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In defense of stemless wine glasses

(From left to right: Spiegelau vinovino Chardonnay wine glass, Riedel O Chardonnay wine tumbler, Bodum So Long Stemless red wine glass, Crate & Barrel wine tumbler)

I was rummaging through my kitchen display cabinet today and noticed that I have more stemless wine glasses than traditional ones — eight Riedel O Chardonnay, six Riedel O Pinot Noir/Nebbiolo, and three traditional generic wine glasses with stems. (Yes, three; I don’t know what happened to the fourth.) This is how it happened: we’d received a bunch of thick-walled goblets for our wedding a few years ago, but I was young and naive then and it wasn’t until I’d begun drinking wine in earnest about a year later that I realized the thickness was interfering with my ability to properly taste the wine. We’re talking really thick — around half an inch or so. They were also comically huge and kind of looked like pimp cups. I started phasing out the chunky goblets in favor of the Riedels for a couple of reasons — I like their simple, modern design and they’re a lot more difficult for our guests to knock over.

There are other advantages to the squat tumblers. They’re dishwasher-safe, there’s no stem to accidentally break whether you’re handwashing or not, and they’re much easier to store. I’ve heard many people complain that the worst thing about wine tumblers is that since they’re stemless, you have no choice but to hold the bowl in your hand, inevitably warming up the wine. But there’s a really easy solution — hold the glass just below the halfway point. Nobody fills the glass to that level, anyway.

I do love the beauty and elegance of traditional stemmed wine glasses — they’re definitely de rigueur for more formal occasions, but the tumblers fit my lifestyle better. We do a lot of casual entertaining, I’ll sit in front of the TV with a glass of wine, so the stemless glasses are more practical. And since we’re mentioning tradition, Italians still use those sturdy juice-glass-looking tumblers for their everyday wine enjoyment, and people don’t usually accuse them of being unsophisticated louts.

I draw the line at stemless champagne flutes, though. They just look downright silly.

wasabigelatine wants to know: Do you prefer stemmed or stemless wine glasses?


  1. Cat wrote:

    I like the juice-glass-tumblers Italians use for everyday wine drinking, personally.

    So I guess “HOLD THE GLASS BY THE STEM!” referred only to glasses that have a stem, and wasn’t a vote in the stem/less debate. Good to know. :)

    When it comes to beer, one might do well to give opposite advice. If the beer is served too cold, as Americans are wont to do, I think one of the best ways to raise the beer to an acceptable temp is by holding the glass in your hand.

    Of course different beers should be served at different temperatures, but if a beer has to be ice cold to taste tolerable, it doesn’t actually taste good. ;)

    Thursday, October 11, 2007 at 11:02 am | Permalink
  2. Good beer advice! And speaking of intolerable beers, have you seen the new Budweiser slogan — “the great American lager”? Uhh, there’s no way you can class up Bud. Well, maybe if you put it next to a Mad Dog 20/20. :P

    Friday, October 12, 2007 at 1:01 am | Permalink
  3. Budget Babe wrote:

    For everyday, I also prefer the stemless glasses–so thanks for the validation! I like to have a glass handy while I’m cooking, so I’ll sip and put the glass down, hence less likely to tip it over or warm it up. I noticed wine and beer were often served in small stemless glasses at various cafes and bodegas throughout Spain, too (una copa as they’re called).

    Friday, October 12, 2007 at 8:19 am | Permalink
  4. Cat wrote:

    Uhh, there’s no way you can class up Bud. Well, maybe if you put it next to a Mad Dog 20/20. :P

    *LOL* I think Bud would win a flavor comparison, but only because Bud has less flavor to offend with ;)

    By the way, different beer styles are suited to different glassware, so it’s ideal to match them as best you can, especially when serving a quality beer.

    To what extent do you think this is true for wine?

    Friday, October 12, 2007 at 2:34 pm | Permalink
  5. BB — ooh, what part of Spain were you in?

    Tuesday, October 16, 2007 at 10:16 am | Permalink
  6. Cat – the same is true for wine, but I’ve never had the chance to experience the differences myself. Apparently, the extent of the flavor enhancement using the proper glass shape is more evident with higher-quality wines. I use the chardonnay glasses for any type of wine, and the pinot noir ones when I’m drinking the same (and honestly, mostly because I like the shape and size of the glass). One of these days I’ll have to test this theory, though I don’t know what wines would be considered high-quality enough for me to notice a difference (if I could afford them), or even if my palate is good enough to detect any remarkable distinctions.

    Tuesday, October 16, 2007 at 10:55 am | Permalink
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