5 Factors in Choosing the Right Stemware

Choosing glassware for your home can be a daunting task sometimes.  There are so many types of glasses, shapes, sizes and just as many companies making them.  It’s like shopping for a car, but without the cheesy salesmen and wine lovers such as yourself have been scouring the internet for years trying to find answers.  As a matter of fact 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.).  The good and the bad is that you have choices such that you can choose a set of stemware that fits your household needs as well as your wine lifestyle.  Here are just a few items that may be important to you.


Certainly, price can be a factor and much like the car-buying analogy above, there are sets of stemware that can meet any type of budget.  Unfortunately, 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.


We all know that as the party continues on into the late evening, the more relaxed and jovial everyone becomes.  You can count on the inevitable event of dropped glassware occurring during one of your parties, or simply by accident when you bang that stem on the sink while washing it the next morning.  If you’d like to keep subsequent visits to the stemware shop to a minimum and get more for your money, perhaps, break-resistant glass is for you.


If practicality, efficiency and low-maintenance is more your style, without sacrificing the optimal sensory experience, then a set of stemware that is capable of being washed in a dishwashing machine is important to you instead of hand washing every stem one-by-one.  It’s kind of 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.


Selection in this case means there is a broad range of types of stemware, even one for each type of wine variety.  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 simply want the best experience with each wine you drink, be sure to seek out a collection that has a significant selection to choose from.  On the other hand, if you like to keep it less-complicated and enjoy a red or a white, there are brands out there for you too that still accentuate the sensory attributes of your wine.


We all know that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and we are all different and unique.  That’s what mom used to say anyway.  The final factor here is to find a set that works with your decor, dishware, occasion, lifestyle.  The design for many stemware collections also determine 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.  Pretty cool, huh?

IWA Stemware Collections

  • Ultima – Strong, break-resistant, crystal, selection
  • The One – Simple, durable, dishwasher-safe
  • Riedel – Designer, prestige, varietal selection, hand-made
  • Schott Zwiesel – Lead-free crystal, durable, bright
  • Speiglau – Hand-crafted, designer style

Please Share

There many other factors out there that can help you determine the best stemware to use and we’d love to hear what is most important to you.  Please share in the comments below and tell us if you can taste the difference.


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