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Wine glass is a type of glass that is used to drink and taste wine. Most wine glasses are stemware, that is they are goblets composed of three parts: the bowl, stem, and foot. We primarily focused on stemmed wine glasses for this guide, because they offer a better drinking experience than stemless glasses. The benefit of the stem is mostly that you’re not affecting the temperature of the wine with the heat of your hands. When you hold a stemless glass, you quickly warm the wine past the optimal drinking temperature. Furthermore, you leave unsightly fingerprints all over the bowl of the glass, especially after touching food. That said, most of our experts agree that a stemless choice is fine for casual drinking, and we recognize that it’s popular among many people, so we did include a stemless pick in this guide.
Clear, thin glass/Wine Glass
Based on our experts’ recommendations, we looked for clear, unadorned, and smooth wine glasses, which allow for a view of the liquid inside. We ruled out anything colored, decorative, and made of heavy crystal with patterned etchings. Additionally, we looked for glasses free of imperfections—bends, warps, bubbles, or egregious seams on the stem, which are signs of poor quality and can lead to breakage.
We also ruled out glasses with thick rims and clunky stems, because they feel (and usually are) cheap. After sorting through hundreds of glasses for this guide, it’s clear that the less expensive the glass, the thicker the bowl and the stem become. All of our experts were partial to glasses with a thin rim because it felt best against their lips—more elegant and less distracting. In general they preferred crystal, which tends to be thinner than soda-lime glass but also more expensive.
For the sake of including some less expensive options, we did test some wine glasses made from soda-lime glass in addition to ones made from non-leaded crystal. Ultimately, we found elegant, thin-enough glasses made from both materials. (You can read more about the differences between types of glass later in this guide.)
Medium, tulip-shaped bowl
The size of the bowl (the part of the glass that holds the wine) affects how well you can swirl the wine and detect its aroma. Asimov told us: “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.” We looked for all-purpose glasses from 14 to 19 fluid ounces, which we found big enough to expose red wine to enough oxygen to let aromas become detectable, and still small enough to preserve the subtle aromas of delicate whites.
We also narrowed our search to glasses with a slight tulip shape to the bowl, which showcases the aroma of wines best. Asimov told us, “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 upward and makes the aromas of the wine a little bit easier to detect.” We eliminated glasses that didn’t taper inward at the top, such as the flared Riedel Vivant Burgundy.
Though we only looked at glasses with tapered bowls, the shape can vary dramatically depending on the maker. Most manufacturers sell many stemware lines, each varying in 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 the Zalto Denk’Art Universal Glass. Ultimately, we found both rounded and angular glasses that we liked—and other than the size and shape of the bowl, choosing wine glasses is a matter of aesthetics and personal taste.
Long, thin stem
We avoided wine glasses that were too short and stubby, because they lack elegance and are unattractive in comparison to glasses with longer, more classic stems. The stem also needs to be long enough to comfortably hold the glass without your hand touching the bowl, which could warm the wine and leave smudges. But we still wanted the glasses to be short enough to easily fit in a cupboard or the top rack of a dishwasher. In our testing, we found the ideal height of a wine glass is about 8 to 9 inches.
In our tests, the thinnest glasses generally did an excellent job highlighting the flavors and aromas of multiple wines, and most people found them handsome to look at. But in actual practice, many of our testers remarked that the thinnest stems were difficult to grip and felt poised to break during use. Even knowing that those thinner glasses are more durable than they appear (all remained intact in our drop tests), most people were nervous using them. Ultimately, the glasses we favored hit a nice middle ground: thin enough to feel elegant but thick enough to feel comfortable.
We looked for glasses that were well-balanced and didn’t feel wobbly when full of wine. The best had bases that were about the same circumference as the widest part of the bowl. Glasses with a small base are easier to knock over and, in some cases, can feel top-heavy when full. Bases that are too wide are sturdier, but 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. A base that is too wide can also make the rest of the glass look off.
The overall weight is also important. A glass that feels almost weightless when empty can feel unbalanced when it is full of wine, while an excessively heavy glass is unpleasant to sip from and cumbersome to hold. We looked for options that struck a comfortable balance.
How we tested
For our 2019 update, we tested our previous picks against eight new glasses in a blind tasting with Mary Taylor, a wine importer and distributor who has previously worked as a sommelier. After we eliminated all varietal and red- or white-specific glasses from our testing, we looked for the most versatile all-purpose glasses by tasting six vastly different wines in every glass, including $15-to-$20 reds and whites, a $10 red, aged wine, and natural wine.
We also polled a dozen members of Wirecutter staff on how they drink at home and asked them to taste wine from the glasses they were most attracted to, then to score the experience. We noted not only how wine smelled and tasted in each glass, but also how each glass felt to hold, swirl, and drink from. Between each round of tests, we washed all of the glasses in the dishwasher and polished them by hand using a microfiber cloth.
To check for durability, we also performed drop tests with all of our finalists: We knocked them over 10 times onto a hardwood surface, both when the glass was empty and filled one-third full with water. We also hit the bowl of the glass against the edge of a granite counter to see how it would fare.
For past versions of this guide, we’ve performed similar tests. In 2014, Jeff Cohn, owner and head winemaker at Jeff Cohn Cellars, helped us taste from and review 33 wine glasses. For our 2017 update, wine critic Eric Asimov and sommelier Michele Thomas blind-tested with 53 glasses in the Wirecutter test kitchen. Mark McKenzie, an NYC-based sommelier, poured wine for those tastings and also offered his insight.