How much thought do you put into your stemware? My guess is ‘not much’, and if that’s the case, you aren’t alone. I know plenty of people who enjoy wine just fine out of whatever glass they grab out of the cupboard, and I think there’s a certain freedom in being so open-minded about it. I, on the other hand, am reluctant to drink fine wine from any vessel that is neither glass nor tulip-shaped (I’ve been known to be fussy about a sheer rimmed glass as well). I drink wine because I love the ever-changing, delicate aromas and flavors, which are lost if it’s being served from a beer mug or mason jar. I am not a fancy person, but this is my chosen luxury.
Any wine geek will tell you, wine tastes and smells better when served out of a proper vessel. If you find yourself investing more and more money into fine wines and find yourself drinking them from jelly jars, perhaps it’s time to consider upgrading your stemware. The truth is, the right stemware will better showcase the nuances and aromas of your expensive grown-up grape juice, and you might as well invest a little money into some decent stems so that you are getting the best experience for your money.
I recently took the plunge to purchase what many consider to be the world’s finest wine glass; a hand-crafted, mouth-blown glass manufactured by Zalto of Austria. To validate my decision to purchase these ridiculously delicate and expensive stems, I decided to do a side-by-side comparison of some of my favorite wines in three different glasses.
Featured Wine: Domaine Marcel Lapierre Morgon, 2012 (sans soufre)
Glass #1 (rear, left): Luigi Bormioli “Prestige” white wine glass
Glass #2 (foreground): Riedel “O” Stemless white wine glass
Glass #3 (rear, right): Zalto “Universal” wine glass
Side note: I tend to choose white wine or “all purpose” glasses for all types of wine (including sparkling). Some people prefer a larger glass for their red wines.
I’ve broken down the performance for each glass into four categories: Aroma, Taste, Look & Feel, Durability. The scoring is a five star system, with five stars being the highest rating. On to the showdown!
Glass #1 – Luigi Bormioli “Prestige” White Wine Glass
I first purchased these Luigi Bormioli glasses from the restaurant supply shop several years ago. I was seeking a high-quality, sheer-rimmed, durable wine glass that wouldn’t break the bank. These have been my go-to for years.
Material: “SON.hyx” titanium-reinforced crystal glass
Country of Manufacture: Italy
Retail Price: $10 ea.
Pros: Excellent at concentrating wine’s aromas, easy to swirl wine, durable, aesthetically pleasing, dishwasher safe, sheer rim
Cons: Top-heavy, unbalanced, thick glass feels clunky, opening of glass is very narrow (bumps the top of your nose when you take a sip)
Look & Feel: ★★☆☆☆
Glass #2 – Riedel “O” Stemless White Wine Glass
The story behind these stemless glasses is one that’s close to my heart. Many years ago, I was working for a floundering start-up, and most of us were being laid off. We were given several months notice, and didn’t have much work to do while we waited for the inevitable. Our office was next to a beautiful marina, where we would all get together in the afternoon every day to hang out and, well… drink. One of my coworkers and I picked up two of these Riedel stemless wine glasses so we could drink Sancerre while everyone else drank beer. Somehow, they have managed to last all these years, and I still take them on picnics and camping.
Material: Non-leaded crystal glass
Country of Manufacture: Bavaria, Germany
Retail Price: $12 ea.
Pros: Compact, lightweight, very thin glass, sheer rim, dishwasher safe, portable
Cons: Less durable, no stem, very small, does not show wine’s aroma or taste well, wine gets warmed up from the heat of your hands, glasses become covered in smudges from your fingers
Look & Feel: ★★★☆☆
Glass #3 – Zalto “Universal” Wine Glass
Some people buy fancy shoes & handbags, apparently I buy fancy wine glasses. I was growing tired of my clunky Luigi Bormioli wine glasses after experiencing a Zalto once or twice. A Zalto feels impossibly delicate and light in your hand, and the stem is so fine and elegant you can’t help but twirl it between your fingers. The rim is extremely sheer, with what seems to be a micron of material between the wine and your lips as you take a sip. It’s the Aston Martin of wine glasses. For my birthday this year, I decided I would buy a pair of “Universal” Zaltos (the universal size is their all-purpose glass).
Material: Non-leaded crystal glass
Country of Manufacture: Austria
Retail Price: $60 ea.
Pros: Elegant, beautiful, light-weight, flexible, opening of glass has enough room for your nose to fit into the glass as you take a sip (this accentuates the flavors/aromas), stable, perfectly balanced, dishwasher safe, showcases aromas better than any other glass we tested, sheer rim is impossibly thin, excellent for red/white/sparkling wines
Cons: Should not be hand-washed, extremely fragile, expensive
Look & Feel: ★★★★★
1st Place: Zalto “Universal” Wine Glass
2nd Place: Luigi Bormioli “Prestige” White Wine Glass
3rd Place: Riedel “O” White Wine Glass
Summary: The Zalto glass is the clear winner, but mostly for aesthetic purposes. The look, feel, and performance of the Zalto is unmatched, but the Bormioli is a close runner up if we aren’t talking about look & feel. We actually thought the performance of the Bormioli was excellent, especially when the wine was popped and poured (initially, the Bormioli showed the wine better than the Zalto, but once the wine had some time to breathe, the Zalto took the lead). The Riedel stemless glass muted the nose of the wine, but is great for camping, picnics, or other situations where it’s impractical or dangerous to bring your Zalto.
Are you interested in purchasing a set of Zalto wine glasses? We sell them! Just email email@example.com for more information.