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OPINION | BOTTLE SHOTS: 5 things to know before buying wine glasses

by Seth Eli Barlow | December 1, 2021 at 1:50 a.m.
Illustration by Kelly Brant

Here's the thing no one tells you when you start collecting wine: It's impossible to collect just wine. My kitchen is now home to more wine openers than I can count — they even have their own drawer — but perhaps even more invasive are the dozens and dozens of wine glasses that I've amassed over the years. (I tried to count them all for this article, but my boyfriend shamed me into stopping once I passed 60.)

If you've ever tried shopping for glasses, you've undoubtedly noticed that they come in almost infinite shapes, sizes and styles. Is there a single best design? Perhaps not, but there are a few key things to look for when buying a new set of glasses.


I know stemless glasses are popular, but the stem isn't just there for aesthetic reasons. Wine glasses are meant to be held by the stem, so the heat of your hand doesn't change the temperature and taste of your wine. These temperature variations seem slight but can produce a surprisingly large effect on how dynamic and vividly you perceive your wine.


Most wine glasses will have one of two types of rims: cut or rounded. Rounded is by far the most common, though they're less desirable. You'll recognize a rounded rim as it feels and looks like a round ring of glass has been applied to the very top of the glass bowl. Cut rims are rims that have been cut with lasers to provide a perfectly smooth edge. Again, this is another seemingly minor difference that can have a big impact on how you experience the wine.


The part of a glass that holds wine is known as the bowl, and there are approximately 18 billion different bowl shapes out there. You'll find bowls designed for reds, whites, flutes for bubbles (avoid these ... sparkling wine tastes best in white wine glasses), and even specific grapes like pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon, or chardonnay. Unless you're a serious collector, you only need one set. I think the standard "Bordeaux" shape works best for all-purpose drinking. (These are the classic, slightly elongated glasses with a bulge near the bottom of the bowl.) Avoid glasses that look like soup bowls perched on little stems. The rim of the bowl should always be smaller than the bowl's widest point.


For people who are really into wine, I recommend getting glasses that are approximately the same price as what you plan to put in them. If your go-to bottle is $50 or more, you'll want to invest in handblown stemware for the same price. Likewise, if you're usually toasting with a $12 bottle of bubbles, it's perfectly fine to stick with glasses on the lower end of the pricing scale.


Here's my little stemware shopping secret: The holidays are the best time to shop at discount retailers like TJ Maxx, HomeGoods and Marshalls. These stores will often have an entire aisle of discounted glassware, frequently from top brands. Riedel is one of my personal favorites — the Ouverture red glass is a fantastic, universal option if you can find it — but brands like Schott Zwiesel, Gabriel-Glas, and Spiegelau are all great.

As always, you can see what I'm drinking on Instagram at @sethebarlow and send your wine questions and quibbles to

Print Headline: Wine glasses come in all manner of shapes, sizes


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