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Bistro glasses for wine

Why is it that I much prefer to drink my wine in bistro glasses rather than stemmed glasses? Especially at home, but in restaurants too. Just as I have in restaurants on my travels through europe. Is it that I am just uncouth?

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  1. Uncouth? Nah. I also prefer to drink out of short, stemless, Bistro-style glasses at home. I think now that wine has become more easily accessible to the masses--thanks in large part to more affordable bottles--we are moving away from pedantic wine culture.

    The Only-Drink-Out-Of-Stemmed-Glasses rule seems a bit archaic for plebians such as me.

    4 Replies
    1. re: globocity

      I read a review of a restaurant here on CH and he dinged it badly for using such a glass. This is a bare tabletop, dishtowels as napkins, lofted ceiling kinda place. I wanted to ding him :)

      1. re: globocity

        If only more affordable wines were a reality here in Québec, where there are a lot of wine lovers - and bistro glass lovers!

        Oh, how I love my little Duralex Picardie gobelets. Some are brought back from every (working) trip to Europe.
        GH and Chinon, I also have stem glasses, but only use them for certain tastings and high-end wines.

        Gobelets are much less likely to get broken in heated conversations with lots of body language...

        1. re: lagatta

          To my knowledge, I have no Latin blood in me but I talk with my hands. Some years ago, while doing this, I broke a relatively expensive glass. I traced a copy of one of the remainders and gave it to our daughter who was heading to the area where I'd bought them. Lotta trouble.

          1. re: lagatta

            Picardie glasses are available at Williams Sonoma and Sur la Table. No need to go to France. But if you are going to go I will ask you to buy some of my favorite perfume for me. For some reason they quit exporting it and will not even ship it to the US.

        2. A bistro glas is ok in a casual place, but a stem glass is not an affectation. Holding the glass by the stem prevents the heat from your hand from warming the wine.

          Holding a stem glass by the bowl — now that's uncouth.

          6 Replies
          1. re: GH1618

            I know that's a general rule. I realize I'm a bit uncouth, even though I've been collecting wine for 20 years. I tend to usually use the stem but know that part of the time I grab the bowl. Less so with a white than a red.
            The truth is, that with a red wine served at 60 degrees and an air temp of 72, you're really imparting a negligible amount of extra heat by touching the bowl with four fingers and taking a sip as opposed to grasping the stem.

            Anyhow, I don't mind a globlet shaped stemless that at least has a slight taper inward at the top. To me that makes swirling a little easier and concentrates the nose. I don't like drinking out of glasses the flare/taper outward.

            1. re: john gonzales

              But all those finger prints look terrible;]

              1. re: Chinon00

                Very true. Especially if one is having ribs or fried chicken :)
                I'm discouraged more by the fingerprint mess than the wine temp angle.

                1. re: john gonzales

                  I'll go along with that. But would you use stemware with barbecue?

                  1. re: GH1618

                    I often do, but I'm pretty serious about wine. We have a lot of relatively large (25+ ppl) parties of wine-lovers where most people bring at least one good bottle in the $30-$100 range. So those wines deserve stems. We tell people what we're making, and maybe 2-3 times a year it's bbq. So lots of matching wines show up .
                    It's not unusual to have 2 stems broken per party. I have a lot of those stemless bowls but I'd say only 1 of 10 people opt for them. With the stand-around or roam gatherings one does have to constantly hold the glass so the temp thing makes sense.

                    1. re: john gonzales

                      I do have crystal stem glasses, but there is no room in my little flat for so many people, especially not for "roaming", and risk spillage and destruction of work equipment or materials. I'd be sad if I had such good wine without somewhere to sit and sip it slowly.

          2. It depends on the wine. If it's real simple plonk have at it. But if it's a nicer bottle and you wanna dig into the nose, etc a larger bowl stemmed glass is better.

            1. I always hated the stemmed wine glasses. Breakable,tip over easy. To fragile for me. At home I drink my wine from glasses without a stem that I bought in Cortona, Italy.

              1. i like both, but at home i like the bistro glasses because they can withstand machine washing

                1 Reply
                1. re: westsidegal

                  I don't have a dishwasher but still prefer the gobelets to stem glasses, for most purposes.

                2. I find the $1.00 thick glass stemmed glasses from places like World Market very reminiscent of cheaper spots in France or Italy and a little more stable than the Duralexes, which have a very narrow base.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: tim irvine

                    I much prefer the Duralex glasses. Picardie aren't the only kind, some of the other have wider bases. They are tempered glass, practically unbreakable. I have no idea what World Market is, but th Ikea glasses, which are thicker, are not as durable as Duralex or other tempered gobelets. Moreover, according to their website, "Duralex is and will always remain a true French manufacturer of glassware and tabletop products, and is the only glass manufacturer that makes 100% of their products in France".

                    If possible, I prefer purchasing goods from countries where I can be fairly sure that labour standards are enforced and the workers are not in deathtrap factories.

                    After years of collecting them at church bazaars and garage sales, I'm so glad they are back in production. The website shows gobelets and other items currently in production:

                  2. Does the glass have a hole in it? Does it leak?

                    No? Then it will work!

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: zin1953

                      As long as it is glass . . .

                      While I prefer, and tend to use almost exclusively, stems, there is nothing wrong with a bistro glass for drinking vin orginaire.

                        1. re: c oliver

                          din may be thinking of "vin ordinaire" ... or "Original Zin"...

                          1. re: lagatta

                            Fat fingers and quick to hit the reply button. vin ordinaire definitely.

                      1. re: zin1953

                        Hi, Jason:

                        +1. OTOH, there's nothing quite like a dribble glass to liven up a tasting, no?


                      2. Nah--for an everyday dinner with an everyday Cotes du Rhone or Cannonau, prefer these. Or, from Crate and Barrel, these Duralex tumbler that come in many sizes and which are still wonderfully ubiquitous in Italy.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: bob96

                          Yes, I love those. When I was studying in Italy, every neighbourhood place served wine in those. Don't think they are Duralex, though. Forget the brand - I had some but gave them all to a friend (who had broken all her stem glasses) simply because I wanted to have only Duralex Picardies, simply because it is easier to stack and store "like" glassware. I'd have chosen those if they were locally available. See that Crate and Barrel is here (Montréal) now: http://www.crateandbarrel.ca/Stores/

                          (Laval is a suburb of Mtl and easily accessible by public transport).

                          I have lovely memories of sipping wine out of those, with friends, in the late afternoon or early evening at a terrasse overlooking a cliff in Perugia, with a view of Assisi in the distance. And everywhere in Rome a student could afford.

                          1. re: lagatta

                            There might well be Italian versions, but the ones I have are made by Duralex in France. I bought a lot of them for practically nothing in an Italian coffee and gift shop on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx--still have most of them. Still have some scarred old Picardies from the old Conran's shop, too. Makes me feel like I'm drinking a p'tit rouge with Marius in Marseille.

                        2. I, too, use thick French bistro glasses at home. Mostly just don't want to deal with washing the thinner, more fragile stemmed glasses.

                          Going out to restaurants, though, I prefer the finest glass they have.

                          1. Bottom line: use whatever glass you WANT to!

                            Me, I *prefer* to use Riedel or Spieglaü stemware because I LIKE to use stemware -- whether it's for a bottle of 1970 Ridge Monte Bello Cabernet, or a bottle of 2011 Beaujolais . . . but the only time I object to using "bistro glasses" is if it's an especially fine bottle. In that case, I will WANT a stemmed glass.

                            Then again, I've also stood in the Grand Cru vineyards of Chablis, slurping oysters as fast as we could shuck them and drinking a wine that came from the very vineyard we're standing in -- straight from the bottle!

                            7 Replies
                            1. re: zin1953

                              Zin do you prefer a stemmed glass for fine bottles purely for preference or fashion or do you get a tangible benefit in enjoying the wine from using one?

                              1. re: Chinon00

                                I am perhaps the most UN-fashionable person on the planet.

                                No, it's tangible.

                              2. re: zin1953

                                Actually, these iconic Arcoroc 6.4 oz stemmed glasses are really my everyday faves--they've also been around for ages, and seem to last that long.

                                1. re: bob96

                                  I used to use Arcoroc but switched to Schott Zwiesel Tritan Mondial. They don't break when dropped unless they fall on tile, and they're dishwasher-safe. Cheaper in the long run and less having to deal with shards.


                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                    Is it the "Tritan Mondial" part that gives them their sturdiness or the whole product line? They're quite handsome.

                                    1. re: c oliver

                                      Tritan = crystal made with titanium and zirconium instead of lead.

                                    2. re: Robert Lauriston

                                      Years ago, I bought 3 six packs of the Arcorocs (8 oz, actually) for about $1/glass at Walmart, which no longer stocks them. Work beautifully with a $8/bottle Montepulciano d'Abruzzo. They also don't break, and, remind me as well of every bistro I've ever been in (salade de tomates, celeri-ravi, steak frites, voila) A good thing.

                                2. My take? I agree with zin1953. Use whatever glass style you want to!!

                                  I fully appreciate his reasons for wanting a large-bowled stem for a better wine. For me, a big part of drinking almost ALL the wine I drink is to smell the aroma, swirl to let some air get into it to see what that does to the taste, and repeat over the time it takes to drink. I don't spend a lot of time with those things on a $5 table wine, but I still do it for comparison with other 'value' wines. I definitely want to do the smelling and swirling much more when the wine is likely to be of more complexity and of higher quality, but I do it with almost all wines I drink.

                                  It's just not very productive to do those things using a bistro glass (BTW-first time I've ever heard that term for a "tumbler".) On the other hand those glasses are really fun to use in a very casual setting (ie- a picnic, or casual barbecue).

                                  To those of you who feel always using stems is pretentious........ I wouldn't totally disagree, but only because I feel that most people don't take wine as seriously as some. Hey! Whatever floats your boat!

                                  10 Replies
                                  1. re: Midlife

                                    I like stems and can taste the difference. I have inexpensive wine for daily use, and still prefer it in stems -- might as well get all you can from the wine. And as others have mentioned, there are nice stems out there that don't break the bank.

                                    Still... no problem with the little tumblers. I fondly remember a little Italian place that served wine that way -- checkered tablecloths, etc. Basic and good!

                                    (Don't know where this post will show up -- haven't mastered the new CH format.)

                                    1. re: comestible

                                      A test using blindfolds and a robot arm found that people could distinguish between jelly jars and wine glasses, but different bowl shapes made (e.g. Riedel) made no difference.

                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                        I'm so very, very glad to read this! I look at all those different glasses and my head spins. Plus I have no more space.

                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                          I can definitely taste a difference between the same wine served in a pinot noir glass versus a bordeaux glass. Different attributes are brought forward or muted. But I don't know if I would bother with too many other stem designs.

                                          1. re: comestible

                                            And was your test conducted with blindfolds and robots?!?!? :)

                                            1. re: c oliver

                                              No, but blindfolds are probably a good idea. However, the differences seem dramatic to me. Most wines seem softer and fruitier in the pinot glass, more concentrated and focused ("firmer") in the bordeaux glass.

                                              I would indeed like to have a robot to pour and serve the wine, however.

                                              I was inspired to investigate glass shapes by an article in a local food & wine mag that demonstrated the blind-tasting differences. I did a cursory search online but haven't found it. Will keep looking.

                                            2. re: comestible

                                              I think I get a more concentrated nose from a glass that's more snifter-shaped, but I wouldn't be surprised if a blind test showed that it's just my imagination.

                                              "... the test subjects couldn’t detect any difference at all in how sweet or salty or bitter the wines tasted from one glass to another (they were able to detect small but 'statistically significant' differences in sourness)."


                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                I participated in a tasting using different glasses for identical wines. It wan't blind, but there were some cases with dramatic differences in shape that I really feel like there was a difference. I wouldn't be surprised at an indistinguishable difference between a syrah and a bordeaux stem, but feel like there's a difference between a bordeaux stem and say a riesling stem.
                                                I have little doubt that aroma benefits are lost in those shitty bucket-shaped tumblers. I don't drink much wine at an under $10 preice-point, but even if I did I'd want to maximize the benefits. To me restauraunts both here and abroad use them for their own convenience to minimize labor and breakage.

                                                1. re: john gonzales

                                                  There's no question that wine tastes different from glasses with different shapes when people can see the shapes, but if that difference goes away when they're blindfolded ...

                                        2. I'm curious -- what size tumblers do you use for wine? And, do you use them for sparkling wines as well as still?

                                          We often take a pair of stems with us when we go on vacation, mostly for roadside picnics, but you've gotten me to thinking that tumblers make so much more sense.

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: CindyJ

                                            Actually I own and use any size and type of glass, stemmed and not, for wine these days. I don't have a preference.
                                            I used to be "into" wine. Used to. I own many wine glases. Many different sized bowls etc. Have ones for white, red, rose, fulls, lights, etc. I own, but very rarely use flutes anymore.
                                            I no longer have the company, friends or family, that share this interest with me, so my waxing philosophically about my purchase and subsequent aging or quaffing of a wine falls on deaf ears. (I could serve them dishwater and they would never know, LOL)
                                            I buy what I like, drink what I like and the glass rarely gets a second thought. I may reach for a stemmed glass or a Bistro glass. Crystal or cheap glass. Whatever my mood.
                                            I like the Bistro glasses for everyday use and in restaurants when I order a wine I don't always go for that expensive bottle so the Bistro glasses do the job well just for drinking.

                                            I first encountered Bistro glasses in France. I was not dining in fine restaurants and every little place I stumbled upon served wine in these Bistro glasses.

                                            Roadside picnics will definitely be Bistro glasses. SO much easier, and fun.

                                            I may be also guilty of drinking my beer from mason jars, but that's another story...

                                            1. re: Gastronomos

                                              >>"I may be also guilty of drinking my beer from mason jars, but that's another story."<<

                                              Why not enjoy the best of both worlds?

                                              1. re: Midlife

                                                Nice! I've seen those. Wanted to buy them for the kitch of it, but never did.

                                          2. I agree with Zin. Whatever holds the wine and pleases me. I have a marvelous collection of individual wine glasses after 40 years of purchases and breakage. I would have to make a trip to the seconds outlet mall in order to have 4 or more place settings that match.

                                            1. Holy crap, this thread is like a gold mine. So much bad information in one place.

                                              Stem or no stem is of little importance. What's important is the shape and size of the glass, and how that effects the aroma (mostly) and the taste (a little bit, maybe) of the wine.

                                              I used to do informal wine education for my friends. My standard modus for the first tasting was:
                                              1. a flight of 4 white wines. these 4 'different' wines were actually all the same wine, in different glasses
                                              2. a second flight of 4 white wines. these 4 'different' wines were actually all the same wine, at different temperatures
                                              3. a flight of 4 different white wines
                                              4. a flight of 4 red wines. these 4 'different' wines were actually all the same wine, from bottles that had been opened at different times (and a glass poured off the top of each)
                                              5. a flight of 4 different red wines; each is the same wine at a different temperature

                                              It was a pretty eye-opening experience.

                                              I use decent glasses, even if I'm opening a $6 bottle. Because that $6 bottle deserves a chance to show well. If decent glasses aren't around, I'll make do -- but I won't pour wine into a tumbler if there are better glasses (stemmed or not) around. For'ex, if I'm on the boat, and the choice is between a red solo cup and my chimney-shaped plastic tumblers, I'll take the tumblers every single time.

                                              To the OP -- hard to say. How much do you take the time to sniff the wine and appreciate the aroma?

                                              Also, you definitely are imparting a lot of extra heat by cupping a wine glass in your hands for any length of time. Your hands are mostly water; water conducts heat much better than air. So your hands at 98 F impart vastly more heat to the contents of the glass than the air at 70 F.

                                              21 Replies
                                              1. re: seattle_lee

                                                I find the data that Robert L. provided pretty compelling. Also, you didn't give us the results of your tests. Also did you use blindfolds and a robot? :)

                                                1. re: c oliver

                                                  Nah, the folks I did the classes for were total newbies, and had no expectations to break. I mean, when I told them that the first four wines were really the same wine, their jaws all hit the floor.

                                                  I find the data the Robert L. provided pretty compelling at debunking precisely the Riedel theory. But so what? This study: http://wine-wein-vino-vin.blogspot.co... is just as convincing, and shows that the glass decidedly does matter, even if it doesn't matter in the way that Riedel would have you believe.

                                                    1. re: seattle_lee

                                                      Interesting article though kind of confusing.

                                                      Who cares what glass-making professionals think? I'd like to see the results from the sommeliers only.

                                                    2. re: c oliver

                                                      And neither the article I link, nor the article that Robert linked are rigorous primary sources. And they both suffer from that journalistic malady, changing the goalposts on you in the middle of the article.

                                                    3. re: seattle_lee

                                                      seattle_lee, As I stated somewhere in this thread, I am not *into* wine that much anymore. I don't bother much with the "nose" or lines anymore. At this point I just wanna drink my wine. I find Bistro glasses do the job just fine, if not better than many other glasses. It may be nostalgic for me. I dunno. That is why I posted a query asking why.
                                                      "Why is it that I much prefer to drink my wine in bistro glasses rather than stemmed glasses?"

                                                      1. re: Gastronomos

                                                        Well, that's the answer to your question, of course. It's not that you are uncouth, it's that you don't care about the intrinsic quality of the wine as much as you do its ritual properties. So, no, its not that you are uncouth, it is just that you don't really care about the quality of the wine. Which is fine.

                                                        BTW, the "lines" or "legs" of a wine are pretty much a direct indicator of its alcohol content. A higher alcohol wine is more viscous than a lower alcohol wine, and thus has "better legs". So unless you equate alcohol content to quality, those have always been irrelevant to quality.

                                                        1. re: seattle_lee

                                                          You are going too far, I think, to say that Gastronomos doesn't care about the quality of the wine. One can know the difference between good and bad wine, and have preferences, without being obsessed with the nuances distinguishing similar wines from one another.

                                                          1. re: GH1618

                                                            I think we'll just have to agree to differ. Or maybe we just interpret his statement differently. 'I don't bother much with the "nose"' -- there's a lot of wiggle room there. Does he not pay attention to the nose at all, or does he simply no longer obsessively write fruit-salad tasting notes? Hard to say; it's a pretty ambiguous statement.

                                                            I think it's hard to care about the quality of a wine without caring about its aroma. And it's very possible to know the difference between a good wine and a bad wine, and just not care.

                                                            1. re: seattle_lee

                                                              GH1618 is correct and your last sentence is also correct.

                                                            2. re: GH1618

                                                              I think "obsessed" is the word that turns "normal" people away from wine geeks. There are a lot of people on this board who know way more than some of the ones who obsess. And I appreciate the former because they share their knowledge without going overboard.

                                                            3. re: Gastronomos

                                                              I'd rather enjoy wine than pick it apart, but if I'm at a tasting of a lot of wines and trying to decide if I might like to buy any of them, I'll think about nose, palate, and finish.

                                                            4. re: seattle_lee

                                                              Since I made the contention that holding by the bowl is no big deal I'll respond. I'm not talking about cupping a wine glass for an extend period of time. I'm talking about sitting at a table, picking up a glass, taking a drink and setting it back down. So the time involved is not much, certainly as compared to the 15 minutes that one might typically drink a glass. Again, not cupping it but picking it up with what is typically four fingertips. It's also not as simple as the water vs air conductivity statement. The area effected by the air is drastically larger in both what is conducted through the air and that which is directly exposed to the air at the surface. when you touch the glass all of the heat is not conducted into the wine through the glass, but some into the air. Lastly when you hold att he stem you are still contacting it with your fingers and thus conducting heat through the glass into the wine via that method as well. As I said, I'd take extra care with a white. In my case with cellared wines, they're often served at the low end of ideal temp., which to me is a range. So in that case it's just not a big deal.

                                                              1. re: john gonzales

                                                                Yeah, I see now that you intended just a quick pick-up-and-set-down. The post that you responded to wasn't talking about that, though, which is what lead me to read your comment a different way.

                                                                Because nothing short of a blowtorch will change the wine's temp much in the couple of seconds it takes you to take a sip :-).

                                                                I can assure you, though, that cupping a bowl goblet in both hands will heat the wine up quite a bit faster than holding it by the stem. Done it numerous times to a wine that was too cold.

                                                                1. re: seattle_lee

                                                                  For sure on the two-hand cup. Doing so and swirling is a good quick way to get a cool, freshly opened wine to open up.

                                                              2. re: seattle_lee

                                                                >>"Stem or no stem is of little importance. What's important is the shape and size of the glass, and how that effects the aroma (mostly) and the taste (a little bit, maybe) of the wine."<<

                                                                Ya know, years ago my mother-in-law admonished me to begin such statements with the phrase "in my opinion". You seem to be relatively new here, so you get the benefit of the doubt as to whether you have knowledge as to the backgrounds and experience of some of the posters.

                                                                I would suggest, most humbly, that even the specific materials used in the glass itself can effect taste. The stem or no stem thing, IMHO, is related to time in the glass and, if you handle the bowl a lot anyway, you get the same temperature changes anyway.

                                                                Bottom line for me................. all of this is similar to my feeling re many wine flaws. I feel that they "exist" but how much they effect the experience of the taster is proportionate to the tasters sensitivity to them.

                                                                Just my 2¢ of course.

                                                                1. re: Midlife

                                                                  Exactly. Stem vs no stem matters only to someone who habitually holds their glass rather than setting it down, and who holds a stemmed glass by the stem and not the bowl. Or they could be like me and monitor the wine's temp, and cup the bowl if it needs warming, and leave it alone otherwise.

                                                                  I'm unconvinced that the materials make a difference, but I'm willing to admit that they might. To test that hypothesis, you'd need two glasses that were identical other than the material. I've never had that opportunity, and have always evaluated glasses holistically.

                                                                  So might statement above was a little too forceful, I'll agree, but the glass's shape/size is the one thing that obviously does effect the aroma/taste.

                                                                  As to my ignorance of the backgrounds and experience of the various posters:
                                                                  * they, and you, are just as ignorant of mine
                                                                  * I choose to judge an argument on its merits, not on the merits of the people making the argument

                                                                  1. re: seattle_lee

                                                                    A few years back we did a little private test. I can't recall the brand but one claimed to have some sort of composition that effected the wine differently than a standard Riedel/Spieglau which we use. So we tested the theory with glasses of almost identical shape. All three of use could did not notice any difference.

                                                                    1. re: seattle_lee

                                                                      <<<I'm unconvinced that the materials make a difference, but I'm willing to admit that they might.<<<

                                                                      I do believe post mortem evidence that ties the ancient use of lead mugs/glasses/goblets to the "making a difference" category pretty much settles the argument, whether they were stemmed or not. (TPFIC)

                                                                      1. re: PolarBear

                                                                        Probably stemware made out of Jolly Ranchers make a difference, too, but I've never tried them :-).

                                                                2. I bought the little Picardie glasses after having my wine served in them at Pastis in NYC. I tend not to use them much, though, choosing stemless wine glasses instead. Not sure why.

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: mcf

                                                                    "...choosing stemless wine glasses instead. Not sure why."

                                                                    not sure myself as to why I do it either....

                                                                  2. OK at a picnic, but not at my house, please.

                                                                    Good wine merits good glassware IMO.


                                                                    Wine Snob