5 Factors in Choosing the Right Stemware

riedel-vinum-zinfandel-chianti-glasses-set-of-2_30Choosing wine glasses for your home can be a daunting task. There are many types of glasses, shapes, sizes and as many companies making them.  Wine lovers such as yourself have been scouring the internet for years trying to find answers.  The terms “wine glass” are in the Top 10 of Google search terms related to wine in the past 5 years. Wine lovers often ask if a stem (fancy name for wine glass) can really make a difference in the sensory experience.  The straight up answer is Yes.

The wine experience is achieved primarily through three of your five senses; sight, smell, and taste, so the glass should aid the wine’s ability to express it’s components to the fullest in those sensory categories.  This writer has been to many tastings where, to test the validity of a glass-maker’s claims, wine was poured from type of stem to another and, indeed, the aromas and palate characteristics changed each time, with the best experience always being received with the appropriate stem (i.e. Bordeaux stem for Cabernet, Montrachet stem for Chardonnay, etc.). Here are a few considerations that may help narrow the choices.


Price can be a factor and much like buying a car, there are sets of stemware that can meet any type of budget.  In some cases the price is more reflective of the brand prestige or history than its ability to do the job, but sometimes the design, hand-crafting and background of such sets are great for special occasions.  Look for something that is within an acceptable price range for you and your needs and keep an eye on special deals.

“When it comes to choosing stemware it’s OK to keep it simple. At the end of the day you need a white and a red with a thin rim, moderate-sized bell shape and a narrow opening. Over-sized bowls and rim diameters lose the aroma. I didn’t know all of this until I started researching a shape for The One. Obviously it’s nice if you can have practicality and who’s got a butler to hand-wash their stems, or a fortune to spend?”
—andrea robinson, M.S.


As parties continue into the late evening, the more relaxed and jovial everyone becomes.  You can count on the inevitable dropped glassware occurring, or simply by accident when you bang that stem on the sink while washing it the next morning. To avoid constant replacements and get more for your money, consider how break-resistant a glass is.


If practicality, efficiency and low-maintenance are more your style, without sacrificing the optimal sensory experience, then a set of stemware that is capable of being put in a dishwasher will avoid hand washing every stem one-by-one.  It’s nice to come downstairs that next morning and know you can simply place your glassware in the machine and focus on grabbing a cup of coffee instead.


There is a broad range of types of stemware.  The basics include, Bordeaux glass for Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot, Burgundy for Pinot Noir, one for Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, you get the idea.  If you are an aspiring Sommelier or want the best experience with each wine you drink, be sure to seek out a collection that has a significant selection to choose from.  If you like to keep it less-complicated and enjoy a red or a white, there are brands out there offering a simpler lineup that still accentuate the sensory attributes of your wine.


Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and we are all different and unique. The final factor is to find a set that works with your decor, dishware, occasion, and lifestyle.  The design for many stemware collections also determines how well the wine’s sensory attributes are enhanced, including factors such as bowl size, thickness of the glass, size of the mouth and if there is a lip or not.  Some glassware is designed such that the wine arrives at the best spot on your tongue when poured in your mouth. Ultimately it is up to you to decide which fits your taste.

Interactive Guide to IWA Stemware Collections

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