I noticed years of holiday-hosting has taken a toll on a once-robust collection. IWA has page-after-page of glasses and stemware, casual to fancy and everything between! How to decide from so many fabulous choices? They’re just wine glasses, right? First and foremost, glassware is personal preference, period. There’s no ‘naughty’ glassware at IWA that will land coal in your stockings!
Every manufacturer creates designs that inspire them out of materials that please them. They’re in business because customers agreed. If ever you’re offered a glass not aligned with your personal preferences, zip your lip and enjoy those sips! The vessel can’t replace sharing joy.
Frankly, I’m just a ‘regular’ reindeer when it comes to stemware. I personally like clear, smooth, unadorned glasses, but many of my ‘Rudolph and Misfit Toy’ friends enjoy weighty, colored, or decorated glasses; so now I stock both and everyone feels at ease!
Glass vs. Crystal
The gist: crystal is leaded or mineralized glass that can be pulled thinner than ‘regular’ glass, resulting in super-sparkly clarity with thinner bowls, stems, and rims. Lead-free ever-so slightly detracts from that super-sparkly, crystal-clear color profile but still better-resists scratching. However, glass is sturdy and versatile, and modern tech produces no less delicately-crafted or attractive results.
Mouth-or-machine blown possess more structural integrity. Avoid imperfections such as: bends, warps, bubbles, unfriendly shapes or lips, and unsightly seams from being hastily pressed in molds.
Bowl & Shape
Size: comfortable swirling for aroma detection is essential. If the bowl is too small or short, prepare for a burgundy swoosh across the front of your party dress. Too large and you’ll be straining your schnoz face-down in an awkward game of ‘What’s in the glass’?
Thickness is generally inversely proportionate to cost (not to infer inexpensive guarantees a hefty medieval goblet, in fact, terrific quality can be found at surprisingly affordable price points.) But super-premium stemware (designed specifically for wine consumption) will never feature thick, heavy-handed bowls.
Don’t judge weight: ultra-thin crystal can outweigh the thinnest glass; crystal simply weighs more due to lead or mineral content.
Pros prefer a thin lip. It feels better and prevents wine from collecting. Pros also like tapered tops (narrows towards the opening) versus flared tops (opens out) because tapered keeps aromas milling about in the glass instead of spreading into the air around it. But does that matter if wine remains in your glass for less than an hour? Not likely. So never deny a glass love just because it’s a rebel!
Always consider use & frequency.
- All-purpose / everyday use ($6 – $10 per stem): Look for something like the Schott Zwiesel Tritan Forte line. Even though they’re constructed of lead-free crystal, titanium insures they are highly resistant to breakage, chipping or clouding (and IWA is currently featuring value packs: 8 for the price of 6!)
- Mid-range / weekly or monthly use ($10 to $50 per stem) thinner enhances wines, and the refined look and feel of the Spiegelau Vino Grande sprinkles guests with snowflakes of TLC.
- Love super-premium, aged wines for special occasions ($50+ per stem)? Two IWA favorites in this category are the mouth-blown Riedel Sommeliers line or the Schott Zwiesel Air Sense line.
Frequent entertainers stock up accordingly:
A small, intimate dinner of six guests pairing multiple varietals calls for six mouth-blown, lead-free crystal, universal Gabriel Glas stems: showcase wines without having to dirty 3X the glasses!
A twelve-guest gathering would do well with two sets of (6) of the more practical, no-less elegant, but incredibly lightweight Italesse stems.
By comparison, Ultima Modern glasses with their ten-year breakage warranty are the way to go for a bustling buffet of 20 or more revelers, especially if you take advantage of IWA’s current Value Offer: Buy the Glass Globe Rack with 42 Ultima Classic glasses and save $145 on an absolutely stunning party centerpiece with plenty of beautiful, durable glasses for all your guests!
Or throw formality out the window and try playful styles that switch easily from bubbles to liqueurs or cocktails. ‘Tis the season with colorful and tactile Fiesta Flutes; or cool, retro Black Coupes; or the zany, fun Mardi Gras textured flutes, all of which make for festive departures.
More Factors to Consider
- Stem length should be long enough to avoid touching the bowl while drinking, but not so tall they topple with the slightest disturbance. Taller than 3-4″ may look stunning on a table, but probably won’t fit in storage areas or the dishwasher. *NOTE: Filter by desired Height at IWAwine.com.
- Base Circumference is also important: ‘wide’ hinders toppling, but also catches edges of plates and dishes on busy tables or bountiful spreads. *NOTE: Filter by desired Width at IWAwine.com.
- Matching Decanters – Appreciate coordinated aesthetics? Many IWA high-end decanters match stemware sets, making quite a statement when displayed together. The Stölzle Revolution line is just one example and it’s available in two sizes!
- Varietal-Specific – Got storage space and cellar selections? Enhance nuanced characteristics of varietals with lines that love to match-make. IWA exclusively carries the Lucca line, plus Riedel, Schott Zwiesel and more!
- Al Fresco, Super-Casual, or Crowd-friendly – ‘No glass’ doesn’t have to mean ‘no class’! Check out our Italesse line of Polycristal Stemware or the infinitely popular Govino Stemless non-breakables with their infamous ‘handy’ thumb-nub. Great for the outdoors, boats, pools (and wintry hot tubs!)
Glassware Care & Cleaning
*Keep your collection looking brand-spanking-new for years!*
Many crystal glasses are top-rack dishwasher-safe, (glasses should not come in contact with other glasses and especially not metal), but it really depends how much manhandling your stemware will endure overall. Proper care preserves and lengthens their life. Narrow openings benefit greatly from hand-washing with crystal-friendly stemware brushes that IWA sells: choose from Decanter, Flute, Goblet, and Stemware.
CLEANING PRODUCTS & TOOLS
Always wash and dry glass and crystal gently but thoroughly. To remove water spots, smudges, and enhance sparkle, never hold the base in one hand while twisting around the top, you’ll snap thin stems. Hold the glass by the bowl and hand-polish with Riedel Microfiber Polishing Cloths.
Naturally, IWA also sells other Crystal Drying Kit and a plethora of Drying Mat tailored for streak-and-spot-free Decanters and Glassware. Store those squeaky-clean stems upright on their base, unless, of course, you’ve bought IWA’s Exclusive Barrel Stave Hanging Stemware Rack, handcrafted from reclaimed barrel staves. (It holds up to 35 Bordeaux-size stems!)
Ho-ho-hope the only tinkling or shattering you hear at your next holiday event comes from the icicles outside!
About the Author: Cin-Cin! Lori Stevens is a former wine magazine food editor who has worked in multiple wineries and traveled throughout many of the world’s wine-producing regions. She currently lives in Seattle. Bottoms up!