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The 8 Best Wineglasses

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

Photo: Marcus McDonald
Photo: Marcus McDonald

In this article

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.

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 universal wineglass overall

Shape: Traditional bell shape | Set number: Set of 1 | Dishwasher safe versus hand-wash only: Hand-wash only

Zalto, for the most part, makes the most beloved wineglasses in the industry. Several of the experts we consulted compared other brands to the “Olympic gymnasts of wineglasses,” as wine columnist Marissa A. Ross once referred to Zalto. “It’s extremely elegant, lightweight, and thin,” Thomas Pastuszak, wine director at NoMad and founder of Vinny wines, says of this glass. “All of that amounts to you experiencing the wine itself more than the physical glass as you smell and drink,” he says, adding that if he had to pick just one glass for enjoying every single wine in the world, this would be it.

Indeed, these wineglasses are top of the line, which is why just one will cost you more than $75. While they are expensive, I love that they are a true universal glass that works for every single style of wine I’ve ever poured into it, from Beaujolais to Champagne. This versatility also makes it a great investment if you’re just starting to build your glassware collection. 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,” Leon says) means it can break easily, I’ve put Zaltos in the dishwasher before without a problem. “We’ve cracked ours from sheer excitement of clinking the glasses too hard,” Leon says, “but never from cleaning them.” However, the brand does recommend hand-washing only.

Best (less-expensive) universal wineglass

From $85 for 2

Shape: Traditional bell-shape | Set number: Set of 2, 4, 6, or 8 | Dishwasher-safe versus handwash only: 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

Schott Zwiesel Tritan Cabernet Glass
$72 for 6
$72 for 6

Shape: Traditional bell-shape | Set number: Set of 1 or 6 | Dishwasher-safe versus handwash only: 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

Shape: Narrow bell-shape | Set number: Set of 6 | Dishwasher-safe versus handwash only: 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

Shape: Wide bell-shape | Set number: Set of 1, 2, 4 or 6 | Dishwasher-safe versus handwash only: 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

Shape: Winged bell-shape | Set number: Set of 1 | Dishwasher-safe versus handwash only: 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 New York Magazine’s Underground Gourmet columnist 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 wine glass for aromatics

Shape: Tapered bell-shape | Set number: Set of 2 | Dishwasher-safe versus handwash only: Handwash only

Restaurateur and beverage director Annie Shi told me about Conterno glasses when I interviewed her about everything she put on her wedding registry. Designed by winemaker Roberto Conterno, the glasses are “hand blown and stunningly thin,” she says. They also feature a very wide bowl that tapers up, which “allows you to get the aromatics so much more clearly,” Shi explains. “Aesthetics aside, this glass has enhanced every wine I have ever poured into it.” And although it’s a Burgundy bowl, Shi says she has used them for tasting and drinking all different types of wine.

Best universal stemless wineglass

Shape: Traditional bell-shape | Set number: Set of 2 | Dishwasher-safe versus handwash only: 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
•Annie Shi, beverage director at King and Jupiter
Tammie Teclemariam, New York Magazine’s Underground Gourmet columnist
Jason White, senior food and beverage director at the Soho Grand Hotel

Additional reporting by Emma Wartzman, Nikita Richardson, and Maxine Builder

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The 8 Best Wineglasses