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Wine Glasses...Is there a difference?

  • k

Help! I'm searching for the perfect wine glasses for my parents. Avid wine drinkers - who prefers Syrah, Shiraz, Zins and Cabs (no white in their house). Personally, I use Spieglau (and haven't broken one yet - fingers crossed).

Would you wine aficionados suggest Riedel instead? I'd like this to be a great gift!

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  1. The high-end Riedel glasses are gorgeous but fragile objects. Buy them if you think your parents would like their look and feel and not object to washing them by hand or acquiring special racks for the dishwasher. Don't buy them because of the marketing bunk that they make wines taste better.

    2 Replies
    1. re: carswell

      No special rack in the dishwasher will do away with the LA region's hard water stains. I'm afraid it's either hand wash or hand wash, at least for me...

      1. re: carswell

        I agree that no glass can make a wine taste "better" but in my experience one can taste "more" of the wine and have a better overall drinking experience with a quality glass. A bigger bowl allows for more nose (which enhances flavor) and a thinner lip allows for almost seamless transition of wine from glass to mouth.

      2. I have several dozen Reidels in my home. Two to three dozen for nearly each varietal. Clearly I disagree that their hypothesis is marketing bunk. I've actually served the same varietals in different glasses to blindfolded people to test it out and they do make a difference.

        In my opinion, the strength of proper stems come primarily from how each bowl holds the bouquet, and the design of the lip on certain stems can help direct the wine to areas of your tongue which enhance certain varietal indigenious flavors. The strongest benefit I've seen however, is in the nose.

        Given the varietals that the OPs parents like, I would suggest the Vinum line from Reidel. Not quite the expense (or delicacy) of the Sommelier line, but excellent glasses. I would get the Bordeaux/Cabernet stem as a good all purpose red wine stem. If the OP wants to mix it up a little, then maybe get a four pack of the Bordeaux/Cabernet stems and a four pack of the Burgundy/Pinot stems... that way you have good stems that cover the majority of red varietals. If you want to really go all out, get the Sommelier stems, but the cost will be dramatically higher. One thing - this is my opinion only - stay away from the gimmicky "O" line of Reidels, in my opinion, wine glasses have stems for a reason.

        5 Replies
        1. re: woojink

          The Vinum line is what I was contemplating. Thanks for the suggestion of mixing up the 4-packs. I agree with your comment about the O line. That's not my idea of enjoying a fine glass of wine.

          Thanks for all your help everyone!

          1. re: Kwsty

            I love my O glasses! They are cheap, and the stems don't break. You can throw them in the dishwasher. I wouldn't set a formal table with them, to be sure. But how much can you enjoy your fine wine if you are afraid the expensive glass is going to break either while you're pouring, or while you're cleaning up?? Get your parents the Vinums look woojink suggested, but don't discount the O series for everyday drinking. Stemless glasses have worked for the French and Italians for a long time.

            1. re: Dr. Debs

              I have 2 problems with the O line.

              1) I prefer not to let the 98.6 degree temperature of my hand affect the temperature of my wine.

              2) I find them difficult to swirl to maximize the aroma I get out of the wine when putting my schnoz in the glass. (This is a particular problem for young wines, which I drink a lot of.)

              I fully admit to being a wine-snob where my own interests are concerned. (ie, I know I'm insane, but I just really love wine and it is a major part of my life.)

              I'm not saying that there aren't people -- such as Dr. Debs -- who may really enjoy them, but for my purposes, my personal advice is to stay away.

              1. re: whiner

                Don't forget the fingerprints. And the near impossibility of getting an accurate impression of the wine's appearance since the hand is always in the way.

                1. re: whiner

                  They are definitely harder to swirl, but unless you are cradling the glass in your hand for extended periods and pouring huge amounts into the glass I don't see how this is a problem for EVERYDAY drinking of wine. But to each his/her own.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              Amen to the Tritan; stronger glass yet thin; dishwasher safe. We wash ours in the DW and they show no effects. A variety of styles and shapes.

              We have over 100 wine glasses and the Tritans are our first choice for both everyday and "company".

              1. re: Steve K

                We have the Tritan Top Ten line -- love them.

            2. I love my Riedels. Haven't (knowingly) tried Tritans. Excellent advice from woojink above. Another fine all-around red wine glass is the Vinum Chianti Classico (#416/15), which is also well-suited to Zinfandels.

              BTW, Riedel now owns Spiegelau.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Luwak

                Great, now my Spiegelau's will start breaking easier and cost twice as much.

              2. Another vote for the Schott Zwiesel Tritan Divas. I am replacing my Spiegelaus and Riedels with them. Not that there is anything wrong the either of the latter...

                BTW: My favorite Riedels are the Vinum Extreme, they are only a few dollars more than the regulars and still dishwasher safe.

                1. Riedel Vinum Series is one of the best values for crystal. The 'bunk' is not. Having been to many tastings and seminars for drinkware, it makes a difference on the presentation of a wine. It is not improving the inherent quality of a wine, but optimizing its presentation, and hence the perception and reception of the wine by the drinker, as lighting optimizes a the presentation and perception of a painting, stemware does the same for wine.

                  While the Extreme series (being phased out, I hear)is novel, the Vinum is classic. The Syrah stem is beautiful.

                  Regarding maintenance, Riedel recommends dishwashers since it minimizes handling. However, if you have to wash by hand be certain to hold cup the bowl in one hand while washing/drying the inside with the other. Avoid holding the base while drying the bowl. The torquing action will eventually cause the stem to snap off the bowl - one of the most common occurrences of breakage.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: SanseiDesigns

                    What's novel about the Vinum Extreme series? They're great glasses that showcase New World wines particularly well. As for "being phased out," Riedel's actions seem to indicate otherwise: they've added several new glasses to the Extreme line since they were first released, expanding the line from the original four shapes to ten.

                  2. As an allpurpose glass that is cheap enough not to worry about, I got 16 Kirkland Bordeaux (less than $60), and they are great. They are large, tall, Austrian lead crystal. I managed to break one last New Years eve, so now there are 15.
                    This house brand also has a burgundy glass, but I liked the Bordeaux a lot more. I have to wonder about the Austrian manufacturer: is it possibly one of the well known makes?

                    1. The only difference between the two Riedel lines is that one is crystal and the other isn't (or maybe that one is more lead, I'm not sure). The shapes are the same. I actually prefer the cheaper, thicker ones because I can put them in the dishwasher and not worry, and if I drop one I won't start crying. I've never really paid much attention to the various shapes. I just get the biggest bowls I can stand for red wine, to better aerate.

                      I find that the Parkerized CA wines (keep the grape on the vine, high sugar, high alcohol, fruitier than Welch's) need a lot of air. I decant everything else days, and swirl like hell. That said, I'm thinking I need to take a second look at my wine glass inventory and maybe give into the whole different shapes thing.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Willy3000

                        Sommelier series and Vinum series are crystal - the former is hand blown, the latter, machine-made. Ouverture series is a very affordable glass collection. Durable and inexpensive.

                        1. re: SanseiDesigns

                          Correct - they are both crystal. I love the Sommelier series, but have experienced so much breakage of same that I've switched to stocking up on Vinum. And, the shapes are not quite the same ... for example, the Sommelier champagne glass has a taller flute than does the Vinum one.

                      2. Yeah I had a wine called Epiphany the other day. I think it was 17% alcohol ! It was really extracted and huge.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: TonyO

                          I'm actually getting to the point where I'm considering adding water to some of the stuff I get. It's not a matter of being alcohol phobic, it's that some of these wines are starting to become a different beverage and one that I don't particularly like very much. It's like beer vs. barley wine. I don't like barley wine, I like beer.

                          Once the alcohol gets much past 5% in a beer, they lose me. I'm not sure where the line is with wine, but I'm starting to think kinda sorta maybe 14%

                        2. I agree about the beer point. I'll take a simple well made Pilsner any day over some 8.5% concoction that taste like rancid oatmeal.

                          1. I used to own 6 each of the Reidel Vinum Extreme Pinot Noir and Cabernet glasses. They are light and beautiful and elegant to hold. Extremely, luxuriously balanced. However, we are now down to two each. The stems snap with the slightest twist (say with a sponge from hand washing), or the lightest tap (say you bump the bottle into the rim of the glass while pouring). Whatever you do, get something more sturdy.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: deetrane

                              I've had Vinum Extreme Cabernet stems for more than five years without breaking one. I've dropped them on my kitchen counter and smacked one on the side of my stainless steel sink without breakage, and continually bump the tap with them while washing--sans break. In the same time period I've broken five Riedel Overtures in every way imaginable. I use my Extremes several times a week.

                            2. My Tritans are on the way. I'll put a post after trying.

                              1. Reidel stems (as well as other well made and designed glasses) do enhance the enjoyment of wine... its not marketing bunk.

                                1. Tritans arrived tonight. They are well balanced, nicely sized, and well designed. I'm sure I will find out exactly how durable they are over time but they seem to be an excellent value at $39.95 / 6 + shipping.

                                  8 Replies
                                    1. re: TonyO

                                      I'd like to know that as well, I'm thinking of picking up a set..

                                      1. re: Buckethead

                                        Sorry for the delay. I bought them online at www.thewineclub.com. They arrived within 10 days undamaged ! Very nice glasses. Good luck.

                                        1. re: TonyO

                                          Thanks. I just ordered six of the Forte Bordeaux/Cab glasses.

                                      2. re: TonyO

                                        Owners of a couple different wineries have told me they're phasing out Riedel overtures and replacing them with Tritans. Drop 'em on the cement floor and they don't break.

                                        1. re: Melanie Wong

                                          I'm really tempted to try out the strentgh of these glasses but figuring that there will about 30 people at our house this weekend, there is bound to be at least one "fumble" !

                                          1. re: TonyO

                                            Let us know how they perform, eh?

                                      3. Wow....there's some great advice (all varied). Thanks so much for your thoughts. I decided to purchase the Vinum Extreme for the Parents (any breakage is out of my hands). However, I'm contemplating the Tritan's for myself (I'm a klutz).

                                        Thanks again! Cheers!

                                        1. Kwsty,
                                          Good choices. I would also look into the the Tritan Divas for yourself. They are a little more expensive than the basic Tritans, but I prefer them from both an aesthetic and wine drinking standpoint (they have slightly bigger bowls and I think the glass is slightly thinner).

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: whiner

                                            The pinot/burgandy glasses? or the cab/merlot in the Tritan Divas? I love the look of the cab/merlot glass. Thanks for the rec!

                                            1. re: Kwsty

                                              Well, actually, I use dedicated stemware so I would go with both ;-) However, if you are going to have one set of red wine glasses, I would go with the Cab/Bordeaux glasses. Note: they make a Merlot glass as well that looks very similar, but it is a 20oz glass as opposed to the 28oz glass and the bigger glass will not only be better for Cabernets (particularly young ones) but also for Pinot.

                                              1. re: Kwsty

                                                Another option is the Tritan Selection Collection (say that three times fast) "Rose'" glass, available from Crystal Classics here:


                                                We use them regularly, a bit more expensive but a great all-around glass. And at C-C you order by the each, no need to buy 4 or 6 or whatever.

                                            2. I went with the Forte Bourdeaux/Cabernet. Nice size (I find myself getting really hammered if the glass is too big !). This seems to be quite a value at $39.95 + shipping.

                                              1. Spieglau glasses are great. If they are really serious about wine, they will be appreciated. They are not as marketed as the Riedel, but at that price point, it's really a matter of personal preference, not quality.

                                                1. Agree... Spieglau is very similar to Reidel, but at a bit of a lower price. They have many that are exactly the same shape as Reidel, almost impossible to tell them apart. So, good alternative if you want to save a few bucks.

                                                  Keep in mind, that there are many great sales on Reidel stems... so many retailers carry them and discount heavily. So, it's not uncommon to find a set of 6 Reidels for less than a store carrying the same shape in Spieglau for more money. Point is, whatever you buy, shop around.

                                                  1. I have a general question: How many difference types of wine glasses do you have and do you enforce that they be used appropriately? I own wine glasses for:
                                                    1) Champagne
                                                    2) Red wine (bordeaux)
                                                    3) Red wine (burgundy)
                                                    4) White wine (general)
                                                    5) Stemless (general purpose)

                                                    And yes I enforce that they be used for their intended purposes.

                                                    3 Replies
                                                    1. re: Chinon00

                                                      Let's see . . .

                                                      I have glasses "for" Bordeaux, that are used for red Bordeaux and similarly styled wiens from other parts of the world, and for Northern Rhônes and similarly styled reds (though not Aussie Shiraz or California Syrahs that are made in that style).

                                                      I have glasses "for" Burgundy, which I use for red Burgundies and similarly styled Pinot Noirs from elsewhere in the world, as well as Barolor/Barbaresco and the occasional Southern Rhône, if the alcohol level is not excessive.

                                                      I have glasses "for" Zinfandel, which I use for Zin, Sangiovese-based wines and Southern Rhônes with higher levels of alcohol, as well as Sauvignon blancs/Loire whites.

                                                      I have glasses "for" Chardonnay, which I use for white Burgundies, white Rhônes, and more aromatic Alsatian varieties like Gewurztraminer and Pinot Gris.

                                                      I have glasses "for" Riesling, which I use for Riesling and wines like Gruner Veltiner.

                                                      I have glasses "for" Porto, which I don't use as I think they are too small.

                                                      I have Champagne flutes.

                                                      I have Sherry copitas.

                                                      I have brandy snifters.

                                                      I have some all-purpose glasses from the winery I ussed to work for.

                                                      I have some water glasses, too.

                                                      1. re: zin1953

                                                        Impressive! But do you enforce the rule that the glasses must be used with the proper glass?

                                                        1. re: Chinon00

                                                          I was never aware it was a *rule* . . . does Georg Riedel come by with members of the local SWAT team, kicking in your front door for pouring a Bordeaux into a Burgundy glass? ;^)

                                                          I don't "enforce" anything. I generally serve "x" in "x" and "y" in "y," BUT . . . I've had some noticable exceptions -- whereby the bouquet of the wine seemed better in the "wrong" glass . . . for example -- oh, wait! Georg Riedel is outside with the LAPD SWAT team -- gotta go!

                                                    2. I received a six pack of the Tritan Top Ten fullbod red for x-mas, and have a little mileage on them now. I love the shape and the look of wine in these....and I love that they don't break. Had a couple of accidents already, and the one time we really needed it the glass bounced off the hardwood floor. Yes, we had to clean up wine(and red paw prints from our very inquisitive dog) but there was no glass. The Reidels are very nice glasses, and there is a small difference in nose and mouthfeel between the top ten and the $30/stem Reidel, with the Reidel being a bit more....hmmm...expressive? The difference was only there when we did a taste test and poured the wine(Argentinean Malbec) at the same time into the two glasses. Now that I think of it, we need to do another taste off with a more complex young red like Cabernet. I love taste offs...anyway, the variance of the wine over 30 min swamped the difference in the glasses.
                                                      For my money, I'm going to purchase more of the Tritan line. The shape is more pleasing to me, the sound is much better to my ear(it's nice to hear a great ring when you toast with your SO!), and the cost difference seals it.

                                                      Chinon00, to answer your question:
                                                      These Trit10 mature for reds, I think I might be getting another set of six for Pinot.
                                                      Chardonnay glasses from C&Barrel that I use for all whites. I'm going to get the light white wine glasses from the Trit10 line for SauvB now that I'm a believer.
                                                      Champagne flutes
                                                      Port glasses that are not intended to carry port. These are small stemmed water glasses originally, I believe.
                                                      Various bar glasses for other beverage choices(martini, marg, highball, double, etc)


                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: TNC

                                                        Oh . . . bar glasses . . . yeah, that's a different list! ;^)

                                                        1. re: TNC

                                                          I have the Tritan Top Ten line and absolutely love them. We have Mature Red, Full-Bodied Reds, Light-Bodied Reds, Full-Bodied Whites, Light-Bodied Whites, Dessert and Barrel-aged Spirits. I often have to test between the glass types, as I really think it can depend upon the particular wine what glass is appropriate, rather than merely the grape type.

                                                        2. Just wanted to chime in on my Tritan experience. So far they've been holding up well. I actually broke the first one I got, not sure if it was a defect since I lightly tapped it against another glass it broke. (They very gladly sent me a replacement) Other than that, I'd say even though I hand wash everything it's not super easy to keep it very clean, free of stains etc. Overall for the price compared to the Riedel's, it's a beautiful tall glass, and an all around gppd deal. As far as taste go, I can't say that I can taste a difference in the Cab glasses I use between the two. Really though, aside from the slight shape of the rim, etc it's not going to make a huge difference after you smell the wine and it hits your tongue. At the end of the day it's all going to the same place.