There is no shame in enjoying a glass of wine from a Mason jar, a plastic wine glass, or any other drinking glass you might have on hand. (We here at the Strategist are particularly fond of the Bormioli tumblers that make professionally tasteful person Joanna Goddard feel like she’s sipping wine in Barcelona.) But it can be nice to have a set of proper wine glasses on hand, with a larger bell-shaped bowl and a thin, long stem, especially if you’re investing in more expensive bottles and want to fully appreciate a wine’s aroma and taste — or just want to make the experience of drinking a glass of cheap wine feel more special.
That doesn’t mean you have to buy different wine glasses for every type of wine you might be drinking. There are plenty of high-quality universal wine glasses, including the culty Zalto, that will elevate your wine of choice, no matter the style or price of the bottle. And to help you figure out which wine glasses are worth the splurge, I asked sommeliers and beverage directors to share their favorite wine glasses, from the showstopping glasses made of crystal to the best cheap and durable options.
“I don’t like it when a wine glass itself distracts from the wine-drinking experience. I think a glass needs to be functional first, and everything else next. Libbey’s Vina line of wine glasses are very classically shaped and elegant (but also reassuringly sturdy). I am always surprised when I use other glasses and realize the variance out there. Make it simple and strong!” —John Condon, bar manager, Left Bank
“My favorite glass is the Zalto Universal Glass. It’s handblown and has a wonderful history and story, but it’s also extremely elegant, lightweight, and thin. All of that amounts to you experiencing the wine itself more than the physical glass as you smell and drink, and it works for every style of wine out there. (Champagne tastes particularly delicious out of one of these!) If I had to pick just one glass to enjoy every single wine in my world, this would be it.” —Thomas Pastuszak, wine director, NoMad; founder, Empire Estate
“For me, it’s far and away Zalto. If you were to pick just one glass, I would recommend the Zalto Universal Glass, though nothing beats drinking Burgundy out of their massive, ten-ounce red Burgundy glasses. Once you experience the ethereal thinness of those glasses, not much really compares. They’re a bit pricey, but perfect.” —Frank Cisneros, consulting bar director, Bar Moga
“Obviously, I’d love to be able to use Zalto everywhere, every day. But I can be a klutz, so I try to savor that experience on nights out. At home, I really love the Ikea Ivrig glass as an all-purpose option. It’s inexpensive, it has great balance, and it’s relatively lightweight. For the price, it’s a surprisingly elegant glass. I also like that the stems are a moderate length — imperative for maximizing space in those small apartment kitchens!” —Lauren Friel, freelance writer and sommelier
“I love Gabriel-Glas Gold Edition. They are very light, elegant, and also not as large as most glasses in their category. There’s only one shape, but I find it great for everything from Champagne to Bordeaux. Careful when you’re polishing them, though — they aren’t cheap.” —Richard Anderson, sommelier, Vaucluse
“If I’m really looking to enjoy that special bottle, I reach for Riedel’s Sommelier series glasses, which are specifically designed to distribute each particular wine, depending on focus areas of our palates. Almost like the perfect introduction to the wine, these glasses help you decipher all of the subtle notes of even the most complex wines.” —White
“The Riedel Restaurant series is my go-to for glassware. Their standard 001 glass is very large (at 35 ounces) and looks and feels like an expensive piece of glassware, but it is very reasonably priced. I use these at Catch for any table buying a nice bottle of wine, and the guests never cease to be amazed by these huge glasses.” —Lucas Robinson, beverage director, Catch Hospitality Group
Editor’s note: The Riedel 001 is only available through wholesale, but the Riedel Vinum XL Cabernet Glass has similarly awe-inspiring dimensions.
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