best in class

The 7 Best Wineglasses

Because a jam jar isn’t always going to cut it.

Photo: Marcus McDonald
Photo: Marcus McDonald

While I tend to be the type to pour myself a glass of wine in whatever clean vessel I have lying around, whether it be a Mason jar, a drinking glass, or even a mug, I must admit that everyone should have a set of proper, stemmed glasses on hand. For one, they feel nice to drink out of. For another, they actually make the wine taste like it’s supposed to.

Technically, proper wineglasses have a bell-shaped bowl that allows wine to oxidize or interact with air. This process actually starts the moment you open up your bottle; you’re just helping it along when you pour the wine into a decanter or glass. Sounds like science, which it is, but all you need to know is that oxidation changes a wine’s aroma and taste — in a good, “this is supposed to happen” kind of way. If you’ve ever taken a sip of a funky-tasting wine, waited a bit, and then tried it again to better success, you know what I’m talking about. Stemmed wineglasses also mean you don’t need to grasp the bowl itself and risk warming up your drink.

Classifications can get really nitty-gritty for those who care (we’re talking ultraspecialized designs for specific varietals). But for the average person (even the average wine-loving person), a universal glass — one that is stemmed and of medium size – will do the trick. “It’s nice to be able to smell the wine as you’re drinking,” says Chris Leon, owner and wine director of Leon & Son in Brooklyn. “But ultimately, when you’re talking about cracking open a bottle on a Tuesday night, you don’t need to be precious.”

With that in mind, I asked Leon and nine other sommeliers and beverage directors to share their favorite wineglasses, whether you’re looking for a durable set or a couple of splurge-worthy standouts to add to your glassware collection.

Best overall | Best less-expensive | Best sturdy | Best for white wines | Best for red wines | Best for sparkling wines | Best stemless

What we’re looking for

Shape: While universal wineglasses typically are designed with a traditional bell shape, there can be some small differences among them. For example, a slightly more narrow bell shape is better if you tend to reach for white wines, while those with a wider, decanter-esque shape are better for reds. We’ve noted the difference (and what they mean) below.

Set number: Choosing the right number of glasses will depend on your budget and entertaining needs. A set of two is great for just you and your partner, whereas wineglasses sold in singles are ideal if you’re the type who likes to sip a glass of wine solo in the bathtub. And if you find yourself often playing host, there are also sets of four or more below.

Dishwasher-safe versus handwash only: Due to the delicate nature of the crystal and the shape of the glasses, many brands recommend handwashing to prevent shattering and cloudiness. However, we did source a few options that are designed to hold up to the dishwasher (if you’re lucky enough to have one in your apartment).

Best overall universal wineglass

Traditional bell-shape | Set of 1 | Handwash only 

Zalto, for the most part, makes the most beloved wineglasses in the industry. Several of the experts we consulted spoke about other brands — even ones they fully endorse — in relation to the “the Olympic gymnasts of wineglasses,” as wine columnist Marissa A. Ross once referred to Zalto. Indeed, these wineglasses are top of the line, which is why just one will cost you more than $60. “It’s extremely elegant, lightweight, and thin,” says Thomas Pastuszak, wine director at NoMad and founder of VINNY Wines. “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,” he says, adding that if he had to pick just one glass to enjoy every single wine in my world, this would be it.” Jill Bernheimer, owner of Domaine in Los Angeles, calls it her “ideal” glass, and Leon is a big fan, too. While the most common criticism is that the thinness (which is “almost disarming at first,” he says) means it’s easily broken, he also says he and his wife put theirs in the dishwasher without a problem. “We’ve cracked ours from sheer excitement of clinking the glasses too hard,” he says, “but never from cleaning them.” However, the brand does recommend handwashing only.

[Editor’s note: Zalto’s Universal Wine Glasses are currently sold out most places, though Canada-based Atkinson’s of Vancouver has them in stock for $79. Just know they’re special order, so it will take 6-9 months to deliver.]

Best (less-expensive) universal wineglass

Glasvin The Universal
From $79 for 2
From $79 for 2

Traditional bell-shape | Set of 2, 4, 6, or 8 | Dishwasher-safe 

Lily Peachin, the owner of Dandelion Wine in Brooklyn, says that Glasvin’s Universal glasses really hold their own against Zalto. At $35 a glass, they’re not super cheap, but they’re still less expensive — “handmade glassware without the handmade price tag,” as Peachin puts it. The glasses’ delicate structure and nice stem mean “they feel good” in your hand, she adds.

Best sturdy universal wineglass

Traditional bell-shape | Set of 1 or 6 | Dishwasher-safe 

If you want an all-purpose wineglass that isn’t quite as delicate as the options above (a.k.a. it’s less likely to shatter in the sink), Jason White, senior food and beverage director at the Soho Grand Hotel, highly recommends these Cabernet glasses. The crystal is mixed with a trace amount of titanium, “giving it great strength and feel,” he says.

Best universal wineglass for white wines

$360 for 6

Narrow bell-shape | Set of 6 | Dishwasher-safe 

Yes, we did say that a “universal” glass refers to one you can use for any type of wine, but if you really are a white versus red person, you can get a little more particular (while still knowing that if you pour something outside of your usual, it’ll be just fine). If you tend more toward acid-forward whites, master sommelier June Rodil, a partner at Houston’s Goodnight Hospitality, recommends Sophienwald’s white-wine glasses, which feature a narrow mouth for less air contact, thus preserving the wine’s bright flavor. The price is similar to that of Zalto, but the glass has a thin, sleek frame with just a touch more angles, which “I prefer for sheer aesthetics,” she says. “It also holds up well in a dishwasher — be it a commercial one in my restaurants or the one in my house.”

Best universal wineglass for red wines

Wide bell-shape | Set of 1, 4 or 6 | Handwash only  

While we’re on the slightly more-specialized kick, if you tend to favor deep, earthy reds, your best best is Zalto’s massive Burgundy glass, which is just as delicate as the brand’s universal wineglass but with a decanter-like bell-shaped design that lets the wine breathe. “Nothing beats drinking Burgundy out of their massive, ten-ounce Burgundy glasses,” says bar consultant Frank Cisneros. “They’re a bit pricey but perfect.”

Best universal wineglass for sparkling wines

Winged bell-shape | Set of 1 | Dishwasher-safe   

Okay, okay — this also isn’t technically a universal wineglass, but it is a Champagne glass that is more akin to a wineglass than a flute, meaning you’d be wise to drink any and every type of sparkling wine from it. “It lets you incorporate more air and smell,” explains food and drink writer Tammie Teclemariam. “It enhances the minerality of all sorts of sparkling wines, from Vouvray to Vilmart.” It can also handle a typical red or white in a pinch.

Best universal stemless wineglass

Traditional bell-shape | Set of 2 | Dishwasher-safe

As stated above, stemmed wineglasses are ideal because they both aerate the wine and keep your hand from warming it up. However, sometimes a stemless glass is simply more practical, especially if you’re short on storage space. Austrian glassware company Riedel’s “O” series of stemless glasses were the favorite in our roundup of the best stemless glasses with around half of the pros surveyed raving about them. Cedric Nicaise, wine director at Eleven Madison Park, recommends them because they can hold their own when 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.

Some more wineglasses we've written about

Our experts

• Jill Bernheimer, owner of Domaine in Los Angeles
Frank Cisneros, bar consultant
• Chris Leon, owner and wine director of Leon & Son in Brooklyn
•Cedric Nicaise, wine director at Eleven Madison Park
•Thomas Pastuszak, wine director at NoMad and founder of VINNY Wines
•Lily Peachin, the owner of Dandelion Wine in Brooklyn
•June Rodil, master sommelier and partner of Houston’s Goodnight Hospitality
Tammie Teclemariam, New York Magazine’s diner-at-large
Jason White, senior food and beverage director at the Soho Grand Hotel

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The 7 Best Wineglasses