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Jan 16, 2011 07:43 PM

Restaurant Stemware - Do You Even Care?

When I review a restaurant, it is very likely that I’ll be having wine(s) with my meal, and will also review the restaurant’s choice of stemware. In most cases, I feel that the choice of stemware will enhance my overall experience, and shows that the restaurant takes their wine program seriously, and takes me seriously, as a patron.

Now, I will admit that I am a stemware snob, and greatly appreciate good choices of glasses for the wine(s).

One contributor on a regional forum asked me about my comments on a particular restaurant’s stemware, and I tried to answer in very general terms on what I have experienced, and what I like. That got me to thinking that maybe others never even notice what a wine is served in, so long as it does not leak. I thought about where this would be most appropriate in the makeup of CH. It could be in Not About Food, but I thought that the Wine Board was the best place, as we ARE talking about wine here. If the CH MOD’s feel that it should be moved, fine.

Now, this is not about one brand, such as Riedel vs X, but is an open question on how others feel about the glasses, that their wines are served in. Does it really matter to anyone, but me? Is a plastic up OK, or do you want crystal with a US$400 bottle of wine in a restaurant? If you are only doing a US$25 B-T-G wine, does it matter to you if it comes in a Libby, restaurant-grade stem? If you have ordered a US$400 bottle, and the glasses are the “water glasses” from the table, but you see a near-by table with a US$600 wine, being served in Riedel Sommelier Bdx stems, do you even notice?

Just curious,


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  1. Doesn't that depend upon WHERE dinner is? In other words, if I am dining at, say, Gary Danko or Restaurant August, I have one expectation for stemware . . . if I'm at the corner "joint," I have another.

    I am not one to bring my own stems to a restaurant. But OTOH, I can't stand places that serve wine in "bistro" tumblers.


    5 Replies
    1. re: zin1953


      It certainly does for me, and thanks for contributing your thoughts.

      I grade a true fine-dining restaurant down, with inappropriate stemware, more harshly, than a lesser establishment.

      Really want to see how others approach this question.

      Appreciated, as always,


      1. re: Bill Hunt

        Don't ya just love going to a place that has those small, round, "Chianti bowls?" Those are the absolute worst....well, one of the worst... -mJ

          1. re: c oliver

            This is kind of an extrememe example with the color, but it is the best picture I could find to give the shape. It is a short and squatty kind of glass with an opening that you can stick your whole head in practically. I'll see if I can find a better pic. -mJ

            1. re: njfoodies

              OMG, isn't that glass the worst??? But I see what you mean now. Thanks.

    2. Following on this from the NOLA board--and hopefully my question won't get bumped to some other board--if someone were going to invest in two to four medium- to high-end wine glasses for home, what would you recommend?

      2 Replies
      1. re: midcity

        Personally, I like the Riedel Vinum series. They offer a lot of different designs, but one can certainly do well with some standards.

        Schott-Zwiesel does some nice stemware too. Spieglau (purchased by Riedel) has several lines, as well. My travel stems are Tritan, and so far, unbroken.

        Others will likely have some additional brands, and lines to explore.

        Good luck,


        1. re: midcity

          These are the ones that I use. I like the weight of them and the size. They do very well in the dishwasher too.

        2. i prefer stemware that is "in between," that is:
          i don't want to be handling a glass that is so precious and fragile that i really need to stay aware of the glass, nor do i like stemware that has a lip so thick that that it makes me feel like i'm drinking from a Libby's glass that came from Target.

          if a restaurant serves their wine in tumblers, i simply won't drink any wine while at that establishment no matter what.

          1. Yes, it does matter to me at a restaurant....and that goes for all tableware and silverware too. I don't mind so much at a bar or at an event. I hate tumblers -and I am trying to like the Riedel "O"...but I am not sure I am going to be able to like them.

            5 Replies
            1. re: sedimental

              I've been using those as water glasses on my table. With water and wine glasses and everything else on the table, there's just fewer stems to keep from knocking into :)

              1. re: sedimental

                I find the O line to be awkward for me, whether drinking from, or cleaning. Others love them, but I have yet to warm to them.


                1. re: Bill Hunt

                  You and me both! The one exception to "stemless stemware" that I *do* like were some cognac snifters I got from Martell Cognac many years (25?) ago -- picture "classic" brandy snifter but w/no stem. Since you warm the brandy with your hands anyway (as opposed to wine), I thought the lack of a stem just made that easier!


                  1. re: zin1953

                    Sometimes we'll bring the Riedel Tyrol series glasses to offlines when we know we'll be doing flights of 4-6 wines at a time. To me, it's a lot easier to bring a dozen of these -vs- a dozen stems. -mJ

                2. re: sedimental

                  I've been using the Riedel O glasses (or are they "tumblers"?) for a few years now.

                  One thing I've noted is that when they aren't filled, when they are knocked over, they just sort of roll around. This is a surprise when it happens.

                  I noted that, was it R. Parker?, paraphrasing, said that he wanted a very clean glass.
                  So, I wash them myself always, rinse with reverse osmosis water.

                  It is a joy.

                3. I am aware of stemware. I always like when they adjust the stemware according to the wine ordered. It is annoying to order a big Burgundy or Zinfandel and have it served in small glasses where it can't breathe.