There’s no shame in enjoying a glass of wine from a Mason jar, a plastic wineglass, or any other drinking glass you may have on hand. (We here at the Strategist are particularly fond of the Bormioli tumblers that make professionally tasteful person Joanna Goddard feel as if she’s sipping wine in Barcelona.) That said, it can be nice to have a set of proper wineglasses on hand
Technically, proper wineglasses have a larger, bell-shaped bowl that allows wine to oxidize, or allows air to interact with it. 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 we’re talking about.
Proper wineglasses also, of course, have stems, meaning 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, but for the average person (even the average wine-loving person), a universal glass — one that is of medium size, built to be equally good for reds and whites — 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, we asked 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.
The Best Universal Wineglass Set
If you want a wineglass that won’t shatter in the sink, Jason White, the service and beverage director at Kichin in Brooklyn, highly recommends these Cabernet glasses. “The crystal is mixed with a trace amount of titanium, giving it great strength and feel,” he says.
The Best (Less Expensive) Universal Wineglass Set
If you’re balling on a budget, you can’t do much better than Libbey’s super-affordable line of wine goblets. “I don’t like it when a wineglass itself distracts from the wine-drinking experience,” says John Condon of French Louie in Brooklyn. “I think a glass needs to be functional first and everything else next. Libbey’s Vina line of wineglasses is very classically shaped and elegant but also reassuringly sturdy.”
The Best Splurge-Worthy Universal Wineglass Set
As for those who are just balling, Austrian wineglass purveyor Gabriel-Glas offers mouth-blown crystal stemware that is — get this — dishwasher safe. The company claims the glasses’ broad base and narrow opening deliver wine to the palate in a way that expresses even the most subtle flavors. “They are very light, elegant, and also not as large as most glasses in their category,” says Richard Anderson, the sommelier at Vaucluse. “ I find it’s great for everything from Champagne to Bordeaux.” If you’re not quite ready to spend so much, Gabriel-Glas also makes a more affordable version of their crystal glasses in a line called StandArt. Jill Bernheimer, owner of Domaine in Los Angeles, actually prefers this one for drinking at home as it’s a little less fussy. She compares it to the Zalto — her “ideal” glass, which we write about below — but says it has a little more sturdiness for frequent home use.
The Best (Single) Universal Wineglass
Zalto’s fans go beyond Bernheimer. Wine columnist Marissa A. Ross once referred to the Austrian brand Zalto as “the Olympic gymnasts of wineglasses: graceful and well-balanced.” 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. If I had to pick just one glass to enjoy every single wine in my world, this would be it.” Leon is also a Zalto devotee. And while the biggest criticism is that the thinness (which is “almost disarming at first,” he says) means it’s easily broken, he 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.”
The Best Universal Wineglass for White Wines
Yes, we did say that a “universal” glass refers to one you can drink any wine out of, but if you really are a white versus red person, you can get a little more particular (while still knowing that if you pour yourself 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. It’s also great for the accident prone among us. “It’s not cheap by any means but is less than a Zalto and 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.”
The Best Universal Wineglass for Red Wines
While we’re on the slightly more-specialized kick, if you drink deep, earthy reds, your best best is Zalto’s massive Burgundy glass, which is just as delicate as the universal wineglass but with a decanterlike, bell-shaped design that lets the wine breathe. “Nothing beats drinking Burgundy out of their massive, ten-ounce red Burgundy glasses,” says bar consultant Frank Cisneros. “They’re a bit pricey, but perfect.”
The Best Double-Bend Universal Wineglass
These glasses may look normal at first glance, but peer a little closer and you’ll see small curves at the base and about halfway up the glass. “This design gives more aeration to the wine, leading to more enhanced aromas and taste,” says wine journalist and Black Wine Professionals founder Julia Coney. “They are gorgeous, but the best thing about them is they are dishwasher safe. It’s a game changer.”
The Best Extra-Large Universal Wineglasses
At 35 ounces, Riedel’s Vinum XL glass makes the Zalto Burgundy glass — and just about every other wineglass — look downright tiny. “I give these to any table buying a nice bottle of wine,” says Craft Hospitality Group beverage director Lucas Robinson. “The guests never cease to be amazed by these huge glasses.”
Additional reporting by Nikita Richardson and Maxine Builder.
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