Wine Masthead
Riedel Riesling Grand CruRiedel Riesling Grand Cru
The most versatile glass from Riedel's Flow Collection.
Atelier Cab Riesling Combo Atelier Cabernet and Riesling
Break-resistant crystal from Luigi Bormioli. The most versatile glass for red wine and the most versatiley for white.
Riedel Cabernet Riedel Cabernet
Riedel's Bordeaux-style glass for full-bodies red wines.
Atelier Stemless Atelier Stemless
Wineglasses for Cabernet (left), Pinot Noir (middle) and Riesling (right).
Atelier Pinot NoirAtelier Pinot Noir
By Luigi Bormioli. Break-resistant glass for Pinot Noir or Burgundy-style wines.
Riedel Pinot NoirRiedel Pinot Noir
With a distinctive counter-curve rim. Our favorite glass for Burgundy-style wines.

Wineglasses 101

Which wineglasses should I choose?

Some of each would be nice. Then you could select the wineglass best suited to any occasion. Of course, that's not very practical. Where would you store them all?

Here's the concise answer:

If you were to select only one glass to use for all wines, we would concur with the suggestion from Riedel Crystal that their Riesling Grand Cru is their most versatile glass. Among the Ateliers from Luigi Bormioli, the Cabernet is by far our most popular, followed by the Riesling. If you tend to drink more red wine than white, go with the Cabernet.

If adding a second glass, a Cabernet glass for reds and a Riesling for whites--for both the Riedel and Luigi Bormioli collections we offer--would provide the most versatile combination. (We offer sets combining the Aterlier Cabernet and Riesling glasses at a bit of a discount over purchasing them separately.) And if you can add a third, it should probably be the Pinot Noir. Unless, that is, you've acquired a penchant for oak-aged Chardonnay, in which case you might want to consider the Riedel Montrachet or the Atelier Chardonnay instead. If you drink a lot of Syrah, there's a special glass for that too. And if you drink Champagne and sparkling wines, the Atelier Champagne is an obvious choice. Still, a combination of Cabernet glasses and Riesling glasses will handle most situations with aplomb.

We can enthusiastically recommend the glasses from both Riedel and Luigi Bormioli, and for different reasons.

By coupling some innovative manufacturing methods--which enable them to replicate the quality and characteristics of handmade, mouth-blown stemware--with their proprietary new break-resistant SON.hyx crystal (which you can read more about here) the Atelier collection of wineglasses from Italy's Luigi Bormioli represent an exceptional value. We use them daily ourselves and have come to think of them as fine crystal stemware engineered to survive the bumps and knocks of everyday life.

Break-resistant doesn't imply break-proof. Nevertheless, our experience certainl supports Luigi Bormioli's contention (and laboratory measurements) that the Aterliers are far less prone to chipping and breakage than other glassware. As of this writing, we've broken only two out of the thousands of Atelier wineglasses engraved in our shop; one that fell four feet to a concrete floor, the other that was a the photo studio when the set collapsed. The Ateliers are perhaps our greatest value.

We engraved a couple thousand Riedel wineglasses for Riedel before we started carrying them. Riedel was a customer of ours before we became a customer of theirs. They've long been recognized as the make of the world's finest wineglasses, but we were especially struck by the build quality and flawlessness of their glasses. Each glass in inspected before shipping, and any found to be less than perfect go to the crush bin.

The break-resistant Ateliers from Luigi Bormioli make great sense. Especially for everyday use, or if you do a lot of entertaining and your guests are clumsy. The Riedels are a delight to use, and the finest that there is.

Stemmed vs. Stemless

Stemless goblets have been usef for wine in Europe for a very long time but only recently, with the introduction of varietally-specific wineglasses without stems, have they become popular in America. There may be a good reason for that. Proper wineglasses are variations of the "tulip" shape, with bowls that are wider than the rims. This concentrates the volatile aromatics (of which more than 200 have been identified) that give wine its flavor, aromas that otherwise would too easily dissipate.

A stemless glass must be grasped around the bowl and some complain that this might contribute to over-warming of the wine from body heat. Stemless glass may be more difficult to hold than stemmed glasses--where the stem provides a handle--especially for smaller hands. But stemless glasses offer one distinct advantage: They fit in the upper rack of any dishwasher. That convenience alone makes them well worth considering, especially for casual use. We use them, and we like them.

If I can't even recognize most of those names a particular glass is recommended for, how can I decide which glass I need?

We don't recognize all of them either, if that's any consolation. Far too many wines are being produced in the world to experience them all.

Much of the difficulty comes from teh domaine naming conventions used in Europe, where the names indicate the particular region where the grapes were grown and where the winery is that produced it, not necessarily the type of wine it is. Only since the 1930s have French wineries, for example, also included the grape variety used to make the wine on the bottle's label. Things are much simpler in American wines which have used a "varietal" naming conventions for decades.

A Bordeaux, for example, indicates a wine from France's Bordeaux province. There are 57 distinct wine-making regions within Bordeaux, including Médoc, Pomerol, and St-Emilion; names you fill find among those recommended for use with the Riedel Cabernet glass. The two most important grape varietals grown in Bordeaux are Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Cabernet Sauvignon tends to make complex, sophisticated, nuanced wines. But being fairly tannic, Cabernet is commonly blended with the softer, less-tannic Merlot.

Tannin comes from the skins, stems and pits of the grape and, although it's sometimes described as bitter-tasting, it's not so much a taste as a tactile sensation; described as "astringent" or "puckering". Tannin concentrations tend to be much higher in red wines, which are fermendted with the skins of the grapes, than white wines. The astringent sensation of tannins is softened by fat and protein, which is who cheese goes so well with wine, and why more tannic wines (the fuller-bodied reds such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah) are so complementary to beef and other red meats.

A glass for Bordeaux-style wines (a Cabernet glass) has a bowl large enough for swirling the wine in the glass to aerate it, thereby oxygenating the wine which softens the tannins and releases the aldehydes, esters and ethers which produce the wine's bouquet. The bowl is relatively tall and tapers in to a narrower rim to entrap the aroma.

Pinot Noir grapes produce red wines that are ligher and far less tannic than Cabernet Sauvignon and even Merlot. Their aromatics also tend to be far more volatile. Since the famous red wines from France's Burgundy region are made almost exclusively from Pinot Noir, the classic Burgundy (or Pinot Noir) glass is rounder. The so-called balloon shape that closes in at the rim to hold the bouquet.

Glasses for white wines are traditionally smaller and narrower to slow the warming of white wines, which are served chilled, and a little more uniform in shape.

Those three glass styles--the Burgundy balloon-style glass (for Pinot Noir), the Bordeaux-style glass (for Cabernet, which is typically blended with Merlot) and the smaller white wine glass--are the three classic styles of wineglasses. Glassmakers have refined those basic shapes, and then made variations of them to suit different varietals. A wider, rounder bowl than a typical white wine glass (more reminiscent of a Burgundy or Pinot Noir glass) to bring out the special flavors of oak-aged Chardonnay, for example. Larger and taller bowls for hearty Syrah. But having a selection of the three basic wineglas styles will equip you well for serving any wine you're likely to encounter with aplomb.