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The Perfect Wineglass: One Size Fits All

Photo by: Greg Gorman

Posted: Jul 10, 2009 1:57pm ET

Over the years I’ve tried scores of different wineglasses, and I’m convinced that the easiest way to make any wine taste better is to use a good glass, one that allows a wine to show its stuff, be it visually, or aromatically, or how it delivers the flavors to your palate.

Riedel alone makes dozens of different glasses (check out their website), seemingly one or more choices for every different kind of wine or alcoholic beverage available. There’s a Teroldego glass, a Blauburgunder stem and gin glass. I looked up the different recommendations for wines from St.-Estèphe and St.-Emilion and they’re nearly identical, except the latter has nine glass recommendations, one more than St.-Estèphe.

I’ve done many different glass tests, too, where the same wine is served in different-shaped vessels, and indeed there are often real differences in how a wine smells or tastes, depending on the glass. But most of the time, I find that good wine tastes good in a good glass, and it’s easier to convince yourself of the differences in stemware when faced with multiple choices of one wine poured into six or eight different glasses.

Most people are surprised then when they find out that I only use one kind of glass at home for drinking table wines, irrespective of the varietal, color or appellation. It’s the Tritan Burgundy Glass by Schott Zwiesel 'Forte' (model 8465/140), which sells for about $9 a stem, which I think is great for all wines. I have a couple dozen handy for nights when multiple stems are necessary. And I only use one style of decanter, the Riedel Cabernet model, which sells for about $40. I also have a few of these ready for action.

I feel fortunate to have found what I consider the perfect wineglass and decanter. They’re both attractive, elegant, balanced, sturdy without being heavy or clumsy (and they produce a nice clear ring when a "cheers" is in order), and they're durable and dishwasher-safe. That last point is an important consideration, since I don't like to handwash glasses, especially at the end of a late-night dinner party, and I love the brilliantly clean, crystal-clear glasses that emerge from my kitchen car wash, er, dishwasher. Ditto for the decanters.

For years when I used the fussier, more delicate glasses, I found myself breaking more stems than I could afford. That made washing them a chore.

But not anymore. I’ve got the perfect glass and decanter. I don’t think I’ve broken a single one of either and I hope this isn’t a jinx.

I do have one wine glass challenge, though. I haven't settled on the perfect Champagne flute. But I'm still searching and researching.

Brian Loring
Lompoc, CA —  July 10, 2009 4:08pm ET
My default glass is the Riedel Vinum Extreme Pinot Noir. While I do have a bunch of specific Riedels, the Vinum Extreme Pinot would be the one I would use if I had to choose one for everything. For me, Cabernet based wines do better in a Pinot glass than Pinot does in a Cabernet glass.

For Champagne, I've been using Les Impitoyables #4 a lot lately. I also like the Reidel Sommelier Vintage Champagne flute. I don't notice as big a difference with the sparkling wine glass choice as I do still reds.
Hoyt Hill Jr
Nashville, TN —  July 10, 2009 4:30pm ET
JamesWhy do you drink Champagne from a flute?Don't you think Champagne tastes better in a tulip glass?I drink Blanc de Blancs in a Chardonnay glass and Blanc de Noirs in a Burgundy glass and find that they taste far superior!
Patrick Mullane
san mateo, ca —  July 10, 2009 6:10pm ET
Great choice in glassware, This is also the glass I use at home, and in the restaurants whose wine programs I oversee.....same for the decanter!!
Emily Weissman
san anselmo, ca —  July 10, 2009 7:19pm ET
It's all about Zalto. But I'm biased.
Fred Brown
July 10, 2009 8:15pm ET
James, I can't fine the "Forte" series. Any chance that this is now called "Vina" with a model and description: "8465/140 Burgunderpokal Claret Burgundy"?
James Laube
Napa, CA —  July 10, 2009 9:03pm ET
Yes, Fred, that appears to be it...Heading off for the weekend...
David Peters
Mission Viejo, CA —  July 11, 2009 2:14am ET
James, I agree with you that the Schott-Zwiesel glasses are the best QPR out there. Personally, I use their #8465-130 Bordeaux/Cabernet as my everyday 'go-to' glass. I also use their Tritan Forte Champagne flute #8465-7 and nothing can touch it for style and bubbles. I get my Schott Zwiesels at the Wine Exchange in Orange, CA for $47.94 a six-pack.....$7.99 each. Love'em.
Richard Seegull
Simi Valley, CA —  July 11, 2009 12:37pm ET
I've been using the Eisch Burgandy glass for Reds. Great for letting the wine breathe in the glass without having to decant a bottle. Not the best choice for Whites though.
Neil Barham
Vail, co —  July 11, 2009 5:01pm ET
Bottega del Vino crystal blows all of the rest away and are dish machine safe, they are lead free, one-piece glassware that can actually drop to the floor without breaking. The above mentioned glasses always break and break easily when polishing, the Tritan water glasses will actually break when a customer just places the glass back on the table. Hardly durable, all their glassware is subject to the bowl braking off from the stem and the base breaking from the stem. Extremely dangerous when polishing them.
Whit Thompson
Rochester, NY —  July 13, 2009 9:38am ET
I prefer using one of my kids' plastic sippy cups. No chance of breakage, helpful side handles for a confident grip (especially useful at the end of a big night), $2.29 at Target, the little holes in the sipper aerate the wine, and best of all, I can bring a nice full cup of cabernet to work in the morning without drawing too much attention. Oh, and I think Diego likes wine, too.
David Rossi
July 13, 2009 11:36am ET
Spiegelau Vinovino is my glass day in and out. Not flashy, but the bowls are just the right size and $9 a pop. I have a few Riedel Sommeliers(received as gifts), but even when I do use them for a special bottle I am so anxious about breaking them that I think it offsets any enjoyment from using them.
Cindy Goodaker
Royal Oak, MI —  July 13, 2009 12:00pm ET
The Tritan Forte Bordeaux is my go-to glass, but I also have the Burgundy, Champagne, Merlot and Chardonnay glasses (use the latter mostly for dessert wines.) Do you need all these shapes and sizes? Probably not, but I like having them anyway. IWA.com sells them, but you can find other vendors by googling "tritan forte."
Cindy Goodaker
Royal Oak, MI —  July 13, 2009 2:43pm ET
Correction to previous post. A Web site for Tritan Forte glasses is iwawine.com, not iwa.com. There are other online vendors, however.
Quek Li Fei
Singapore —  July 14, 2009 7:13pm ET
I generally use a Riedel Vinum Range Chianti Classico glass for all purpose drinking occasions when having one glass per type of wine is not practical. It seems to do the job for most varietals.
Nick Perdews
Simi Valley —  July 29, 2009 7:54pm ET

I used to prefer "burgundy" shaped glasses and the big brand glasses, but not anymore.

Now I'm a big fan of the Schott Zwiesel Tritan "Pure" glass in the Cabernet size. This is the one with the sharper angles on the sides. At first I thought the angles were over-styled and awkward. Then I started actually using the glass. Now I find the more angular 'hips' of the glass make for good aggressive swirling when you feel like it without risking much spill. For those who like to evaluate color really carefully, the angled sides make for really good horizontal examination.

Sur La Table used to have an exclusive on these and may still, which is why they're still pretty rare.http://www.surlatable.com/product/tabletop+%26+serving/glassware+%26+bar/wine+%26+champagne/%27pure%27+tritan+stemware+cabernet+glasses.do?sortby=ourPicks

My experience with breakage has been excellent in that I have yet to break one in over a year while I used to break several of the bigger brand's glasses each year.

I find that the "cab" sized glass also works well as a general glass for chards, other reds and other whites. It's big enough to let the wine roam and small enough to play well in the cabinet and for washing.

The weighting of the glass is also exceptionally good, with great handfeel and a great ring when toasting. I recommend giving it a try if you're open to seeing what a new glass does for you.

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