The Basics You Need to Know About Wine Glasses

Hosting a party can be daunting. From the meal to the table, there’s a lot to consider for your holiday gathering. But we’re here to say that stemware should be the least of your worries. (Your guests will enjoy our food-friendly Cabernets regardless of the vessel its served in.) But if you want to put some thought into stemware and don’t have the time to be intimidated by the hundreds of varieties, we’ve rounded up three tips to help you navigate your options.

Red vs. White

There are two general shapes of stemware—a standard red wine glass and a standard white wine glass. Your standard red wine glass will have a bigger bowl so there’s more surface area for swirling, which lifts the aromatics to your nose. (Wine served at room temperature, like red wine, will be more aromatic than wine that’s chilled, like white wine.) If you have a red and a white wine glass side by side, you’ll notice the white wine glass has a longer stem. This design is intended to keep the heat from your hands further from the chilled white wine. The U-shape of a white wine glass is also deliberate—it helps maintain temperature. The white wine glass also typically has a smaller bowl to help concentrate the aromatics of the white wine.

Tip: How to hold your stemware
When you’re holding a glass of white wine, keep your hand towards the base of the stem—away from the bowl. This will prevent your body temperature from warming the chilled wine and changing its taste.

Glass vs. Crystal

Crystal stemware is typically more expensive than glass. It refracts light and typically looks like a fancier glass. (Shoutout to everyone who has crystal stemware with the starburst pattern.) But if you choose crystal, you might not want to use your grandmother’s set or drink that whiskey that your grandfather decanted years ago. Older crystal was made with lead. Due to health risks, the lead oxide has been replaced with other materials over the years like barium oxide, zinc oxide or potassium oxide.

Tip: What to use for sparkling wine
If bubbles are what attracts you to sparkling wine, a standard flute is the way to go. But if you enjoy the aromatic experience, consider a tulip-shaped glass. It’s larger surface area may dissipate bubbles faster, but the wider rim improves your drinking experience.

Stemless vs. Stemmed

Although the stem on your glass makes swirling the wine easier, it’s also a cumbersome thing when it comes time to do the dishes. (Think of all the glasses broken in dishwashers used as drying racks.) This is where stemless wine glasses enter the picture. Without a stem to break, they’re more convenient and set a more casual environment, too.

Tip: How to clean and store your stemware
Hand wash your stemware and immediately dry it with a cloth to avoid water spots. Although storing it upside down prevents accumulation of dust in the bowl, it could also damage the rim (especially if it’s thin). Instead, store it on its base, which was designed to withstand weight.

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