 and $20 per glass — we recommend a set that works out to cost around $10 per glass.
Q. Do I have to buy different wine glasses for red and white wine?
A. If you're a wine connoisseur, you will probably want separate glasses for red and white wines in order to best appreciate their unique qualities. But for the average wine drinker, it's not going to make much difference. If the latter sounds like you, we recommend that you invest in a good set of multipurpose wine glasses.
Q. Is crystal a better choice than glass?
A. Crystal isn't necessarily a better choice than glass. Really, it depends what you're looking for.
If you desire an ultra-thin, delicate wine glass with incredible clarity, crystal is the obvious choice. But crystal is much more fragile than glass, and it often isn't dishwasher safe.
Wine glasses made from glass tend to be more durable and easy to care for. They also tend to cost less. However, they’re never going to be quite as fancy as crystal.
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