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How Few Sets of Wine Glasses Can I Get Away With?

I started a thread about this a couple years ago: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/670437

The answers were so divergent and detailed that I was left immobilized (though impressed and grateful, 'cuz the replies were really savvy). Never did buy glasses. I've mostly just let my vino sit (no biggie; I rarely drink at home).

But I'm asking again now, and will rephrase this time to hopefully draw the sort of advice I'm looking for.

I need wine glasses to serve the following stuff in my basement:

---Wonderful vintage port bought in the 1980's (I need glasses to really bring out their best


---Decent cabs (though I do have one bottle of 1966 Palmer, my fave and the sole splashy gift to myself from selling the site....but I'll likely never drink it, so never mind)

---Some cheap mixed-grape miscellaneous mutt-ish reds

---Very occasional white wines, usually Rieslings and Sancerres, rarely very high quality.


1. How few sets of glasses can I get away with? And which should I get?


2. Any bargains out there right now on anything recommended?

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    1. I agree with Jason. I would look to a universal red glass, such as the Riedel Vinum Bdx, and serve all wines in those.

      If you do wish to add "white wine glasses," then I'd suggest the Riedel Vinum Chardonnay glasses, BUT if you really enjoy big, honking whites, maybe substitute their Montrachet stems.

      Now, I use Riedel as but an example. The Web site will give you an image, and the volume of those glasses. Many mfgrs. offer similar, and at different price-points. I am not espousing one brand vs another, just giving you examples to look at, and to study.

      Add more wines to your consumption, and then you might be thinking about a dessert wine glass, and perhaps a glass for bubbles (though many like the Chardonnay glass, even for Champagne - your choice).

      Though I have danged near a glass for every varietal, and then some for old vs new, or Old World vs New World. Imagine a glass for everything, including some beverages, that I never drink. Got most of 'em, and usually to handle between 12 and 48. That said, my "regular" wine glasses are the Riedel Vinum Cab. glasses. We often start with a SB, then move on to a Chard, and maybe finish the evening with a Syrah - same glasses. However, if I uncork a big FR Chard, out come the Montrachet glasses, but that is probably only once per ever two months. Port and Champagne are my exceptions as I will almost always break out some Port copitas, and enjoy my bubbles in a flute.

      Good luck,


      2 Replies
      1. re: Bill Hunt

        Thanks, Bill

        "Add more wines to your consumption"

        Just to note, my wine consumption is incredibly broad. Just not at home.

        I do have a couple champagne flutes for special occasions, fwiw.

        1. re: Jim Leff

          Actually, and depending on the "carry-on" luggage, I have been traveling with my own stems in a padded briefcase. I am often critical of the stemware provided, all too often.

          At home, my wife tells me that I take things to the extreme, but it humors me, and I enjoy it.

          If budget was a concern, I'd probably just do something like this:

          Big reds - Bdx stem
          Lighter reds, like PN, or red Burgs - Burg balloon
          Whites - Chard stem (though I really love my Riedel Montrachet stems - long story there)
          Champagne flues - my personal choice here
          Port Copitas - used for many dessert wines

          That's the Bill Hunt "short list," and bears little resemblance to what I have in the cupboards - just ask my poor wife.

          Still, if I had to limit things, Bdx (and bigger reds), red Burgs (and other PN-based wines), would all be served in a Bdx-type stem. All whites would be served in those, as well.

          Champagne flutes, and Port Copitas would be included, for their respective wines.

          Good luck,


      2. Zin is right about just one, however-

        I have managed to collect a ton of glass- but- I always seem to prefer the old school "bowl style" for cabs and a big tulip shape for whites and misc reds. I reach for those two styles more than anything else. When I get new "sets" again, they won't be more riedel somm series-as they break too easily for me so now I have weird numbers of them -and I am frustrated so don't use them much anymore.

        I don't like my port out of "standard" port glasses. I prefer it in much more stylized cordial type glasses. Port is usually a "move to another room" thing, serve with desert -or "as" desert, and I like really cool vintage glass- for my really cool vintage port :) That might just be me- but something to think about.

        4 Replies
        1. re: sedimental

          Well, let me expand somewhat on my intentionally brief answer.

          All one truly NEEDS is one set. That said, I have Syrah glasses, Burgundy glasses, Zinfandel/Sauvignon Blanc glasses, who-knows-what glasses, liqueur glasses, brandy snifters, Port glasses, Sherry copitas, and of course Champagne flutes.

          1. re: zin1953

            Yes, your point wasn't lost :)

            I was also remarking that I have a ton of glass- but tend to only use two styles much of the time.

            Edit: Hey Jim, check out the thread on "Redneck Wine Glasses"....they look darn versatile! ;)

            1. re: sedimental

              Those caught my eye, and especially as many of my restaurant reviews deride "jelly jar" wine stems.

              Got a laugh out of that thread too.


            2. re: zin1953


              I caught your humor, and just made a very few additions to that.

              Still, ONE glass can work for everything, if necessary.

              Your reply gave me a very big smile, and was appreciated, at least by me.


          2. well, you certainly got good answers from two of the best. I am not one of the best by any stretch, but I am a 4th (possibly 5th) generation Californio... so let me share the very basics that mom taught me. If you are going to drink red you want something with a bowl to capture the complex smells and flavors. If you are going to drink something white you want a more open shape to let the astringent smells escape faster, and in lower concentrations. The better the wine the bigger the bowl and the less wine you put in the glass - red or white, its all about the aroma with fine wines, your nose is much better at tasting than your mouth. And there is nothing wrong with a big bowl for port, unless of course you plan on trying to get into a car and drive away in the next few hours. Just bury your nose in that glass and take a sip now and then so you're not just teasing your tastebuds.

            5 Replies
            1. re: KaimukiMan

              Agreed with your notion of the ideal. I've drunk a very wide array of wines out of the world's best glassware, with much pleasure! If I were to set up a wine tasting, I'd definitely know what to have on hand.

              But the thing is that at home, my needs are more limited. Per above, I don't drink much (or very broadly) at home. So it's less a matter of educating myself on glassware than a need to figure out a smart compromise solution fitting my specific needs.

              1. re: Jim Leff

                "I don't drink much (or very broadly) at home."


                This is something that many of us have talked about, and we MUST find a way to rectify that situation!!!! [Grin]

                If I had to do but one (per Jason's rec.), I'd go with a nice Bdx. stem, and just make do.



                1. re: Bill Hunt

                  I think I will go with Bordeaux. Plus good port glasses, since port is one of my big (if infrequent) at-home wine pleasures.

                  Just generally, though, I eat like a monk at home. I like the balance that gives me; it makes my crazy chowhounding forays that much more special. Also allows me to not weigh 600 lbs!

                  1. re: Jim Leff

                    If I had to go with but two, that would be MY choice too.



              2. re: KaimukiMan

                I would disagree with "want(ing) something with a bowl" for every red. Among other things, pouring a high alcohol Zin into a glass with a larger bowl will emphasize the alcohol . . .

              3. Hi, Jim:

                I think one set is just fine. The trend is for ever-larger bowls, but I like middling sizes, around 12oz.

                Costco has a nice set of 20-oz generics, Luigi Bormioli "Symphony", set of 8 for US$25. Remarkably good value, if a little big-n-tall for my likes.


                5 Replies
                1. re: kaleokahu

                  Thanks. I may do something like that. And spring for some top-notch port glasses for my Grahams and Taylors (I don't share Sedimental's preference for cordial glasses, though I respect his choice).

                  1. re: Jim Leff

                    Hi, Jim:

                    No problem. IMO, wine stems are mysteriously comparable to watches--generally the value models lack style and exude *cheap*. But I find the Bormioli Symphony an exception, so much so that I'm shopping for a smaller set of the same make, which on line go for around $40/6.


                    1. re: Jim Leff

                      Now, I happen to be a "Port snob," so the Copitas are something that I would never part with. They are part of my very being, for all Port styles. But please remember, that is just ME.


                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                        Bill, I may be an even worse port snob than you (I've taught myself not to flinch at terms like "ruby" or "tawny", but it doesn't come naturally).

                        But what's a "copita"?

                        1. re: Jim Leff

                          Copita is a sherry glass.

                          ETA: I recall attending a scotch tasting in SF a few years ago led by the chief distiller and being fascinated that his preferred glass for nosing his product was a copita due to the narrow taper.

                  2. One set for red, one for white, one for port, one for champagne (flute), one for beer, one for cognac, and one for liquors. All crystal. With stems just because that was what I liked and the stem is frosted crystal and looks pretty and I like that LOL.That pretty much covers it for me to this point.
                    OH and I had dinner the other day with a friend who served the beautiful red wine that I had brought in a glass with a fluted bowl. As in, the top flared open significantly. As in, this was a glass for sale at Homesense and it was blue and it matched the table setting and it looked pretty. Now, I'm no wine expert but I do enjoy a nice glass or two and I was surprised as to HOW much the shape of the glass did affect the wine. I mean, I know this in theory, but to actually experience it practically was an eyeopener. And that's the last time I take some of my better wines to her place for dinner. :)

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: freia

                      FYI only.

                      I only 'really' like Riedel "O" glasses, althought I have plenty with stems.

                      They are best with reds, IMO. I like the fact that one can buy a glass for the type of wine being served. Some say this is bunk, but I don't care. It is part of the ritual of wine for me.

                      The O glasses are a double edge sword: first they are very fragile. But OTOH, I've knocked over plenty, and they just roll, and most of the wine stays in the bowl.

                      Lately I've seen in Wegman's and bought stemmed glasses (I think they were Reidel, but don't hold me to it) in sets of 4 I believe for Bordeaux and another type of grape, and it seems last time I saw some more.

                      Sometime ago at Costco I bought a set of 8 of Luigi Bormioli for $20, and recently bought at Costco a German brand.

                      If you will look at Costco online, they sell sets of Reidel and other glasses, which I have - nope I don't see any now.

                      Back to how many sets do you need? Depending on how many people you are serving, say 4? then start off with buying just what you need for your first get-together. If that goes well, buy another set of 4 for your next get together. That should be an easy and fun way to go about it. Let your guests each time remark on your glasses - a fun conversation.

                      1. re: Rella

                        I like your idea. I am no oenophile and I am sometimes crudely reminded of it on this board, but there is something warm and welcoming about a table set with lots of wine glasses cluttered in nice symmetry and sparkling in light from somewhere.

                        1. re: Veggo

                          When we do the Port and cigars on my upper deck, I must remember to bring out some of my lights, so that I can do a spot-backlight on the Port glasses! Hey, I have 120V on that patio, so can do it.


                        2. re: Rella

                          I never warmed to the "O" glasses. I have one set of six, because they were a gift.

                          Through several charity auctions, I ended up with 12, and recently included those in a donated charity lot of wine, as I have all that I want, and again, never really warmed to them. [No pun intended.] I am just a stem person.


                          1. re: Bill Hunt

                            For my hands, the pinot noir 'O" bowl is a little large. But somehow I manage :-))

                            1. re: Rella

                              You know, sometimes at the end of the day, "managing" is all that I need...


                              1. re: Bill Hunt

                                My wife and I have pruned all our glasses into 4 categories of moderately priced stemware all of which are dishwasher ready by Schott Zweissel ( purchased at Sur La Table): 24 white wine; 8 Pinot; 8 Cabernet and 16 Champagne flutes. We are happy and relieved.

                                This collection allows us to change glass choice freely, entertain moderate size groups and not fret when we break one. I know it might be heresy to put these in the dishwasher. But, part of being wine geeks is to enjoy it all. Washing glasses by hand with reverence was taking away from the enjoyment of the evening.

                                We were inspired to simplify by an article in the Wine Spectator last year arguing against specialized stemware. It rang true with our tastes and preferences.

                                So, we gave away our expensive stuff and bought terrific glasses (good aesthetics and thin rims) in bulk. We are much happier!