Most people who regularly enjoy wine recognise that using special glasses designed for wine is important. Although you can drink wine out of a glass tumbler or even a plastic cup, the enjoyment is much greater with a tulip shaped crystal wine glass with at least a short stem.
For an introduction to the different components of the wine glass and why they matter, please see my video.
If you know that you want to invest in some high-quality glasses but you don’t know where to begin, here are some tips:
What is Your Lifestyle?
First, think about your overall lifestyle: what is your budget, how much space do you have for storage and how much time are you willing to spend taking care of your glasses? Hand blown glasses are made by highly trained artisans and so they are naturally more expensive than machine blown. If the idea of losing several hundred kuai every time you break a glass breaks your heart, or if you want to have a huge collection of different shapes, I recommend machine blown, which can also be very high in quality.
Second, storage: glasses need to be stored in a well-ventilated space where they will not pick up strange smells or, worse, mold if they don’t dry properly. You need to think about what your storage capacity is given you may need two separate areas to dry and then store your glasses. If you don’t have that much space, consider a hanging rack where the glasses can dry and then be stored until you use them next.
Third, time: many hand blown glasses need to be cleaned by hand and can’t go in the dishwasher. Also, if you live in a place with hard water (i.e. with high levels of minerals), you may need to polish the glasses before using them, so make sure that you pick glasses that you can easily fit your hand inside. If all of this sounds like too much trouble, I recommend picking a glass that will drip-dry easily (usually one with a wider mouth). Try: Lucaris Shanghai Soul Burgundy
How Will You Use Them?
Next, think about how you’re likely to use the glasses: how frequently, in what setting, and what the format is going to be. If you are planning on using the glasses daily, there are two ways of thinking about it. If you’re a casual everyday drinker, you probably want sturdy glasses so that you don’t have to worry about them too much. Look for glasses with heavier bases, thicker bowls and shorter stems. However, if you aim to become a fine wine connoisseur and frequently drink top quality wine, think of the cost of the glasses as a tiny surcharge on every bottle of wine you enjoy out of them. You owe it to yourself to present your wines properly, just like you would never buy a Matisse Cut-Out then slap it in a frame from Ikea. If you only plan on using the glasses for special occasions, I would pick something in between; something special enough that it feels like a celebration – a top-quality machine blown glass feels like the right balance.
Think about the setting: do you plan on using your glasses only at home for drinking alone, in which case the choice of glass will depend mainly on what kind of wine you like to drink? Or are you planning on using them for guests and parties, in which case maybe you want something more sturdy so that if people break them they don’t feel too guilty? If you’re looking for glasses for using outside, I would even consider a stemless wineglass since the most likely thing to break when you’re transporting them is the stem.
Finally, think about the format: are you likely to stick to just one glass over the course of the evening, in which case you can be free to pick the shape and size you like? Or, do you frequently have many wines on the table at once that require several different glasses? When I go to friends’ houses for dinner we will usually each have 5 or 6 glasses, so it’s sensible to pick a shape and size that isn’t going to cause a traffic jam on the table. Otherwise, think about glasses with bowls at different heights so they can fit together efficiently.
What Do You Like to Drink?
The last thing to consider is your specific wine choices. Whether you usually drink red wine, white wine or other styles, it’s worth thinking realistically about your own drinking patterns. Many people see the diverse range of glass styles available and assume they need to have all of them, but in reality most wines will work in most glass styles, so you only need a few.
If you tend to drink a lot of red wines, it is important to make sure you have at least one style that has a big, spacious bowl to expose the wine to plenty of oxygen. This helps the wine release its aromas and softens the tannin texture. If you drink a lot of young wine, a glass with a wide, flat-based bowl can act like a decanter and quickly expose the wine to the air. Older wines are best served in glasses that have a relatively tight rim to hold in their aromas. Try: Lucaris Desire Elegant Red
If you are more of a white wine person, it’s a good idea to make sure you have two different styles of glass that match different white wine styles. A smaller tulip shaped glass (often called a “Riesling” glass) is great for younger, fresh styles of white that need to stay cool and crisp. This is also a great solution for rosé wine. A wider, more spherical shape (often called a “Burgundy” glass) actually works really well for fuller-bodied or fragrant white wines as well, since it provides plenty of room for them to release their aromas. Try: Lucaris Tokyo Temptation Riesling or Desire Rich White
For special styles, I have a few pointers. One is that you don’t necessarily need sparkling wine flutes. While they have a great celebratory look, help preserve bubbles and are very efficient for serving at cocktail events and parties, they aren’t the best for expressing the aromatic character of more complex sparkling wines. If you love luxury sparkling wines, do them a favour and put them in a small white wine glass. Try: Lucaris Desire Crisp White
Sweet wines often strike a delicate balance between sweetness and acidity, so to help them seem fresh and bright, it’s often a good idea to pick a glass that keeps them cool and emphasizes the acidity, like the “Riesling” glass described above. They already tend to have very powerful aromas, so the wider, flatter style glasses used to emphasize aromatic wines are not necessary and can even warm the wine too quickly, making it seem flat. Try: Lucaris Bangkok Bliss Riesling
Finally, fortified wines are highly aromatic and powerful and need to be given plenty of room to express their personalities. Red fortified wines like vintage port also need oxygen to help mellow their tannins, so a large glass is especially beneficial. However, because the aromas are so intense and the alcohol is higher than normal, a glass with a taller bowl (like a classic “Bordeaux” glass) is a good idea to keep you from accidentally overwhelming your nose. Try: Lucaris Hong Kong Hip Bordeaux
Whatever your needs, the best approach is always to stick to quality over quantity and just choose one or two shapes that really appeal to you. If you’re anything like me, you’ll often find yourself ignoring the guidance about which glass to match to which wine and simply picking the ones you most enjoy the look and feel of again and again.