We're of the opinion that wine should be fun and easy — not formal and intimidating — and as much as we appreciate nice stemware, choosing the right wine glass can be as challenging as choosing what goes in it.
But it turns out that it doesn't have to be complicated. According to sommeliers, you really only need one wine glass. Can you guess what it is?
But First. Why So Many Options?
Before we tell you the experts' pick, let's backtrack and take a look at how the stemware bonanza began. According to Andre Mack, formerly the head sommelier at Thomas Keller's Per Se and the founder of Mouton Noir Wines, we have Riedel to thank for the myriad options out there.
The Austrian glassware manufacturer "really pioneered the theory that different shapes of glasses enhance the flavors in wine in the early '90s," says Mack. "[It] is still a front-runner in the industry, touting their glasses as 'wine tools.'"
Indeed, you can find a Riedel wine glass for Bordeaux and Burgundy, and oaked Chardonnay and unoaked Chardonnay (that glass will also do for viognier). The "Loire" glass covers sancerres and sauvignon blancs, while the "Hermitage/Syrah" shape is best for grenache, zweigelt, and, naturally syrah (but only if it's "Old World").
It can all start to feel a little bit ridiculous and, while there is some science behind all those gorgeous glasses, there's also a lot of hype. "Wines do show slightly differently out of different glasses," says Master Sommelier Dustin Wilson. "However, I believe this to be more of a marketing ploy than anything else. It drives people to think they need the 'perfect' glass in order to experience the wine in the best way possible, therefore pushing people to buy more glasses than they actually need."
One Great Glass: A Classic Shape
So, if you can get away with just one great glass, which one do you need?
"What you're really looking for," explains Mack, "is a crystal-clear and thin glass that has a stem with a bowl that's larger than the top of the glass."
Here's one expert's pick. At $59 per glass, the Zalto Denk'Art Universal Glass isn't cheap, but, says Wilson, "It gets the job done for me every time." Suitable for white, red, and bubbles, it's also the glass of choice for another Master Sommelier, Aldo Sohm, who heads up the wine program at Le Bernardin and also has his own eponymous wine bar.
Not in your price range? Don't worry — there are other options that are gentler on your wallet. Crate & Barrel, for example, has a number of options from $4 to $25 per glass. If you're on a super-tight budget, consider IKEA's Hederlig wine glasses, which clock in at a very respectable $1.99.
Our Favorite Budget-Friendly Wine Glass Picks
And if you're wondering if you can still enjoy different glasses when you're out on the town, the answer is absolutely. As Wilson says, "When I'm in a restaurant, do I prefer to have a different type of glass for my Cote-Rotie vs. my German Riesling? Yes. Is this a necessity? Absolutely not."