There are technical reasons why stemmed glassware is considered proper — namely, because it aerates wines (lets them interact with air and release more complex flavors) and because it gives you something to hold that won’t warm up the drink. But stemless wine glasses certainly have a time and a place. Over the past few years, more and more restaurants have begun to use less traditional wineglasses at the table in an attempt to give dining out a more laid-back feel (taking a page from countless European cafes and bistros).
At home, where you (and even serious wine drinkers) often are popping open a bottle to drink from while cooking Tuesday night dinner, or while sitting on the couch watching TV, that unfussiness is welcome. Not to mention, with limited shelf space and you as the only dishwasher on hand, they’re simply more practical. And as many experts we spoke to pointed out, a stemless wine glass also works for Aperol spritzes, sangria, a nightcap of something brown, or even just water. For those who aren’t worried about possibly raising the temperature of their wine (or impressing their guests with ultra-elegant stems), we asked more than a dozen wine experts, restaurant owners, beverage directors, and frequent party hosts to recommend their favorite stemless options.
The best overall stemless wineglasses
Austrian glassware company Riedel, which has been around since 1756, is the perennial favorite wineglass-maker. Its “O” series of stemless glasses — around half of the pros interviewed for this story raved about them — were introduced as tumblers in 2004. This particular style is technically intended for Cabernet and Merlot red wines. Cedric Nicaise, wine director at Eleven Madison Park, likes them because there are relatively few compromises compared with a traditional stemmed style. “They still provide great aromatics, and the glass is very thin so smelling and drinking wine are great experiences,” Nicaise says. (Although he warns about using them for cocktails: “The glass is delicate, so be careful when putting in ice.”)
Beverage manager Roman Tartakovsky’s favorite Riedel stemless style is the curvaceous, undulating silhouette of the Swirl because of its “unique shape for swirling the wine,” he says.
Vanessa von Bismarck, co-founder and partner of the PR firm BPCM, is a self-described traditionalist when it comes to wineglasses, usually opting for stemmed styles, but she’s also a fan of the wide, ultrarounded Pinot-Nebbiolo style in the O series. “The shape and the hand feel is more comforting than the more traditional long-stem wineglass,” she says. Von Bismarck also likes to serve white wine or gin-and-tonics in stemless glassware when she entertains at home.
Okay, so they’re not technically wineglasses, but Victoria James, beverage director at the New York Korean steakhouse Cote, suggests this sturdy style for at-home drinking. “This tumbler brings me back to brasseries and vineyards in France, where these are used for a simple casse-croûte,” she says. “The thickness of the glass allows you to grip it and not heat up the wine too much, which is an issue with thin stemless tumblers, and they are dishwasher safe, stackable, and last forever.” She says to use these for a casual Tuesday-night bottle: “They’re meant to be used for everyday, glou-glou wine, something you would gulp alongside a sandwich.”
Chris Leon, owner and wine director of Leon & Son in Brooklyn, loves these Tokyo-made glasses for wine. “My wife and I had our honeymoon in Japan and came back super-inspired by the functionality of everything there,” he says. “They’re stackable, so you can store and carry a bunch at once. They’re dishwasher safe. They look really nice on a shelf and table, too, but they’re not too precious.”
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These angular glasses intended for wine or cocktails won’t chip or break, and they have a nice, thick base. “I’ve always been a big fan of Schott Zwiesel’s products: They’re not the most inexpensive wine glasses out there, but they’re aesthetically beautiful, functional, and generally more durable than their closest competitors,” Jones says. Although different versions are available for red or white wines, Jones suggests using these for any grape. “It’s wide enough at the base to be considered proper for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, but the overall shape is sleek and vertical, like a Bordeaux glass, so it’s perfectly suitable for Sauvignon Blanc or rich reds like Cabernet Sauvignon or Zinfandel.”
Katrine Pollari, owner of Olivino Wines in Brooklyn, is a fan of these tumblers, etched with decorative bees on the side. “They are made in France, and I actually hand carried a set home over 20 years ago from a vacation in Cahors. They remind me of summers there,” she says. “Plus they provide a subtle way of monitoring how much wine is being consumed. Fill it to the bee!”
The best bodega wineglasses
Yvette Leeper-Bueno, owner of Harlem restaurant Vinatería, uses only stemmed glasses at her restaurant but loves these short bodega-style glasses for at-home drinking. “When I was traveling in Spain, I saw them everywhere in Barcelona,” she says. “The culture of drinking there is so casual and fun,” which goes with the informality of these flat-bottomed glasses. They’re not technically perfect for wine, as they don’t let it breathe, “so anything too special might not be a good fit for these glasses,” says Leeper-Bueno. “But they are easy to hold and stackable.” Jill Bernheimer, owner of Domaine in Los Angeles, agrees (only they transport her to a Parisian bistro instead of Spain). “I reserve these glasses for chilled reds, pét-nats — the less complicated (but no less delicious) wines,” she says.
Pottery Barn also stocks a bodega glass, which Ariel Arce, owner and restaurateur of Air’s Champagne Parlor and Tokyo Record Bar, likes for their short, stout shape, “so you can’t knock them over,” she says. Arce was tipped off to the beauty of the bodega glass by friends who went to Spain and started drinking txakolina, the sparkling white wine that comes from the Basque region. “They had a dinner party where they served wine in these glasses, and I fell in love,” she says.
Jonathan Kemp, partner at Vanderbilt Ave Wine Merchants, uses these bodega glasses from CB2 at home. If you hadn’t noticed, bodega glasses tend to be incredibly affordable overall — and these are the most so of the bunch. “You can use them at events, and parties, and anytime you might need to dole out lots of glasses,” he says. “I like the look and feel of the straight sides. They feel super light. They’re so much better than plastic and even cheaper per glass.”
The best plastic stemless glasses
If you do prefer plastic, or find yourself in a scenario where you really need something not breakable at all, Govino is “the only stemless ‘glass’ I tend to use,” says Steven Grubbs, wine director at Atlanta restaurants Empire State South and Five & Ten. He pulls them out for “casual, rugged, and outdoor portable drinking. I believe if you’re in a scenario where stems are too precious or dainty,” he says, “then actual glass is probably a liability there too; enter good, smart, effective plastic wine cups.” Thomas Pastuszak, wine director at the NoMad (and founder of Empire Estate, a winery in the Finger Lakes region), uses the 12-ounce ones, too. “It’s a super-versatile size, great for sparkling, white, or red wine, and it also nicely fits cocktails on ice, like an Aperol spritz,” he says. “There’s a really convenient dimple on the bottom and side of the glass, for an even more stable grip.” Pollari shares this plastic pick, too.